I didn’t know to save the many pieces
hatred splintered off my teenage body.
There were no 50,000 It Gets Better videos.
So I hadn’t heard of hope, never
thought I’d have a kitchen table
where I could jigsaw the fragments
of my body’s pleasures back together.
My puzzle’s sun is shaped uneven
with borders like the state of Illinois–
bare Formica table where passion’s
orange pieces should round out
the mountain sunset. But I’m ok.
I’ve got friends, two good dogs,
and steady work. I’ve loved
a man for 30 years. We chop vegetables
together, take turns hauling dogs to the vet,
alternate who drives on New England
summer trips. Each late November,
we fresh cut an evergreen, trim it bright
with well-placed lights and ornaments.
We turn it carefully so gaps in green,
misshapen limbs, and faded ornaments face
corner walls in our living room. The tree’s like
me. Despite appearances, there’s never not
an absence. No amount of sanding soothes
passion’s jagged edges. I feel pruned apart,
but I lament lost pieces less, knowing Needlecast
disease is near universal in firs and spruces.
Many people must turn their Christmas trees.
After Mass and Harvey Milk
Brady Murphy slipped off
his cassock and I knew
myself by catechism’s
were my thin arms extended
through folds starched white surplice,
holding high his cross, processing
down center aisle, gone
the congregation in full song,
my skinny body filled
with Holy, Holy, Holy.
Gone till I braved my way
on a train from Kankakee
to a Chicago art house cinema
to see his life, his work,
his murder. To join
my heart in the procession
of my new-found kin
with their small flames
in a holy, holy, holy line
through the Castro’s night.
James M. Croteau lives in Kalamazoo, Michigan with his partner of 29 years, Darryl. He grew up gay and Catholic in the south. His poems have appeared in New Verse News, Assaracus: A Journal of Gay Poetry, Melancholy Hyperbole, Queer South: LGBTQ Writers on the American South and others. He blogs about his writing occasionally at talkingdogsholymen.blogspot.com.
Vivian Calderón Bogoslavsky is a Colombia Native born to Argentinian parents. She holds a bachelors in anthropology with a minor in history and a postgraduate degree in Journalism from Universidad of Los Andes in Bogota, Colombia.