“Found throughout southern Europe as well as the Mediterranean, Orchis simia, the Monkey Orchid, is remarkable for its speckled clusters of purple-pink blooms. Each flower is simian-shaped and complete with what can only be described as an engorged monkey ‘phallus’—thus necessitating that this orchid be kept far from the bouquets of those of genteel upbringing.”
—Lord Basil Attenborough,
A Field Guide to the Flowers and Grasses of Western Europe. London, 1899
— Circuit party. New York, 1999
Tonight I’ll wear my joy
erect, conspicuous and speckled,
opening a turnstile
to a tumble of tribal brothers
clanging cymbals, clinging arms,
while what dazzles
for all to see—
so let’s dance!
Shoulder the weight
of our bodies’ burdens,
fling our funny crap, laughing
as a mirror ball sequins our skin:
We are locked in a roving sea
of sweaty chests and clamoring hands,
each of us waving our Day-Glo glans
to a techno-beat. You? Me?
We blend into oneecstasy,
an orgy of blossoms,
of bottoms and tops
living as though we will always be
a party to the circuit party,
a parable of pleasure
TonightI am scared
and electrified by everything I could become:
pure monkey desire,
my cock a loaded gun
blossoming on this shared stamen
of desire(don’t think of disease)
We area monkey orchid
from mostly awkward
that drive us half-insane,
surrounded now by our other selves.
Drugs dream inside our veins.
Tonightwe are sacred:
watch us unfold:
wallflowers at the orgy growing bold!
Are these spots on our skin
the blotchy purple-pink of sexual flush?
Amyl nitrite on our breath
—a popper-bottle head rush. Each lick
is like a whisper
not quite confessional
as bold stamens keep unloading
in this strobe light processional
of desire aping love,
of young men exploding,all the while
secret saner selves
Will we survive
this ravenous age of plague
when blood wants to become
one river running
through many bodies?
Oh, we playful, foolish monkeys.
Oh, this petal cage of desire and death.
Kiss me quick—first you, then you—
I’ll bare my teeth
and keep barreling through.
Kelly McQuain’s poems and stories have appeared in Painted Bride Quarterly, Redivider, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Kestrel, The Pinch, Asssaracus, A&U, Kin and Mead, as well as in numerous anthologies: The Queer South, Between: New Gay Poetry, Best American Erotica, Drawn to Marvel: Poems from the Comic Books, and Skin & Ink. His chapbook, VELVET RODEO (2014), won Bloom magazine’s poetry prize and went on to receive two Rainbow Award citations. He has twice received fellowships from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. He was a 2015 Lambda Literary Fellow and a 2015 Tennessee Williams Scholar at the Sewanee Writers’ Conference. Visit him at KellyMcQuain.wordpress.com.
This poem originally appeared in A &U: Art & Understanding.