A man I once believed I loved
believed he had
contracted HIV from a cad
drunkenness had driven him into the denim-clad
fortunately, we were both mistaken.
Great was his relief—profuse
joy washed over him, from his chartreuse
kid-leather hat down to his fine suede shoes,
leaving him a shaken
mannequin—when he received the grand
news that his test was clean.
Only someone who has seen,
perilously close, death’s keen
quartz eyes fix on where he stands
such shuddering relief, such ice-cold joy.
Those of us who have never been
unfortunate enough to win
(win!) death’s attention
experience a similar excess of feeling when
young love, embodied by a suede-shoed boy,
zips through our lives and we’re almost destroyed.
Jenna Le is the author of Six Rivers (NYQ Books, 2011), which was a Small Press Distribution Bestseller, and A History of the Cetacean American Diaspora (Anchor and Plume Press, 2016). Her poetry, fiction, essays, criticism, and translations appear or are forthcoming in AGNI Online, Bellevue Literary Review, The Best of the Raintown Review, Crab Orchard Review, The Los Angeles Review, Massachusetts Review, The Village Voice, and elsewhere.
This poem appears in A History of the Cetacean American Diaspora and previously appeared in Bellevue Literary Review.