Poem 87 ± August 30, 2015

Brian Leung
Current Conditions

1999, Partly Cloudy and we’re just not fucking
in New York. Canal street, a strip of white
sunlight and red-painted brick, these sidewalks
lined with stacks of cheap fleece and shiny watches
piled high like the polished vertebrae of rendered
reptiles. I’ve buried a boyfriend nine states away.

52 degrees before a hard night, Cape Cods, heated
salsa in Hell’s Kitchen, monkey capture on the t.v.
Our dead host thinks he’s dating you. Photos of nipples
pressed against male lips. I want you to want to date
me. Chilled, he points out the closed off fireplace.
“Amontillado!” The wrong season for literary humor.

Light rain. Outside the Strand, $1 book carts
unprotected, passive, like terminal patients wheeled
into a garden and forgotten. Stacks—the two of you search
desperately for poetry. There are a dozen ways to say no
to this dead man in his stubbled thirties. I wait, thinking
so many men of the wrong kind are just what we need.

A rainbow missing orange and violet over the Siberian
Elm of Union Square Park with its frantic squirrels
the color of mottled concrete. You keep we three
busy and away from bed. Younger and in this city
years ago on a subway platform, I first had sex
with a future boyfriend belonging to someone else.

Gusty winds from the North-west. We order drinks, three
men looking for noise. The room is full of candidates
staring at bootleg videos of naked jocks in a locker room,
our faces scorecards. And the two of you arrive
at a drunken resolution one of you cannot mean. I will not
have you tonight, nor the living boy quick with a card.

The Forecast. This room of men, coats checked, elbows
on the bar, backs against the walls, hands melting
ice in vodka and rum. All this ticking hope
riding on tonight and every night from now on, riding on
the lists we make of each other, the lists we are
crossed off. And Terpsichore hovers, whispering
a tambourin while we nod and dose ourselves numb.

Brian Leung, professor of English and director of the Creative Writing Program. (Purdue University photo/Charles Jischke)

Brian Leung is the author of the novels Take Me Home (Harper Collins, 2010) and Lost Men (Three Rivers, 2007) as well as the short story collection World Famous Love Acts (Sarabande, 2004). Brian was the winner of the 2012 Jim Duggins Outstanding Mid-Career Novelists’ Prize from the Lambda Literary Foundation. Other awards include the Asian American Literary Award from the Asian American Writers’ Workshop (2005), the Mary McCarthy Award for Short Fiction from Sarabande Books (2004), and the WILLA Award for Historical Fiction from Women Writing the West (2011). Brian is a professor of English and director of the Creative Writing Program at Purdue University.

Photo by Charles Jischke

This poem is not previously published.