Poem 22 ± November 22, 2016

Stephen Mills
Last Night Out

Let’s say you like to wear t-shirts
with the word “sissy” printed in hot
pink letters across the chest. Say you
kiss other boys on the dance floor
while hoards of sweaty men grind
against each other as if this is their last

chance for human contact—the end
of the world—and maybe it is.
Let’s say you also drink too much
rum, purposely bump into strangers,
make new friends. One tells you
he’s positive, pointing to the AIDS

awareness bracelet you wear everyday
as a symbol that you care, even though
you’ve never known anyone
with the virus. Now faced
with this man, all you can do is smile
because your head is spinning

and the shiny confetti is beginning
to fall from the ceiling like rain
that never gets you wet. Let’s say
you aren’t sure you heard him correctly,
his lips moved, but the words bumped
into the music before entering your ears,

and you don’t want to make a mistake,
say something stupid, and besides you
aren’t planning to sleep with him,
so it doesn’t really matter, except
that he could be dying and you feel
you should comfort him—

but you hate yourself for thinking that,
for assuming his death is approaching
faster than your own, which could come
now on the dance floor, a heart attack at 25.
Or some homophobe with a bomb,
or maybe a club fire where everyone

tramples each other trying to escape the blaze
like that temple in India where someone
started a rumor of a fight and everyone
scrambled down the mountain, killing
hundreds. And you wonder what sound
bodies make succumbing to the pressure—

perhaps it’s the same sound bodies make
spinning on the dance floor, arms around
each other, mouths on ears whispering
all the ways the night could end,
which reminds you of this club
that, after tonight, will close forever.

They’ll take a wrecking ball to the walls,
erase every memory you have of drinking
here, of falling in love over and over again
while the bartenders in their brightly colored
shirts swirled drinks into your open mouth,
and how just when you thought you couldn’t

take it, the heat of bodies next to bodies,
that blast of ice cold air would burst
from the ceiling, covering everyone
in freezing fog and for a second you
could stand there, in the middle of hundreds
of dancing boys, and not even see

the one right in front of you with his hand
in your pants. Let’s say it scares you
to think how quickly it all fades away—
that in a month no one will be talking
of this place that right now feels so alive,
and by next year you won’t remember

how it feels to stand in this space, feel
the vibration of the music, the hands
on your ass, or your lips locking with the sexy
boy you love. And by next year the man
you just met might be sick, and then he
too will close up for good,

and you won’t remember his name,
or face, or the way he grabbed your hand,
pointed to your bracelet, and said thank you
over and over again, and all you could do
was nod and scream over the thumping
bass: you’re welcome.


stephensmillsStephen S. Mills is the author of A History of the Unmarried (Sibling Rivalry, 2014) and He Do the Gay Man in Dif­fer­ent Voices (Sib­ling Rivalry Press, 2012), a final­ist for the Thom Gunn Award for Gay Poetry from the Publishing Triangle and winner of the 2012 Lambda Lit­er­ary Award for Gay Poetry. His poems have appeared in The Anti­och Review, The Gay and Les­bian Review World­wide, PANK, The New York Quar­terly, The Los Ange­les Review, Knock­out, Assara­cus, The Rum­pus, and oth­ers. Stephen won the 2008 Gival Press Oscar Wilde Poetry Award for his poem entitled “Iranian Boys Hanged for Sodomy, July 2005,” which appeared in the anthology Poetic Voices Without Borders 2 (Gival Press, 2009), edited by Robert L Giron. He lives in New York City. stephensmills.com.

This poem appeared in Quarterly West.