[Image by Guy Denning]
In prayer I kneel on sticks hidden under dirty tent floors. Skinned deer shimmy from poles behind the general store. Blazing, I run my hand under my snapback and watch ditch kittens roll in the spilled thunder glitter. The truckbed fills up. Divining alkalinity, pH ghosts wring acid rain from the sky. Smoke catches under my hat brim.
In my american boy body other boys nod at me till I open my mouth. I open my mouth around the softness of other boys. Other boys watch my hips sway in my costume to be fucked, the sweat-stained saltlick of come here, come closer. In summer, boy bodies peel layers of grime from the skin over our ribs. Pine sap slows our tongues.
I mark time by the spread of moss on the backs of my thighs. The woods pop with trailside bonfire. Cans hiss open. Arms around each other in the combusted light. My bones a sequence unleashed all wrong, hips stretched out from shoulders, chest and belly soft. Too soft. Behind my knees, the hard-edged lines of tendons enfold the softest place. Boyhood presses underfoot like river stones. At the side of a dirt road, I blackout. A truck spattering gravel God’s sign to wake up. Sit up. I am ditch-drenched, fur-burred. Dried grass in my hair. From behind I am any other boy.
At the state fair, a stranger asks if I am my lover’s little brother. In a way, I am. We skin each others’ knees and lick the capillaries clean. We bite hard as river turtles. My lover doffs his hat to my dog, who growls as he headbangs in the dirt. To him my lover a boy I am a boy I am any boy.
My boyhood a wish for this lantern held between my two hands. I hug the warm light to my torso, then cast it up and away. Catching my lover’s hand, we watch it float into the trees. The crowd disperses. His tongue quick in the corner of my mouth.
Emrys Donaldson is the fiction editor at Black Warrior Review and an MFA candidate at the University of Alabama. Their work has also recently appeared or is forthcoming in Necessary Fiction, Fairy Tale Review, and Gigantic Sequins, among others.