An excerpt from the verse novel HY
(Hyacinth winters in discontent, his injured lover Thamyris in a Whitefish facility. Lost in loss, Hy fends off overtures from his ex-friend, the irresistible Apollo, until he meets West in the gym. Meanwhile, Apollo vacations in Puerto Vallarta, melancholic.)
On the eve of Jesus's misconception
shopping days are numbered. Hy must pick up
where he left off, still inhospitable
to green advances from his so-called friends.
Apollo finds him in the shallow end
between sprints, lifting goggles from sockets,
watching the second hand, breathing novelties
of air, rippled muscles above white string.
Pollo can swim circles around his lost love,
they both know. He stands to show his body,
taut and tan, streamed with rivulets of drops,
caressing fluids. How can Hy resist
the sip of those eyes, pools of blue longing
for care's stroke, a chance to talk, hot showers,
a work-out partner once or twice a week,
some semblance of a carefree past relived
in the wake of chapters finished and shelved?
Can he ignore overtures of Don Juan?
Hy times himself. He wants to go faster.
He has to get back to the books. Talk talks
to him. Billy Budd again on his desk
teaches passion's lure and grip, its signals,
its heated scenes and glassy essences.
Why then does Hy agree to meet Tuesdays
and Thursdays to lift and run, to swim laps?
Pollo is no Claggart, though Hy has gleaned
from fields of intuition, his ex sowed seeds
of envy, spread compost on weeds that grew.
He cannot call it lust or forgiveness.
Under the ruse of a spot for bench press
or pace on the trail, Hy succumbs to charms
of this Greek god. He will never go back
to bed with a body he cannot trust,
but he can't shut Apollo out blindly
or hide behind the bars of righteousness.
Enough deliberation done at night
in diaries where Hy tries and convicts
himself and others, as broccoli steams
in stichomythias. There's no retort
to affection. Hy fights to keep his head
in check, bridle the dark horse of desire
under ancient models of driven teams.
He knows what he wants is not Apollo
though his penis preaches another creed.
He wades in grays and pushes back set times.
They pump, jog, and climb, pull-up and kickboard,
flip, paddle, crawl, float, eye and fantasize,
sublimate, get big, defined in mirrors.
Hy flexes biceps now to match his curls,
eats peanut butter and banana toast.
Green leafy vegetables speak to him,
reading Men on Men Volume Three on the side,
writing to himself about Thamyris,
the poem he lived with under down's comfort,
the back he once clung to as sperm whales plunged
to floors of seas in groans of riding joy
penetrating sounds of depths, the man he held
a security blanket, came upon
exposed and read red-handed, hard, lamp-lit,
tender in aggression, balling in tears.
Nativity scenes approach like a pall
of patience. Hy must endure silent nights,
suffer joy to the world slurred by spiked eggnog
around television circles, masses
at midnight metabolizing mincemeat,
stuffed with tedious turkeys and candied yams.
Apollo leaves for a family function
in Vallarta, where plastic Jesuses,
blessed on Noche Buena, will fill hollows
in straw, immaculate in conception
among farting farm animals. Three queens,
overdressed and superstitious, hover
like lonesome cowboys around a campfire.
They have gotten wind of a new Jew king
but have not done their homework. Aroma
therapy is not the right gift. Their souls
are what the child fishes for, but he will be
misunderstood for two more millennia.
Yet Hy is not thinking of taking orders;
Tham is his family. Every visit
Hy now cries out loud while his singer man
queries about whom he has met. No one
is a reply Tham refuses to accept.
He demands Hy find a friend, look at least.
Guilt is not the home where he's committed.
Tham refuses to be a source for remorse.
There is a guy, Hy hints, named West, who knows
Apollo, takes aerobics at the gym,
studies meteorology as a grad.
A gay weatherman whose barometer
points towards Hy while he and Pollo tossed discs
indoors under hoops. West wears tank tops thin,
blows hard between reps of rows and pull-downs.
Hy watches the bulge of his spandex puff out
fifteen chin-ups with the ease of an iron man.
A certain tease tingles a textured gonad.
Ball-joint biceps bulge during sets of curls.
West introduces himself with a grip
that leaves Hy massaging bruised cartilage.
He's writing a thesis on wind patterns,
would like to get together sometime soon
to shoot the breeze outside the grunt and grind
of body order, does not have in mind
bowling or ballet. His eyes, two lapis,
blind their target under neon nudity.
His look sweeps over Hy like a trade wind
that ripples the steel sheen of glassy bays
into a deeper blue as it nears shore --
an omen of atmospheric pressure
that ripples West's abs, waters below spigots.
They twirl beneath cascades under pretexts
of the need to clean. West winds his towel
around muscles without hyperbole
while Hy succumbs to the call of image.
The lure flashes, but our friend imprisoned
by grief has of late lost all his mirth.
Something sterile still exists from his perch
on the promontory where he gazes
and is gazed upon. From the fond tables
of memory he cannot wipe away
the volume of Tham's voice singing in his ears.
Casey Charles is an Associate Professor of English at the University of Montana where he teaches Renaissance Studies and Gay and Lesbian Literature. He has published poems in Spanish and English, essays on Shakespeare and Chaucer, and the book The Sharon Kowalski: Lesbian and Gay Rights on Trial, nominated for a Publishing Triangle Award in 2004. A selection from his collection The Places They Came From was a finalist in the Crazyhorse Lynda Hull Memorial Poetry Competition in 2005.
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