Aaron Smith, “Christopher Street Pier (Evening)”
For our last Spotlight of National Poetry Month, we’re thrilled to bring you three poems from Aaron Smith’s forthcoming Appetite.
The college boys have pulled their shirts
off and are playing football
on the lawn. Their farmer tans pink
in the afternoon sun. They toss
and jog, slight fake and almost
tackle. One puts his face too close
to another one’s stomach, grabs
the guy’s waist—steady—to keep
from falling; then a damp armpit on the back
of his neck, as a blond wraps his arm
around him in a quick guy-hug. I am old-
er and pretend not to see, furtive
in sunglasses, looking at them, past
them, at them. I could ruin the game
by watching the wrong way—professor gawking
at students; even a shift between them
could change everything: a hand more than
smacking an ass, someone pressed too long
against a humid chest. Crash of skin,
body pushing body into perfect crush.
Their biceps bulge, un-bulge, bulge again.
It’s not that I want them. I’ve had enough
men, and yet I can’t stop looking at them
while trying not to look at them.
CHRISTOPHER STREET PIER (EVENING)
When I think of New York,
I think of here: triangles of sailboats,
tourists posing against the railing:
Now find someone to take one together.
The sky over New Jersey is an explosion
of color, slashes of pink all through it.
I like when the city’s behind me,
and I’m looking forward at all
that space: the Statue of Liberty
is a tiny green toy on my left,
the Lackawanna tower stands up
in front, to my right: another pier,
then more water, more water
and city. Planes circle in and out
of Newark, little lights getting bigger
as they approach. I make a wish
each time one passes over:
everything be okay for everyone.
Sometimes I just say: Please.
I moved here for the same reason
all gay men move here: to stop
struggling against what our bodies do
and with whom, but still I worry
all the time: will my sister get
what she wants, will Joel’s cancer
come back, have I made a mistake
by living my life alone. Tonight
there are couples dancing under
a large white tent to music that sounds
like a record player, someone always
on the edge waiting for their turn.
If I died right now could I say
I’ve been happy? Though not very
long or completely or in any way
I can explain, I could say, yeah,
I think I’ve been happy.
I don’t have an American
body, I have an anonymous body…
Inside the room he’s pulled
the-other-he’s pants down.
Before they suck, before they
fuck each other in the apartment
with no curtains (windows
facing a dirty brick wall), they
spit their anonymous tongues
into the other’s anonymous
mouth because they don’t want
to speak, no where are you from
no love me in the morning.
The couples outside are married
to their bad decisions: gold bands
and strollers, men and women.
They’re two hims in a bedroom
off Second Avenue and it’s summer.
They are grab and grab, suck
and thrust, is that his cock?
is that his cock? They are chest
to chest, stomach to stomach,
his hand on his ass, then him
on his knees, then him on his
back his cock in his ass, and him
on his back and his cock, back
and forth, him, then him, then
him, him, him, then him again.
AARON SMITH is the author of Blue on Blue Ground, winner of the 2004 Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize and a finalist for a Lambda Literary Award. His chapbooks include What’s Required, winner of the 2003 Frank O’Hara Award, and Men in Groups. In September of 2012, the University of Pittsburgh Press will publish his new book of poems, Appetite, from which these poems are taken.