Sean Patrick Mulroy*


sean patrick mulroy


Here is my lover’s body     
              a warm machine  
an open mouth—
                                            he is asleep.  
          is crawling across the pillow case towards me.  
         Unwashed sheets, no shirt, the trace of rusty smoke—
his morning breath.
                                            What I offer you is not a fact, only the truth.  
The smell of his hair, tangled and black, is from the summer of 2003.
The stillness of his sleep is from a picture taken by another man, one
I saw on Facebook a few years ago.

Here is what I love about the brain:  How it remembers.
How it sews what soft it can into a blanket
                               for the nights when I am cold with trouble.

            sometimes trouble is a choice that I make every day.  
            sometimes pin myself down
            sometimes mutter in my sleep
            sometimes it’s a bargain struck
                             between my heart and cruelty
            sometimes, a scale I have to balance—

Here’s my best friend and a bottle of my parents’ wine
stolen from the basement of the house where I grew up.

Here’s the house where I grew up—
                 weathered brick, horses running in the field,
the crumbling wooden barn
                  where I first kissed my teenage lover
in the shadow of the southern moon.  

Here is my lover’s body.
              The coat I bought on my first trip to New York City
spread beneath us on the grass

                               grass cut by my father in the morning

father with no gray hair, carrying me up the stairs
                to tuck me into bed for the last time—

               Oh.  I’ve just turned over in my sleep.  
I am dreaming beside my lover in the dark.  
Here is my lover’s body—     
               his this arms pull me closer to him     

               sometimes trouble pulls me harder than a lover can.       
               sometimes it’s a train that I am waiting for a ride         
                               across the country of regret, a low whistle       
               sometimes trouble is a schoolyard bully     
               sometimes he’s a bill collector
               sometimes the whole world is costly—

Here is all I have:     
               a string of pearls ripped from the mouths of all my ghosts.     
               a strand of heathen prayers.  

my lover’s body         
                            a hospital bed filling with light  
the first  12 bars to all of my favorite songs       
               a list of every one I’ve ever run into on the street
when I really needed to run into somebody—


Make your own list.       
               Fill it with your hungry and your bread.  
Brick a wall between yourself and sorrow     
               with the mortar of your small blessings—     

               your best friends and favorite shoes.     
               the lipstick traces on your mother’s cigarettes     
               the twenty dollar bill you found on the sidewalk  

Take these things, and put them somewhere safe.     
               When trouble shows up at your door
belligerent and drunk, pay him off         
                                like the sad gangster that he is.  

Here are the crimes I chose not to commit.     
               The knives I never had to raise.  
Here every choice I’m glad I made       
                                 can wrap its golden arms around me.

here my lover’s body         
a lingering cologne
here is my lover’s body.       
               his lips pressed to my shoulder

here is my lover’s body  

here is my lover’s body

here the body of my love holds me     
                 so tight, no trouble lifts a hand to me
or even dares to speak my name.  




If someone asked me today, "Ricky, what are you afraid of?" I would answer, “The blood that runs through the streets of countries at war...child slavery, terrorism.”  But fear of my truth?  Not at all!  I am proud to say that I am a fortunate homosexual man.” 

–Ricky Martin, March 29th, 2010


There is, of course,
the specter of flamboyance
like a red silk ascot
tangled in a barbed wire fence  

         Welcome to the family.

The world regards you
                       on your back, now.  
You will still be paid
           to pose shirtless and dance
to sing love songs
                   to women, only
but it’s better, isn’t it,
                       to mention bondage
as a foreign concept, something
unfamiliar to you, like children.

Better not to say,
or a few bored drunks
in dark and rural places, no—

Better to say terror     
               in         the       context      of
ballistics, rather
than a baseball bat or rope—

Better to say you are proud
                  to be fortunate, and not
the other way around.

Of course,
all faggots are afraid of blood,
though what is running
              through the streets is not
your blood.
                                 At least,
not in the traditional sense.  


(with two translations*)

for Gaetan Dugas

So you shouldn’t fear someone who has AIDS? // Like, if you have a lover who has
AIDS//and you don’t have AIDS what is the warning// you give people?  It seems like
there’s kind of // fears towards those people here, then, who could//have the same
symptom  or   he  have   the   same//symptom   or   he   have   the   symptom or   if// 
have the disease you should fear those people.//if you think you may have or you
could be//a concerned person with AIDS, if you // present yourself to your doctor what
kind   // of test can you ask him to be under-//taken in manner to confirm if
you//are possibly a carrier or not?

So     should     we     be     afraid     of    someone    who
has    AIDS?         Like,    if    you    have    a    lover    who
has AIDS, should they warn you?  There are those  who
have  had  these symptoms,  the same symptoms  who
you   seem   to   be   afraid   of   here.           Those   who
might   have   these   symptoms,  are  they people who
we   should   avoid?       And   if    there  are  those   who
are   worried   they   might   be   diseased,   those   who
might   think   they   have   AIDS   and   are worried who
they      may     expose     is     there     a     doctor     who
can     test     them?        Isn’t     there     a     doctor   who
has    found    a    way    to    tell   who’s   sick   and  who
is    not   yet?      No?      How    can   we   be   sure   who
is   spreading   AIDS?  If   doctors   don’t   know,       who?
If    you    knew     who     I    was,    you’d    run   from me
This    strange   disease,    a   sounding   horn,   and   me
the    pale    horse    of    its    echo.         You    rode    me
So       many       of       you       eager     horsemen,      me
your       stallion       garlanded      with      flowers.       me
a       wild       galloping       in       steam       rooms,      me
a      glistening      young      shadow      you     cast,     me
I      loosed      the      joyful      beast      inside      of     me
for you, the gorgeous animal.                                  See me
your handsome steed, returned?           But you force me
now into this blood stained cage.                   Don’t tell me
that    this,   our    sweat-slick    joy,    will    swallow    me
that all along I was a butcher.                       Please
You know nothing.                         It cannot have been me

*text of first sonnet is directly quoted from a recorded line of questioning at a gay men’s community meeting in Vancouver, on March 11th, 1983. The questions were put forth by a French Canadian national, Gaetan Dugas, who would be named by the Center for Disease Control as Patient Zero.

Born and raised in Southern Virginia, the house where Sean Patrick Mulroy grew up was built in 1801 and was commandeered by the Union Army during the Civil War to serve as a makeshift hospital. As a boy, Sean loved to peel back the carpets to show where the blood from hasty surgeries on wounded soldiers had stained the wooden floorboards. Now he writes poems.