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.
WHAT YOU ARE AFRAID OF
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
than a baseball bat or rope—
Better to say you are proud
to be fortunate, and not
the other way around.
all faggots are afraid of blood,
though what is running
through the streets is not
not in the traditional sense.
SONNET IN BROKEN METRE, ENGLISH
(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.