at Length

from The New York Editions

—Michael D. Snediker


John Lurie, The other side of The Great Wall of Fuck, 2014, Watercolor on paper, 18 x 24 inches / 45.7 x 61 cm


Bleeding                                   heart   lily                               lemon

being the
gleaning of

what was no longer understood in
the instant of                           its being dreamt

I was learning
like a wasp

the art                                           of being                                                      fumed

the sun-dialsilvergrid-iron

of a poem
pear of                         hyacinth
anguish                        scold’s bride                                         and

to be cursed with
flight and                                 yielding to
the sun for
my neck           what was                                                                                 the kissing as
left of it                                                                                   by an aspmy little
creeping                                    arson                widow’s                                              trellis

left to
this its
own                 devices

catapelta                                              known only in the lost light delicacy of a novel
it can’t quite      remember

belvedere                     and trellis                     trestle                                     and upper mullion

from which one might see a
such asthis one  on theverge of  being caught


Venus my Aeneas
  further roughing
  up the canicular


the difference between                                                            which              and
the blighted wreck of my novel being
one of                                                                                                              use

all of it                                                             without                                      the hive its
everyone                                                          remainder in                            fiction



of stillness and drone after drone upon drone


         now is                   useful


I can’t
emphasize        this enough

July                      judas                  chair                       and the                                                peony
stagingjust how little  I’m
doing being made to do

this                   how it     feels                                                 to be                                 put                        

sunlight  being a
euphemism for                         combustible writhing
making youyour parasol and pocket
of oranges
something like
the sun the

pagoda             steeped                                    oxygen  of  the                                             justice of
a book

(its clean sharp useless spine) falling like the sun on a helpless thing (it takes someone once in a poem a carrion a swarm in a novel to understand) such vanquishing exposure and above it

determined as atemple asmall boat ofOceana roses



I wake each morning  to                 gold mine                                     Aeneas my Aeneas my
 gold                                 Aeneas

each morning
wake                                                                                                                to gold




but mine is missing


Given how muggy it was at our table

checkered        red & white                 waxed on one
sideexcitingly suede-like
on the other

I might have been surprised

their nipples

were    so expressive

were I not
so startled
by        them    altogether

then rivetedunconcealable

under   thin shirts

advertising Beck’s
sweat-stained               the acrid moons

beneath their pits further darkening
as they sat & laughed

their nipples:

to         think    about

without tempting
the disaster      already invited by

trying not   not  toto think

of them of
which  all of which
I was
enough aware
even only if in
my head

to call              thempert

mischaracterizing the easiness of their arousal

that of their nipplesversus
more enigmatically

them and

its swag and swelter

versus the unconcealable

mortifying responsiveness
of my own

its spectacular and obstinate
to be curbed or warded

like a horse from the gate
whose response to the twitch

its bit
is only always this hell-bentzeal the

inexhaustibility  of which

in relation
to the fear that spurs it

being   at this point

my most

my        only

athletic if not quite boy-like

My fear
its coltish           


with  their       languor

it would lie
down dusty                     and die
if it could

at its feet

probably                      tan                              probably

sprouting hair

first                  dark                                        oblivious

on the knuckles
of their easy toes

it would lie there
or even shamelessly

this very table

and if   as I

this was happening                              at a pizzeria

[red & white check
of oilcloth                                            meaning

I was wearing
one of my pizza shirts   
red & green candy stripes
likelymany sizes too large the

stubborn idea

(first but not last
idiot ideé fixe
of nascent narcissism-in-triage-training)

it couldhide

the soft

pale   mole-spot           pasta of my arms

acrossfromthem and                                             their muscles

(words like “bicep” and “pec” which to my body

if you could   call it
a body   were


their  stains and  pits
likely also
growing hair

lucky the burning
of my blushing not

burning the pizzeria

the jukebox
the parmesan cheese shakers
the parents                                           our parents
at the adjoining table                           to smithereens

and disappointing

I would haveset it

all on fire first and foremost                me and my

impeccable                               disastrous

its Italian flag

infinite difference  
their shirts and my shirt

the way
their being boys
touched languidly, easily

their also already being menhow they just slipped
into each other

the way

my being one                           a boy
 if you could call it this that a boy

stood itself on the edge of a chasm
 and strain your eyes
 all you liked

there was nobeing or becoming a man                     zero man
on the horizon
anywherethe horizon’s
how I got

(girlfriendsports             friends who were boys themselves growing

up into men who didn’t
find you

risible   wasn’t how you got there       this was there                             impossible

let alone wife children man’s hard jaw infinite easy body
how you got there I didn’t have a clue                                                                  from here   and no one                                                                              

was giving one

as when my second-grade grandmotherly teacherwhose name I can’t remember

(insofar, I tell myself,
all of the inner resources

were    being                                        pooled, emptied

into the project of trying not to bewhatever this
was, spending

like no tomorrow)

she taught me a shortcut
to tying shoes, because                         (and this surely related to

the larger predicament, its genome)  bunny ears
escaped me

there was no trick like that
for this

the chasm

from which there is no view
at all

spin round all
the way round
like a girl dancing                     like   Diana Ross
in the outfield before               the ball drops neverin your glove

I touched

repellently, inexorably

this       intractable girlishness

with which nervously
I permitted myself

this                  one

as though in the absence of Drew Barrymore
conflagration concentrating

all my mortified self-censorious energy
if I could execute thisinto a single action                                                                   without calling
was my only                                                                                attention           
option                                                                                        to myself

and whereas otherswould have chosen

through the oversized, laminated menu
the jukeboxpipetting the scrunchedup straw wrappers
into worms
I chose
“something simpler”

holding my glass of Pepsi
and in my nervousness

my handwent up that cylinder

and down

sweating the night’s heat

and I

didn’t know
they were laughing

what I was doing was

up and down and

nearly hysterical with
the dread of not understanding as it dovetailed

with their effortless swagger

I said

I said

what? it feels good!

and they
just sat and laughed

Michael D. Snediker is the author of Queer Optimism: Lyric Personhood and Other Felicitous Persuasions (2009) and the forthcoming Contingent Figure: Aesthetic Duress from Ralph Waldo Emerson to Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick. His book of poems, The Apartment of Tragic Appliances (2013), was a Lambda Finalist for Poetry. His poems have appeared in journals including The Black Warrior ReviewCrazyhorseCream City Reviewjubilat, and Maggie. He is Co-executive editor of The Offing, and Associate Professor of English at the University of Houston. He is grateful to the Corporation at Yaddo for the beauty, joy, and time in which the manuscript from which these present poems are excerpted was written.

You can see more of Michael Snediker’s poetry on At Length here.