Hot Metal Bridge

Current Issue : Number Twenty-Five



And there      the boy’s eyes meet mine
and this is how I know we must be enemies
October        and the air is full of mouths
a veil of mosquitos       smashing their bodies
against the stadium lights      and what I know
of desire starts here    watching their thirst
guide them to what cannot be drunk
I am 17        below their little convenient heaven
soft enough to penetrate    to slake what needs I can
and I want to break the boy in front of me
in a way we could mistake for romance     if not for
the pads       the lights        all the eyes we cannot see
but know are there       a body has purpose
mine cannot be seen       the body I mean


I play left tackle
my chest absorbs a parade of hands
I am good at being touched
in the name of protection
this waltz I do to say what little country is mine
I am too small to play at this kind of war
but I do what I have to to even the odds
My body belongs nowhere       so I claim his
&his &his     refer to them only by number

56: his gloved hand reached for my lips
and found a fence
so I shoved my hands into his ribs
until I was his empty fingered god
8: long arms      basketball scholarship
I press my everything into his back
one of the only men I ever held
26: called me a faggot
I took him at the knees
55: Tore my groin by a laying on of hands
when I hold my lover   my hips moans his work


I also play linebacker
here my name sits ready
a stone ripening in the belly
of the lake upon which surely
there is a house which I am not
invited to         and this too

is longing

there the athletic Black kids
drink with the rich white kids
half clothed in the lip of a boat
and this too demands my eyes
this too drives me sick with thirst

so I dress everything in my thunder
I lay down boy after boy on the field
and this is how I teach my presence
a pedagogy of desperation
I lord of this home I do not pay for
I lord of this body and its borrowed armor
I lord of a kingdom of inches
I crack a boy       out of this house
my cheek give way to the scarlet tang of pride
the chant gets the pronunciation just right
and this must be love
this chaos that blooms into my name


After the game we all draped in the thick stink of glory
undressed in our palace of chipped paint in a rich kid school
and what I know of desire       is a secret I keep from myself
a boy grabs at my dick     and calls me faggot for dodging
and this is how I know I am something like home
smiling in my boxers and stretching the scar tissue
of my rusted hip       &meeting nobody’s eyes

Julian Randall is a Living Queer Black poet from Chicago. He has received fellowships from Callaloo, BOAAT and the Watering Hole and was the 2015 National College Slam (CUPSI) Best Poet. Julian is the curator of Winter Tangerine Review’s Lineage of Mirrors. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in publications such as Washington Square Review, Prairie Schooner and The Adroit Journal and in the anthologies Portrait in Blues, Nepantla and New Poetry from the Midwest. He is a candidate for his MFA in Poetry at Ole Miss. His first book, Refuse, is the winner of the 2017 Cave Canem Poetry prize and will be published by University of Pittsburgh Press in Fall 2018.