Vox Populi

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Michael Simms: The Door

The first time I saw him
he was a beautiful Irish boy,
an extra in a Synge play
 
wearing too much
rouge on his cheeks which
might have looked clownish
 
on anyone less attractive.
Black curls, blue eyes,
delicate flesh bulging
 
in his forearms, his beauty
caught my breath as if
I’d swallowed a large
 
piece of meat. He
was radiant and this was
the first time I’d ever noticed 
 
male beauty. I was 18,
a Southern Baptist boy.
Later he and I had
 
a poetry workshop together
and his similes were
as lush as his lips.
 
I could barely speak but  
I knew he knew
I was attracted to him so
 
one day he invited me
to his apartment on the pretext
of loaning me a book
 
and all I could do 
was nod silently. We both 
knew the agenda. We sat 
 
on the couch side by side 
and he produced 
a balm which
 
he rubbed slowly on his lips
to make them more 
sensitive he said and
 
offered the balm 
to me. My lips
began to tingle 
 
as he moved his face 
closer to mine and 
in that moment I needed
 
to decide. If I made love
with him, it would be my first
time with a man. 
 
It was Texas.
1972. Sodomy
was a felony. Also 
 
I had a kind and pretty
girlfriend whom
I didn’t want to hurt.
 
But now five decades later
I have to be honest 
at least with myself 
 
if not you, reader who
may also have denied 
denied, denied.
 
The truth is 
my fear of jail and infidelity
paled next 
 
to my fear of what 
came next. You might say
I feared becoming
 
what I feared. I knew 
if I made love with 
this beautiful young man 
 
I would fall in love 
and then what?
I’d been taught 
 
for a man to lie with a man
was abomination. 
Although I didn’t believe it,
 
had teachers who were gay,
I was worried
I would like sex with him
 
too much, need more, become
something my family
abhorred. Would he and I 
 
bathe together, would we 
take turns? What exactly 
did his belly 
 
feel like? I was curious,
ravenous, burning 
with the lust 
 
of the men of Sodom 
who tried to rape
the visiting
 
angels. A taste 
for strange flesh brought 
the city to ruin. And yet 
 
this young man’s beauty
hypnotized me so I
sat on the couch unable to move
 
toward or away 
from his lips, unable 
to decide who I was, 
 
what my life would be 
but finally
didn’t have to. He sensed
 
my fear and pulled back.
He was no seducer.
He didn’t have to be as 
 
gorgeous as he was. 
He sat back. 
We made small talk.
 
I walked out the door.
For the rest of the semester
we saw each other often
 
but our eyes never met. 
Why would they?
What was there to discuss?
 
A faltering glimpse of desire?
An interlude of uncertainty?
A door forever closed.

Michael Simms is the founder and editor of Vox Populi. His latest collections of poems are American Ash (Ragged Sky 2020) and Nightjar where this poem appears (Ragged Sky, 2021).

Copyright 2021 Michael Simms

Photo by Eva-Maria Simms

23 comments on “Michael Simms: The Door

  1. Peter J Crowley
    November 21, 2021

    Michael a wonderful life moment and a closing door to an uncompleted thought. quite fine

    Liked by 1 person

  2. rhass1
    November 20, 2021

    I love the pure honesty of this poem.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. alexisrhonefancher
    November 20, 2021

    Exquisite. And strangely sad. All the roads not taken.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Vox Populi
      November 20, 2021

      Thanks, Alexis. Yes, this was one of those moments when I could have taken “the road not taken” and it has made all the difference.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Sean Sexton
    November 20, 2021

    Amazing poem. Well done. Wow!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Patricia A. Nugent
    November 20, 2021

    Michael – Your writing edges me ever-closer to full authenticity. It’s a gift. Thanks for modeling the courage it takes to speak truth – only to later realize there was no need to be fearful in the first place.

    Liked by 2 people

    • kim4true
      November 20, 2021

      I think there was a need to be fearful, in that time and in that place. I grew up there too, and there are many intimate situations, like this one Michael describes, that could literally change everything. The real danger was losing everyone you knew and loved over loving someone who was not of the approved race, gender, or social status. Choices had to be made that have become less important in our current society.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Vox Populi
      November 20, 2021

      Thanks, Patricia. Authenticity is important to me both as a writer and as a reader. I’m glad you feel the same way.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Barbara Huntington
    November 20, 2021

    Beautiful and sad.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. melpacker
    November 20, 2021

    Ah, the emotions wrung out of us by the emotions you wring out of yourself. Very moving piece. Thanks.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Michael Simms
      November 20, 2021

      Thanks, Mel. I’ve long thought that gender (and the desire that goes with gender) is not made of categories, but rather it is a spectrum of inclinations.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Rose Mary Boehm
    November 20, 2021

    Made me so sad.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Jose A. Alcantara
    November 20, 2021

    Wonderful, Michael! I was riveted. Your continuing vulnerability is so much of what this land needs. Thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. rickcam21
    November 20, 2021

    wow rc

    >

    Liked by 2 people

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This entry was posted on November 20, 2021 by in Note from the Editor, Poetry, Social Justice and tagged , , , .

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