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Kent Neal

Conversion Therapy for a Straight Razor

 

After you left, the bathroom sink

overflowed. A plumber arrived,

dismantled pipes, removed

what had stopped the flow between us —

 

Our beard clippings dotted the ooze

of two seminal fluids, covering

the promise ring you tossed

before leaving me,

next to the straight razor, dull

in dried blood after having cut through

my abandoned flesh.

 

With water made holy

from distilled kisses and caresses,

I filled the kitchen sink, immersed

the straight razor several times, rinsing

my dried blood away.

The blade grated against

a whetstone until it gleamed.

 

With extended blade, I meticulously

trimmed my mustache. Then,

back into its leather case

in the medicine cabinet the razor went.

 

  

Maintaining the Line

 

I care for

an umbilical

lying along

the Atlantic floor,

stretching from

mouths to ears.

 

Anchors threaten

to break it. Sharks

bite

into its fibers.

 

Through it all,

I listen in.

 

Je suis enceinte.

I’m pregnant.

 

Their voices flow

from Boston

to Bordeaux.

 

Nous allons nous marier.

We’re getting married.

 

Their voices,

it absorbs.

 

Elle a un cancer.

She has cancer.

 

Their voices,

pulses of light.

 

Il s’est fait viré.

He got fired.

 

Their voices,

inhibited by

static and bleeps.

 

Like each repeater

I monitor along

the phone cable,

each conversation

amplifies the signal

connecting them,

unlike the way

 

a plastic sack

slumped against

a dumpster,

too dirty to mingle

with garbage—

my clothes

 

20 years ago.

With siblings silent

as snow fall, without

a winter coat,

our parents pushed me

out into the street,

 

just steps from the ledge

of a steep plunge

down through the air,

down through the waves

into the depths.

 

The numbness of

a million icicles

entered me,

then left.

 

So now, I listen.

 

 

Men Like Us

 

We, men like us, are what

with hips that swish, with

hands that flip, with

lips that lisp, when

kept from fire trucks, when

cut from rugby teams, when

banned from armies?

 

                                  Exiled

from manly endeavors, we’re asked

what wallpaper matches

these emerald curtains,

if that sauce

needs more salt, if this blouse

goes with those boots.

 

We, who may seem weak, take

off Truth's ugly clothes, make

up her honest face, take

on the damaged hair, place

on Truth's bare body

its sincere disguise.

 

 

 

Kent Neal, a gay poet, has published three poetry collections: The Compass, the Labyrinth, and the Hourglass (in French, ErosOnyx Editions, 2015), Where Saltwater Mixes With Freshwater (in English and French, Red Moon Press, 2017), and A Ray of Light in the Lion's Eye (in French, French Haiku Association, 2021). He holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Lesley University in Cambridge, MA. Originally from Oregon, Kent lives in Lyon, France. His poems have appeared in Painted Bride Quarterly, Broadkill Review, Modern Haiku, and elsewhere. You can find him online at www.kentneal.com





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