Poems: Stephen S. Mills

Illo for Stephen S. Mills's poems.

How We Became Sluts

It seems like something that would begin in the body—
            a fleshy kind of desire,
            an impulse,
            something hard to control like hunger.

But it began in the mind—mine—yours—
            where ideas fester,


            become our existence.

I might regret the first time,
if I let myself regret such things—
such actions—such desires.

He wasn’t quite like his pictures:
bigger—in body—than any man
I’d been with—smaller cock too.

But I fucked him to prove I could.
It was dark. His house full
of shadows. He got on all fours.

Me behind. The condom so tight—
not used to wearing them.
He came quickly. It was done.

You read The Ethical Slut, which is mostly
common sense to us now and some bullshit too.
It’s a little late for a manual after so many
years of doing it on our own.

The book talks of crushes—how they happen
in the openness, but how they pass us by—
leave us. Maybe that’s why they’re called crushes:
they breakdown—crumble easily.

We are good at talking—
you and I—probably too much
sometimes. But words
are our currency—our lifeline.

It’s 75 degrees in New York
as he rams his cock down my throat
making me feel used in the best possible way.

I’ve never sucked cock in a park
before. In public? Yes, but not a park.
There’s dirt and broken glass below us.

I aim knees carefully, trying not to care.
Another man watches—cock out.
There is danger in this—or could be

or should be—stories we tell to scare
ourselves out of desire: what if
he’s a murderer rapist? Too late.

When he cums, it explodes all over
my face, my tank top, my own cock.
I remove my underwear to clean myself up—

unprepared for a cruise in the park.
Then I slip them inside my New Yorker tote
(free with subscription).

We part ways at the top of the path.
I snap his picture from the back
with my phone and send it to you.

On the subway platform, an elderly
European couple asks for directions.
I help them. My hairband is lost in the dirt.

My red hair loose—longer than
it’s ever been. On the train home,
a man reads a newspaper. Headline:

Death Penalty Given in Boston Marathon Bombing.

Sometimes I chat with other guys in other cities—
other states—sometimes other countries
and weave wild stories to make them cum.

We trade pictures. I tell lies. I try to figure
out what they want. What they desire.
What they are afraid to tell their lovers.

My doctor says I have the clap.
Tells me if I remember (or if I am in contact with)
my sexual partners, I should tell them.
Some I know.
Others I don’t.
Like the tall thick man with dreads
who sucked both our cocks
at the bathhouse party during Pride Weekend.
I send some texts.
I take some pills.
I wait seven days.
You clap your hands when you see me.

While you work evenings, I binge
watch The Americans imagining us
as spies using our bodies to get
information for our country
while trying to navigate a real
marriage—real responsibilities.
For we are married now.
Not just in name, but in real hard law:
paper trails and rings and photographs.

Do we appear as something we are not?
Commies as Americans? Kind white
married folk but really sex maniacs?
I feel like a spy trying to find the right
information for the right cause
but then wondering if it’s all worth it
in the end. It’s not easy going against
the masses. Keri Russell’s hair understands.

Years ago, I kept a list—
thinking it would be easy to track
the bodies.
But then there were bars
and parties and cruises—
hands and mouths and holes
hard to keep track of.
The list faded.
Bodies I don’t remember anymore.

Then the ones I do:
the college boy with the Peter Pan tattoo,
the white boy in the cowboy boots
who was bad in bed,
the cute choir boy with the loose hole,
the muscle bottom who kissed his own biceps
while I fucked him and tried not to laugh.

So many bodies that come
and go through the years—
stories we forget to write down—
lost in the mattress.

As a teenager of the 1990s,
I spent late nights in AOL chat rooms
talking with 40-something divorcees.
I wove tales of bad husbands
and the struggles of middle-aged dating.
Found ways to comfort the lonely—
the glow of the screen lighting my smile—
amazed at all I could get away with.

Some nights our bodies move together
like the first years—like time might be running
backward—a hunger—a thirst.
Something to shake the melancholy from my bones.

It was a finger that inched forward—
then a hand fully clasped—fingers interlaced.
Then a kiss. A blush. We were just boys.

And then there were nights tangled
in each other’s bodies and in that quilt
your grandmother made,
which years had turned to rags.

I feared I might wake to your neck
noosed in its shreds—a body so still
next to mine still breathing.

We take pills now to prevent HIV infection—
like out of some gay boy sci-fi flick:
blue on tongues. We laugh at the freedom
from fear. We talk of bodies we want—
old times together—of changing landscapes.

We speak of anything and everything and nothing.
And tomorrow I will text you pictures
of me fucking a guy we met once. My dick bare
in his ass. You will send me a smiley face—
or maybe a simple: I love you.

My Students Talk of Color

Different shades. From light to black
as night. One girl asks a boy if he cares
that people call him light-skinned.
He shrugs his shoulders, says he doesn’t.
Another girl says her grandmother
hates her for being so dark: the darkest
in the family. Another remembers
hoping her own kids would come out
lighter than her, light like their daddy.
I’m the only white person in the room.
They do not ask about my pale-freckled
skin. This is all before class. I’m not
really there until the clock strikes one.
Just a quiet observer of these careful
distinctions of shade. I think of the black
man in my neighborhood last week
shouting, I’m so sick of you people moving
in here
as I passed on the sidewalk.
No one else around. What did he mean?
Gay people? Redheads? White people?
I do not tell my students this. When it’s
time to start, we talk of run-on sentences,
fragments, and the importance of clarity.
Stephen S. Mills is the author of the Lambda Award–winning book He Do the Gay Man in Different Voices (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2012) and A History of the Unmarried (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2014). He earned his MFA from Florida State University. His work has appeared in The Antioch Review, PANK, The New York Quarterly, The Los Angeles Review, Knockout, Assaracus, The Rumpus, and others. He is also the winner of the 2008 Gival Press Oscar Wilde Poetry Award and the 2014 Christopher Hewitt Award for Fiction. He lives in New York City. Website: http://www.stephensmills.com/.

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