by David T. Gay


Let's just say I told my best joke

the one about the man whose hat blew off

and you laughed

even though it wasn't funny

and so I told one more

about the Buddhist girl from Venice Beach and the hot dog vendor

and you smiled but did not laugh

and then I revealed an intimate detail

about how I received the long scar on my thigh courtesy a three legged dog

and you reciprocated

by telling me of the time you drank a whole bottle of stolen Opus One in a secret room

and I opened my wallet to pay for it all

the Italian dinner, the angel hair and antipasto, chianti and lemon gelato

because that is the gentlemanly thing to do

and you let me show you, as if by accident, the heft of my billfold full of Benjamins

and you acted as if you were impressed

even though you are much more

successful than me

with your Hollywood legs and black Herrera skirt and the green glass doors of the twenty-nine story banking buildings

full of CEOs who will say and do anything for a peek of you unclothed

What do you say we skip all that

do you still need to be afraid

like you were the night the six stray cats

roamed beneath the freeway and the shuffling mountain

of a man in gray blankets thick with vomit and goat sweat

cornered you against the chain-link fence

or the time in the BART station when the man in the blue jogging suit

laid his hand on your ass and you said Excuse me?!? and he hemmed you in and whispered in your ear

that you must enjoy it

because you are a woman

Let us slap all that down in the discard pile of nightmares past and

even if what I have to offer is just a dream

let me take you to the Alps

your breath the warm clouds over Maui and I am Haleakala

my hair the vines of the Peruvian rainforest and you are the Amazon

let me take you to Amador and I will be your Zinfandel

let me take you everywhere else you ever wanted to go

I swear I will regard you better for spending all

night naked with me in the warm waters off the Virgin Islands

drinking pear brandy and Guinness

I swear I will tell you 1001 jokes that will ripple your stomach

and set you at ease like the parrot in Freud's office

repeating psychoanalytic oral/anal imagery in expanding rings of tobacco smoke

rising from the pine plush chair of the maestro

never mind, forget that

I swear I will be your Da Vinci, your consigliere, your Ricky Ricardo

with my own cabana, my own television studio

I will be a cast of thousands, complete with synchronized swimming, breathtaking vistas of the Rocky Mountains

downhill skiing, and wading hand in hand into the Indonesian sea...

But if you tremble like a catatonic caryatid

if you stay marble, the old phobia of mankind o'erwhelming you

not much I have to say will make much difference

and the cold dread of forced company will clamp your possibilities shut

The world of decrepit lovers awaits you

just beyond the reach of my arms

just outside the range of my voice

just within the snare baited with all the apples

all the rotten pomace of stems

curved and wound to shape your impressions of what it means to be a man

so as to channel you into being the object those skeletons chew to the core and discard at their leisure

I am flesh and nothing like that so let's just say I made you laugh

and (if you are very brave

and very much in love with me)

we can join our dreams

your cream in my coffee

and tonight can be even better

than any night of shooting stars

be brave for me, my most favorite of friends

and electrify the night with your choice

neither to be nor make me be