Finally, on page 60, Simon (clothed) jumps in after him
and the two lovers embrace. He has managed to speak
the word, arranged in a grammar
that empties me from the top. In Edmonton last fall:
the tub lit, Vallier’s nude back turning the sound commodious,
more gay men seated around me
than this world has ever let me have. We flood the house
with a frisson of fingers on thighs, Adam’s apples alight,
all throats swallowing together
protecting in our nervous stomachs a love that could kill us.
This opera, this Catholic education, the coifs worn beneath
habits, the shame we start fires over.
It would be nice to say that I have outgrown this fear of
being watched, disciplined, that the teenage judge of God
was only a feckless martinet, a dullness
to overcome. But instead, while two gay men embrace,
I worry that tub might rust, that something is always already
compromised, a violence about to transpire
off Vallier’s roric skin. It occurs to me now how bathing
with my boyfriend wrung me like a sponge, my anxiety
filming the top of the water.
The tub is wheeled offstage with the two lovers inside.
If the moment of queer intimacy continues we aren’t allowed
to see it. The pith of that realization
sticks to the skin, holds on to the teeth I used to scrape orange
peels at my childhood soccer games, where the white caught,
where he hit me when he found out.