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Woe Unto You, Sons

L. Lamar Wilson

You can’t cry blood, Daddy says
on the ride home from school.
I sulk, face in hand, & recall
the locker room circle. Yes, I love
hopscotch. No, I don’t want to,
you know, her.
His laughter slaps
my cheek like an open hand
as he pats my shoulder. Learn
to lie, son
. I lick the salty stream
as it drips from nose to philtrum to lip.

Send out your sons, the men
of Sodom insisted. Inhospitality?
Or the sin of knowing please
will never do? What is the sin
in wanting – not the pulse
of a man – but the satisfaction
of making disciple of his nameless
back or mouth? Take & eat, they said
then in that alley, they say in locker rooms
& warehouses & dance halls now, darkened
to shroud shame. Marvel at what is left
when flesh becomes adornment. Generations
of men focused not on the firmness
of their feet but the assurance in the grip
of I got you, baby from the latest cynosure
who’s taken Daddy’s place, the ones
who can’t forget the legacy of flesh burning
flesh: a pat of a shoulder in the bathroom,
a belt cracking, cracking. What’s my name, boy?
What’s your name, boy, what’s your name? what’s ...

Stop! Drop! Shut ’em down, open up shop!
Cloaked in pitch, mid-stairway, I watch
the maddened writhing in the Palace
basement. DMX grunts over my head.
My niggaz is wit. You want it? Come get it.
Took it, then we split it! You fuckin' right, we did it!

Hips & biceps wend & flail, shake
the faggot out on the dance floor
above, grind him to bits on knees & backs
on the filthy cement floor. I want
one back, one mouth, to melt into an O
& call my name, to claim mine as his.
I am not welcome there or here. I leave
with one whose real name I do not know.
I kneel before him, lick the salt from every inch
of his flesh. Then, open as he comes again
& again. The scars, leaching afresh, burst
as I fall, face first, into the pillow, each memory,
not feeling the scrim of safety tear, the skin
against skin. Never soon enough, time
topples onto itself, the sun exposes us,
entwined, behind his bedroom’s shades,
& the wounds crust over, steeling me
into what feels like a kind of safety.

* The title “Woe Unto You, Sons” is a remix of a refrain in Matthew 23. The lyrics in
the club scene are from DMX’s “Ruff Ryders Anthem,” his hit from his 1998 major-label
debut, It’s Dark, & Hell Is Hot.

L. Lamar Wilson

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