Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, READING WHITMAN IN A TOILET STALL, by TIMOTHY LIU

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READING WHITMAN IN A TOILET STALL, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: A security-man who stood, arms crossed, outside
Last Line: As we walk out of our secrets into the world
Subject(s): Gays & Lesbians; Trysts; Homoeroticism; Lesbians; Gay Women; Gay Men

A security-man who stood, arms crossed, outside
the men's room (making sure that no one lingered)
met my eyes with the same dispassionate gaze as
a woman inside, kneeling to clean the toilets.

The faintly buzzing flicker of fluorescent light
erased the contours of a place where strangers
openly parade their sex. Efficient, silent,
all ammonia and rubber gloves, she was in and

out of there in minutes, taking no notice
of the pocket Whitman that I leafed my way through
before the others arrived. In paths untrodden, /
In the growth by margins of pondwaters, / Escaped

from the light that exhibits itself -- how those words
came flooding back to me while men began to take
their seats, glory holes the size of silver dollars
in the farthest stall where no adolescent went

unnoticed. O daguerreotyped Walt, your collar
unbuttoned, hat lopsided, hand on hip, your sex
never evading our view! how we are confined
by steel partitions, dates and initials carved

into the latest coat of paint, an old car key
the implement of our secret desires. Wanted:
uncut men with lots of cheese. No fats. No femmes.
Under twenty a real plus. How each of us must

learn to decipher the erotic hieroglyphs
of our age, prayers on squares of one-ply paper
flushed daily down the john where women have knelt
in silence, where men with folded arms stand guard

while we go about our task, our tongues made holy
by licking each other's asshole clean, shock of sperm
warm in our mouths, white against the clothes we wear
as we walk out of our secrets into the world.

Used with the permission of Copper Canyon Press, P.O. Box 271, Port Townsend, WA
98368-0271, www.cc.press.org

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