Antlers: poems by Kelly McQuain. Number 4 in Volume Five of our Editor’s Series.
Publication: January 29, 2022 [100 copies]
Cover image by Ron Mohring.
Kelly McQuain is the author of the chapbook Velvet Rodeo, which won the BLOOM poetry chapbook prize. His prose, poetry, and illustrations have appeared in The Pinch, Painted Bride Quarterly, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Spunk, Assaracus, and Cleaver, as well as such anthologies as Best New Poets 2020, Men on Men, Drawn to Marvel, LGBTQ Fiction and Poetry from Appalachia, Eyes Glowing at the Edge of the Woods: Fiction and Poetry from West Virginia, The Queer South, and Rabbit Ears: TV Poems. As a visual artist, McQuain has won prizes from the Barnes Foundation and the William Way LGBT Center, and his series of writer portraits appear as cover illustrations on Fjords Review.
Bending, baring all, could make two hymns become one
as if bare-knuckle boxing were an act of love or turning,
the whistle of an age hammering the sky full-force.
Something must break–a heart, a neck; it is 1965–
in order to survive. And, like anything transported,
it passes. Each knows he must transcend himself:
two hymns, no refrain. The other’s turn. A train.
A knotted string passes up and out of him,
locked rock solid, then shaking, buckling, pinioned
like wings, he thinks–or is it him? Legs: they become
a dark machine, sweetly pistoning, against bare
buttocks, the night as chilly as ice water. Together
the stubble of jaw-lines, insistent as a rush of air. Here:
what only men can do. Crushed grass prickling trouser
knees. He is wanting him wanting him, bound now in sin.
The younger trembles. An open mouth the leaked proof.
A stroke of the face, a hand on a chest. The older bends;
their bodies a cavernous depot of desire–two hymns–
grazing mouths that can nevr touch bottom. Mutual
wonder if the other will do all he needs him to,
fit as a soldier, parts played in equal measure. Two
hims: one weathered, gray, the other young, a kindly
commerce of the flesh, cellular it is so essential,
carried on a shocked exhalation of breath–desire–
quiet hymns, made of fear and gratitude, a close moment
when they might feel beautiful, a place to float to, town
forgotten. A canopy of stars, no scythe to cut the high
grass low. Two hymns interlace where such men idle.
–Thank you to Spunk for first publishing this poem.
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