Poem 20 ± November 20, 2016

Merrill Cole
Warm Brother

Around my head the ghost face rolls,
unsteady halo, stolen gold,
radioactive discharge
burning off, all I could never
bring myself to bless. Lopsided man,

can you say or guess what fig leafs
your cold nakedness, the half-life
of quarter-loves, shadow figures
against the wall—all man, or
maybe doll? Who cannot touch

himself, whose pleading seems record
of an instrument that scrapes off crust
of sentiment, that wind-up talk:
I want to swallow you, I will
peel away your wings. The wet grin

slides into my undefended
mouth. Staccato laughter rings out:
hot spit flying into emptiness,
biohazard semen and piss.
This upbeat ballad played backwards,

phantom twin, an automaton
bruising out the numbers again,
x-ray trespass, you cannot see,
curse lipped in the mirror, warmer
brother—ultraviolet—almost me.

Merrill Cole

Merrill Cole is Professor of English at Western Illinois University and the Advisor for the newly established interdisciplinary undergraduate Minor in Queer Studies. He is the author of The Other Orpheus: A Poetics of Modern Homosexuality, as well as numerous essays and poems. A recent Fulbright scholar in Berlin, Germany, he translated Anita Berber and Sebastian Droste’s 1923 Dances of Vice, Horror, and Ecstasy. Merrill has been HIV+ since 1989. He lives in rural Illinois with his husband, Rick Ponce, and three cats.