March 12, 2018

Christopher Soden


How long ago was it, that I saw
Tom get married? More than
thirty years? I did not then
self-identify as gay, though understood
I could not express contempt
for the bride in the same way
as the others. Tom really loved me

but somehow the ferocity in my gut,
the dark turn my blood took,
was different. Chaotic harmony
to our conversation, grace in our brimming
banter. I would dream of Tom coming
to me in the tub, swathing my wrists
and feet in yards of snowy bandages.

His sister Michelle wore a lethal red
dress (scalding the air like poppies)
to the reception. Female stream
auguring flagrant, blinding intimacy.
Even I the pathetic queerboy, who’d
yet to nurse another cock, could tell

how exquisite she was, far beyond
my grasp or caress of any man.
You can tear away every tatter
until there is nothing but your raw,
ridiculous flesh, you can scour
your conscience till she knows

every shameful crime that blackens
you like ash. You can murmur prayers
at her miraculous crux, worship
her nipples so delicately the chills
will bring her closer to the grave.

We reach and we reach, aching
to swim in that lunar placenta,
drench our gorilla hide in milky
song of undiluted mercy. She will never

tell you that uncomplicated smile is
stifling disappointment. That we are
grubby, thick-headed altar boys, sloshing
sloppy fluids at the communion
of the most high.

from Rattle #58, Winter 2017

[download audio]


Christopher Soden: “I remember the first time I heard Sylvia Plath’s ‘Lady Lazarus’ in a writer’s workshop I was taking. Our teacher, Jack, read it aloud, and I was unacquainted with Plath and her poetry. Didn’t even know she was dead. As anyone who knows the poem can tell you, it gathers steam and just continues to escalate by way of rage and audacity. Plath just keeps pushing and pushing until you think she couldn’t possibly go any further, and yet she does. By the time Jack finished with those three lines, ‘Herr God, Herr Lucifer, Beware. Beware. / Out of the ash I rise with my red hair, / and I eat men, like air,’ I could feel deep shudders traveling up my back. My scalp was ablaze. Until that moment I didn’t even know such poetry was possible. That was when I knew I wanted to be a poet.”

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