“When Researching Public Sex Theatres for a Poem” by Sam Sax

Sam Sax


you know you have to pay, right?
the marquee does its neon work to draw you
but your wallet will be punished.

the big man sits in his tiny booth with his big hands
you wonder if he finds you disgusting, or sees you
place the bill right in his palm. feel meat

through the currency. fantasize he might follow you in,
leave your eyes in his mouth. what is a poem worth, anyway?
ten dollars at the door? the long staircase? the soiled

cloth seats? who uses cloth seats anymore, anyway?
you read they hold disease better than mosquitoes.
you feel the swarm beneath as you sit.

each tiny needle sucking you down. it is dark
as you imagined. but you do not do what you imagined
you would do. your body does not transform

into something with more limbs. prehensile and guttural.
you sit. hands decorative silk napkins folded in pockets.
the whole of your skin shrinking away from its lineage.

that accordion history opening all its doors into the dark.
imagine the actors dead now, forever blazing in celluloid
before the swarms of us, forced into the same positions

over and over, the desperate cocaine buzzing through
the screen. the same angry hives, the overdubbed screams.
in the pause between films, you wonder again,

the cost of a poem. is it the man wearing a dark suit
beside you? his face a candle of legs? his wet and demanding
skin? the next film begins … and you reach out for him.

the mosquito’s feeding the blood forward into your hands.
your hands, outstretched as though you’d expect him to save
you. but he pulls away. he fades into the dark. then

when you open your mouth one strange voice stumbles out
after another. pandemic of hair yawns down your back, a thin
tail gasps out from between your hind legs. so you walk

down the long staircase. your body transforming into something
so much smaller. the big man’s hands now are five stories wide.
in the cab ride home, you laugh at how you tried to speak

a dying language. how naive and brave you were.
how ludicrous you believed you might find something holy
in sweat, a new way to talk about perversion or release

or the genealogy of desire. you do not tell anyone you went.
so tiny you could climb inside a stranger’s pocket. and you want to.
and you paid to. ugly swarm of cloth still folded in the blood.

isn’t it funny how you once believed nothing
in this whole world could disgust you?

from Rattle #44, Summer 2014

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Sam Sax: “A poem happens for me when I find something my body has a visceral response to that I don’t understand, that place where the body butts its head against the scripts written on it. When I write I put my thumb on that uncertainty and twist. This poem was born out of such twisting.” (website)

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