Inertia after Philip Levine I walk among the rows of bowed heads, circle the perimeter, snake through the columns. In exam quiet, I hope my dress shoes’ clack covers the protests from an almost-empty stomach. I enjoy what my students cannot know. The ache in my knees from the bathtub. Head remembering the weight of his fingers, my invisible crown. The lack of breakfast stretches these hours, but I’ve earned three compliments on my Frog and Toad tie, a gay reminder the world is larger than the four corners of their state test. Their fetal-postured bodies, heads tilted down, appear to be tumbling forward into older, better selves on future pathways I can only imagine the glow of, with velocities that remember what I used to know about potential’s invisible energies. Yet my route has become routine: circle the perimeter, snake through the columns. Head bowed, I walk among the rows.
for the student who asked if I would donate during the campus blood drive I. I used to lie on the questionnaires. A role-play made tolerable if I imagined the three lives I would save. Eligibility, an evaluation of my lifestyle. A secret joy in the possibility that closeted blood could save who prayed for my soul. II. Under current federal guidelines, a man in a monogamous relationship with another man must defer sex for three months to donate. The guidelines seek to establish the timeline of “his most recent sexual contact.” Ambiguity condones skepticism: did you even know his name? This on the LGBTQ+ Donors page. A recent addition to the site, I learn, after browsing Wayback Machine screenshots from 2009 to 2017. I find Can I get HIV from donating blood? in every version. III. After my third donation, [Defer:] I questioned [to delay,] the convenience [to postpone conscription,] of my silence. [to submit humbly.] IV. In tasteful testimonials, queers insist they’re proud to serve their communities. I admit, shifting attention from homophobic policy to redemption narrative is a neat trick. All that blood-disqualifying fucking keeps the FDA up at night. Celibacy, our patriotic duty. Citizen defined belong to, as in membership, as in property.
Lucas Wildner is a poet and essayist in Seattle. A heritage speaker of German, he is currently working on a project examining the relationships between internalized homophobia, cultural geography, and white privilege. Recent and forthcoming work lives at Pidgeonholes, Chronotope Magazine, Homology Lit, and elsewhere.
“Inertia” was originally published in Under a Warm Green Linden.
“for the student who asked if I would donate during the campus blood drive” was originally published by Nice Cage.