Thomas Eakins, on acquiring a newfangled contraption, desired to point his machine at naked humans and capture their souls. Old man, seven photographs was the title Philly’s most famous artist gave the portrait in question. Was it Walt Whitman? Who stood, “undisguised and naked” a flaccid phallus hanging, begging, questioning the viewer?
An old man, comfortable in his skin, although flabby and wrinkled and beaten by time, a body proud but sad, still empowered, posing for not just the artist but the future. Thank you, Walt for exposing your body non-electric. Curse you, Walt for the ambiguity of your sexuality. We in the 21st century are identity obsessed. We need to know what we can label you and your past cannot clearly be defined.
And yet your dick pic is so personal I feel like you sent it directly to me. Your belly protruding like mine. Your knees all busted up like mine. Your back dimples deep over your buttocks like mine. Your well-honed skeleton slumping in the frame. Your words well-crafted which is what should be deemed worthy. And yet personal controversy is what propels you. Were you a personal mentor to a young man? Or were you a pedophile masquerading as a pedagogic?
Were the accusations against you made by homophobic academics? Or did you abuse your power like so many men before and after? There is no black and white with words, only lessons to be learned.
I will drink you like water
because you don’t drink enough
and that’s why you have migraines.
I’m already eaten alive
this is the after effect
a voice in the ether.
Let’s sit on a cold metal bench
underground together and not speak
but listen to the world fall apart
You’re already a memory
to me and if you die
suddenly I will know
it had to happen
since nothing so good can last.
Let’s walk through the city
apart from one another
and never meet
but know we’re not lost
I’m already dead
hit by a SEPTA bus
and left to bleed out
on a corner in Point Breeze.
You’re listening to the sirens wail
to the west as you stroll relaxed
down East Passyunk.
So many screeching vehicles
machines that humans just ignore
you will learn about my death on the internet
it wasn’t the driver’s fault.
Please don’t read the comments
under my obituary on philly.com
it will only make you upset.
Don’t be upset I was already
doomed my future crumbled
by causes predetermined before the big bang.
Let’s speak to each other
in imaginary scenarios
our cellphones on airplane mode
and our bodies empty from want
and your migraine slowly fades
for love’s just life reborn.
My poems A Distant Hill, Blood Stained Plains, and Bonus Army are now live on Thirty West. You can read them here.