“Abecedarian on 21st Century Mating Rituals for the Homosexual Male” by Hunter Burke

Always have a face pic. Lead with your best selfie, the one in your
bathroom mirror where your hair billows like bonfire and you
can’t tell how big your stomach is because your clothes are a
desert in which men get lost and cannot ignore their thirst. Leave your bio
empty except for bare essentials: Let’s chat peace sign emoji sparkle emoji
flower emoji. Give them nothing but a glove. Leave them dripping. Before
Grindr, we had bathhouses, backrooms in seedy bars, liaisons in
highway motel rooms. All this took effort then. Now we have the
internet to lean on in times of bodily need. Your skin aches for another
jousting match, and all you have to do is plunge your
knuckles deep into your screen until you find the one you’ve been
looking for: eyes and lips and a full profile amongst the gallery of faceless
men who let their torsos do all the talking, whose profiles are peppered with
other promises of a bad time. Cut to conversation. Him: hey. You: hi. Him: more
pics? Send him a portfolio of your best work, all smiles and skin and
questions you know he’ll want answers to. Him: u host? And you can’t
remember the last time you let yourself be a pool that men stare into and
see themselves reflected. One click and he’s at your door. His mouth isn’t right,
teeth poking from his lips like thorns. His eyes are unlit matches. He’s not
ugly, but he’s not the boy he promised he’d be. Still, let him suck on your
veins, his hand clamped over your mouth to keep your prayers at bay. He’ll have his
way with you. Wait for pleasure to kick in. Hold your breath. Count to twenty. You are
extinguished in his arms. Let him finish. Smile at him as he leaves, but do not
yield when he asks for a goodbye kiss. Lock the door once he’s gone. Remember how
zealous you were when this all began? But here you are again: alone, cursing, an island.


Hunter Burke is a gay poet and performer living in Friendswood, Texas. His work has been featured in The Beacon and on poets.org. He is the recipient of the 2019 William C. Weathers Memorial Prize for poetry. He will be spending the end of 2019 performing in China and working hard to not be one of those Americans.