“Nervous Bambi” by Richard Leis

I’m dazzled by headlights
while flaming forest fire sits
smug on my couch under my roof
smoking up his coming out to me
like its air itself. He told me over the phone.
He’s here now. I pull from the breast
pocket of my work shirt a folded list
of questions I wrote. I slide my reading
glasses down. I can’t ask
while I’m looking at him.

I ask him if it was a trusted, older, married man
who first offered him

What can he possibly mean by “No”?
How is it possible for him to be so in flames
with me? He told me over the phone,
too fowl to tell me in person.
It’s a wonder he’s here now. He doesn’t visit much.
It’s a wonder he’s not more apologetic.
It’s a wonder to me he’s not dressed like a woman
or those queer rabbits I see thumping down the sidewalk
downtown or in the art district.

I totter four hooves on ice.
After the next few questions,
I sprawl.

A teacher? No. A boss? No. I ask him
if he’s ever been with a women. The answer
to that one is also smoke. I ask him if he’s ever dressed
in drag, women’s clothing, makeup. Ashes, he says,
and why does that matter, he growls, and yes,
he’s mad. At me under my roof!
Bisexual? No. AIDS? No. The trees
come down all around me. He’s got an answer
for everything. It’s how I know something
doesn’t add up. It’s how I know he’s been corrupted,
by someone, somewhere, even if he doesn’t act like it
or doesn’t remember or doesn’t want to tell me.
I don’t like how he’s sitting there roaring and hardly saying a word.
I don’t like how he’s sitting there fed up with me.
I don’t like how he walks into my house
after telling me his big news over the phone
and I’m the hunted? Is he sure? Yes, he says.

Can’t it be as simple as all those gay football players on TV
patting each other on the butt, those crossdressing singers
in their gratuitous music videos, touchy-feely male teachers,
all of them joined in a fairy conspiracy to confuse
children young, to make them try things to fit in
with the other kids trying new things?
We weren’t like that. He says it’s not like that.
Who’s lying?

The gays always hit on me. Driving truck,
some big motherfucker came right over
soon as I stepped off my rig and offered me
a blow job. Never been so mad. Never cried so hard
when I was alone and on the phone with my wife.
Does he know anything about that? Did I ever tell him about
the officer I went to pick up during Vietnam, an obvious fruit,
and how I kept my gun in my lap and told him to keep to his side
of the jeep, ranking me or not. That old farmer when I was sixteen?
What did they think they saw in me? I’ve good reason
even though my wife and kids narrow their eyes
at me every time I do. LIGHT-IN-THE-LOAFERS.
SUGAR-PANTS. It’s not like I was prepared
with a dictionary of politically-correct terms on my bookshelf,
ready for when for my oldest told me he was one of them. FAGS.

I crumble the list of questions into a ball. He tells me he told the rest
of the family a decade ago. I ask him why he didn’t tell me. He says
he was afraid of the rifle I keep in my bedroom closet,
says I’ve threatened him in the past if he turned out gay.
I don’t remember that. Why would I say something like that?
We’ve got to live with them, don’t we?

He blinks and I’m not sure if he’s trying
to embarrass me or if he’s confused by me, too.
He has to be lying. No one chooses to be a fudge-packer.
I don’t say that word out loud this time even though
he’s under my roof and I can say whatever
the fuck I want. I don’t like how holier-than-thou
everyone becomes. I don’t like his words, either.
Burning branches and he keeps talking
about how the forest will return. New
life. Feet thumping.
It makes me nervous. Could I shoot him
between those big cartoon eyes? I didn’t let my kids
play with guns. A cock is a gun.
The flower is stinking.
It all burns down.

How am I supposed to flee
my own son?


Richard Leis lives in Tucson, Arizona where he works in planetary science. His poetry has been published in Impossible Archetype and is forthcoming from The Laurel Review. His website is richardleis.com.