He tells me how he cut off the top of the skull—
a cap of sorts—lifted and set aside.
Then how he slipped his fingers down the back
and popped the brain up and out.
How easy it was. How powerful it made him feel.
How he stood there holding everything that was this man:
his intelligence, fears. desires, memories.
All able to fit into two hands. Not even very large ones.
And I’m sipping my gin and tonic because I’m at a bar,
and it’s Friday night, and I’m nodding along in the way
good listeners do—I’m not even faking it
like I might with other less intriguing men.
But then I think of you, at home in bed, and how
you want your body donated to men like this.
We confirmed it just the other day when your grandma
passed away, and we spoke of our own deaths
while folding laundry. Yes, you want to be used
by students who will slip your brain out, hold it in their hands,
and then say to some guy in a bar somewhere how amazing
it was, yet so mysterious. For they will only know your gender,
your race, and how you died. Nothing about how you lived
or loved, or all your memories of me, of us, of this life
we are living together, yet separate tonight
where I stand in this bar with this man: a Muslim
med student who doesn’t drink, but lets me kiss him
and run my fingers through his beard. The beard
that once held the dust of bones or so he says.
Had to wash it out in the shower after lab. Bits
and pieces sliding down skin into drain. Bodies left
to science. Then I’m touching his hands, tracing
his lifeline like a fortune teller trying to see the future,
but it’s dark in this bar and my head is fuzzy with gin,
and I know nothing of predicting how these things end.
Stephen S. Mills is the author of the Lambda Award-winning book He Do the Gay
Man in Different Voices (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2012) and A History of the Unmarried (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2014). He earned his MFA from Florida State University. His work has appeared in The Antioch Review, PANK, The New York Quarterly, The Los Angeles Review, Knockout, Assaracus, The Rumpus, and others. He is also the winner of the 2008 Gival Press Oscar Wilde Poetry Award and the 2014 Christopher Hewitt Award for Fiction. He lives in New York City. Website: http://www.stephensmills.com/