Poems

MATTHEW SCHNIRMAN
After June

He won’t stay up 
when I need him, so I stay out late
without him, perusing
NO CRUISING
zones, making out with L 
the night before Picture Day at the office 
the whole way back to my place–
having made out with R at the toe 
of the park water tower the night before–
eleven blocks over and uphill
L’s pants dripping
in pocks of streetlight
in leafy shadows, skin scratching
the cool metal legs 
of the blockade that screams 
NO PARKING FROM
HERE TO ETERNITY
the moon like a sucker offering
licks to no one but us takers

L texts me ; ) after dropping me off
safely in pleasure 
and asks if we need to tell HR
I tell him my Wi-Fi password is “hrcomplaint” 
one word, smushed together, all lowercase
Rainrain(How will you know I am of good character?
Rainrain(Should this poem tell you that?

2 a.m. and I am home dripping
having been carried
on the wings of a rendezvous           
I stuff the box of tiramisu 
from the fancy Italian restaurant­
where L met me in the bathroom 
with the lock off
back inside the fridge
my eyelid feels puffy­
I’ve felt a pang all week
and tomorrow I will wake up
eye bruised and shut 
as sure as the physician’s assistant
will say to me, “You must be a violent vomiter” 
as sure as I am to whisper, “I can’t sleep” 
to my neighboring lover 
turning in dream
laughing at what’s unseen to me

I’m on the 12 
to go see the doctor when a man
gets on the bus wearing a shirt
that speaks to me
RainrainSHIRT: You woke up with two gifts this morning 
RainrainIMAGE: A pair of eyes with no eyelids
I can’t read the rest due to the swelling
but I can hear the person behind me 
listening deeply into the receiver
RainrainPASSENGER: Are you obsessed with . . . me?
RainrainPHONE: Don’t dream it’s over
–no breath after dream–
purple, violet, dark 
cherry, my eye, the palette
of the index of unhealthy air
Rainrain(How about another omen?

I’m not a big drinker, but I will have a double
vodka with a splash of soda, a slice of lemon
and lime, and a maraschino
on someone else’s dime–
all that time spent in empathy bootcamp and
I can’t stop feeling too much of things–
the doctor then tells me that they see 
large debris in my lower eyelid 
so something surely must have burst­
“It could be a chalazion,” the doctor says
which sounds less like a stye and more like a chariot 
pulled by a fire-breathing steed 
or a dinner set of glimmering chalices
I glance around the room: linen, sterling, biohazard
it’s all right here
my diagnosis of total darkness

Over the lost three years, 
there’s no waste of sorrow
Rainrain(How long for you have to wonder, why?

AQI of two forty-something
first in the world at this moment
second to Pakistan
so I’m like What’s going on with Pakistan? 
I begin to google “Pakistan air quality” 
but before I can type 
the ‘q’ in “quality”
the search bar suggests “force” 
and shows me a barrage of military drones
that can match any sky
the colors of any eyes

I put on a mask 
and take Pancake for a walk to a lake
I feel bad the air is so bad
there are no masks for dogs
so he’s breathing in fumes 
as he eats bunny poops
as wildfires travel from the east
and a toxic char creeps
as I remember J jaundiced
on the café sofa on lunch break
I remember holding
the ladder for him as he changed 
a lightbulb, cutting himself 
in the process
“Don’t touch it, don’t 
touch it,” he repeated
into the damp rag I reached out

I open the box of leftover tiramisu 
and sit alone in the kitchen 
spritzing a maidenhair 
I named Emily Dickinson
when I go out of town
nobody will watch her 
friends say she’s finicky
for example, one time 
M shrieked, “Oh, no, a maidenhair!”
before dashing off into thin air
Emily requires that much care and elicits 
that much grief, but I like her
delicate nettles

Before I forget:
erythromycin, squeezed into a grain of rice
dabbed in the lower eyelid
three times a day for ten days
“Dissolves like voila!” as the doctor said
also: vitamin D, gentle iron, PrEP, 
two Benadryl, biotin, and an edible
my sleep is out of focus 
I close my eyes and remember 
when Tumblr was still porn 
and users shared poems 
without the publisher’s permission

Let me remind you to stay pissed
downstairs the neighbor’s baby is pissed
it pissed itself
and the couple next door having sex is pissed 
that they can hear the baby’s cries     
and I’m pissed the bathroom vent 
blows out the dust 
of the their love frustration
Is she faking it? 
He seems to make no noise
. . .
and the neighbor in the neighboring 
apartment building who wears a gas mask 
while cooking has been pissed at me
ever since he learned that I can see 
into his shower window
not that I watch
I just have to
use the microwave

No T-bone steak, no frozen 
pea bag, so I hold 
a cold can of sparkling soda
up to my sore eye
my, my, my eye, it hurts 
throbs for a reason

Matthew Schnirman is a queer poet living in Seattle, WA. They’ve been awarded residencies and fellowships from Hugo House, Jack Straw, Vermont Studio Center, and Ucross Foundation.