The Best Poets: Hear From Lambda's Nominees

The Advocate asked each nominated poet and poetry editor from this year's Lambda Literary Awards to submit one from their collection.



From Clay by David Groff


                                  to Clay

After the mutual cruise in the surf,
after I ignored the fact your towel was pink,
after the hellos, the wind tousle, the shifting
to face each other now sitting on the pink towel,

after I swallowed that you attended seminary—
damn, you’re my goddamn father, damn—
after I decided that was interesting,

after I said, testing but not expecting,
(you were younger, you were Texan,
exiled from the early scourge of HIV),

AIDS was such a bummer &
you looked at me deadeyed & said you had it,
after my heart sank & bobbed up again
because your face grew richer in the evening beachlight,                                   

& because you were not the first of my men to be mortal
(thank you Craig, Jay, Ron, Len, Paul,
all of you dead by then, my bruised test cases),
because you laughed like a little boy
at the cartoon plovers skittering the sand,                                   

after we went back to your room & did everything but it,
after the two weeks of phone calls before you returned to my island,
after the sighting of you at the ferry dock & my shock
at the face I’d half-forgotten, its pockmarks & wine-dark eyes,
after the heat lightning on the beach that flashed at us like God’s metaphor,
after the urgent clumsy love,

after we were careful for the first of a thousand times
& we opened the doors to ourselves & the same wind blew through,

on the day we went to Washington for the Quilt
& I saw you as part of that carpet,
at the healing service where the bishop anointed you with oil
& I was blasted open with tears

& you were blasted open with tears,

I could do nothing but marry my life with death,
to the coded body of life in death                                                            
& the moment the wind will blow us apart,

the embodied air of you, the promise of absence,
the robust receding wave
the moon takes back, to leave behind an ocean.


Excerpted from Clay by David Groff with permission from the author. Copyright 2013. Published by Trio House Press.

David Groff’s Clay won the Louise Bogan Award and was published by Trio House Press. His book Theory of Devolution (2002) was selected by Mark Doty for the National Poetry Series.  The coeditor of Persistent Voices: Poetry by Writers Lost to AIDS (2009) and Who’s Yer Daddy? Gay Writers Celebrate Their Mentors and Forerunners (2013), he teaches in the M.F.A. in Creative Writing Program at The City College of New York.

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