Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One
after Richard Siken
A man walks into a bar and says he wants to be a man. So he is.
A man walks into a bar and says you are my beloved, let me show you
the life we built but you do not recognize him
as a man—
so you take his soft jaw in your palm and he waits
for the punchline.
A man walks into a bar and looks like your lover, but he is
not your lover, so you have another drink.
A man walks in terrified of men, not sure he is one, and you want
to take him home because he is your lover, to strip him
throat to groin, but it’s not what you imagined,
so instead he traces the outlines of bodies,
traces the shape he wants to be.
I’ll tell you everything, he says, I’ll turn the lights off. We can pretend
we’ve only just met. I would build a life with you in the drought. Let me
put my body on the line for love.
I would do it all over again, be in that cold room, turning the heat
between our bodies, turning the car home. Let it happen,
say goodnight, say you’ll love the new shape I’ll leave in the outline
Please mark all scars on your body
Nightsilk red. I harvest the platelets, spooling
Compulsion; a pull on the spine. I find myself
ribbon drudged through mud. From dreogan, to
in the grocery aisle, on the way home, the box
work; to suffer. To spend eight hours a day, to
of blades in my hands, the metalsmooth sheen.
clock in to the body, a hard day’s work, a long
Zwangneurose, from twank, to squeeze; press;
way home. I close my eyes on the drive, just to
pressure. I call to say I’ve relapsed, to press the
wound open, to flay the muscle, a marbled
A litmus test. From lita, to dye; to stain. A drop
of it, blooming, mouthsplit wet and warm. The
Now, here, finally. A bird in the hand. A stone
flinch of it all, like clenching your teeth over and
in the palm. Hands damp with raspberry bush.
over again, to draw the inside out. I came here
I tear the skin with bonedull teeth, when it
to explain where my mind goes when I lay down
closes, a scar. Eskhara, a hearth. A welcome
in the middle of the street on the way home.
All I know is breath; practice of keeping steady
an oar breaking the surface of a winedark sea. I
sharpen the rounded edge—martyr, pislarvattr,
torture witness; sadisme, lover of cruelty, named
for the libertine Sade.
bennett joan nieberg (they/them) is a queer Jewish poet pursuing their MFA at Virginia Commonwealth University. They are a Pushcart Prize nominee and their work has appeared or is forthcoming in Crab Fat Magazine, Entropy, Western Humanities Review, The Indianapolis Review, and Pretty Owl Poetry, among others. They are the editor in chief of the journal What Are Birds?