DONALD RAWLEY

Steaming
(for Harry Burrus)

I know who I am
in a Maui hotel steam room,
traveling like others
in May, in a low tide,
after riots in Los Angeles,
poisons, and God.

I am steaming,
watched, and watching
on a tropical morning
behind etched glass doors,
and hot, champagne marble walls.

The other men in this box
have flown from obscure cities,
checked off and ripped
like a grocery list.

They do not speak,
but inhale each other's musk
as a reassurance.

A teenage boy
stares at my penis.
He is calculating his future.

A businessman with flapping breasts,
crossed legs, and a scarred gut,
leaves his towel like a blossom
on his crotch and dreams.

Others assess who I am,
my muscles, and back
red eyes, and burnt skin.
How I create my pleasures.
They could have sprung from stone,
soulless, white, ball-eyed, and mute.
Each with a safe distance,
a wife, a lover, and a speech--
but silent.

I slow my pulse in sweat,
breathing a damp curtain
of eucalyptus
hissing under one light.

Sleep, forget, sleep, remember.
It is all I can do.
My abdomen jitters
in a sucked heat.

These men are flaccid and ignorant,
girlish examples of religions
I do not know.

And we are alike.
We are beaten, escaped, foreign.
We are only divisions
of those who cry and wait.

 

Steaming 1993, Black Tie Press. All rights reserved.

Special Tribute Poetry

Chateau Marmont
Los Angeles Three AM
Mulholland Drive
Helen in Waiting
Jonathan's End
American Beauty
White Water
Blind Stitch

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