Anthropocene Anxiety Disorder

I had the same nightmare again.

___The one where all the tattoos slough

___off my body like fresh paint

___after rain & every time, I can’t help

but to think of flowback

water, noxious with benzene,

manganese, sodium, methanol.

___It almost reminds me of fracking,

___how a tattoo needle enters the skin.

___Filthy water plunged beneath

the surface, dark rising up. A pattern

of decay. An open wound in the dirt.

Once, all the water choked inside

___my bathroom’s pipes & wouldn’t flow.

___When I pulled the shower head apart

___ants poured from the faucet as if liquid.

Hundreds. Thousands. A colony

of thirsty mouths that must have

burrowed through the lines.

___I remember this & think back

___to the tattoos we scratched into each

___other in the back of math class.

Safety pin or sewing needle.

Pen ink. Ethanol. Cigarette

ash. The XIII on Jaime’s ankle.

___Uneven crucifix on Mikey’s

___forearm. Test punctures blued

___to nothing in the fat of my thighs.

The whole summer after, I couldn’t

shower. Kept mistaking ink for insects.

A sickness. Something malignant,

___waiting just beneath my skin.

Oral History

I remember the hands. Manicured finger

-nails. Palms, creased like brown paper

around a cut of meat. Deep callus in

the bed of the thumb. The scent of overpriced

cologne, lemon-sharp. Thick tufts of hair

across his chest. Coiled silver like metal shavings.

His three-day stubble, the brilliant red

rash it left along my collar bone. I remember

the drink he mixed me. The money he paid

me. The taste of his sweat. The meal I bought

on its credit. The small & costly lie I did not tell.

How it fed me. How silence made me a man

by omission. I remember his teeth, the surgical

kind of straight. His cum, how it pooled

like quicksilver on his stomach in the blue

half-light & rivered down his thighs. I wish

I didn’t remember the discovery, years later,

his diagnosis & that I did not share it. Wish

I could forget his name, how his Grindr read

thick, cut, & clean. I don’t want to call this

memory dirty, but I once filled my mouth

with this virus’s name & was taught that it

belonged to a vulgar blood. I can’t rid myself

of the memory, a preacher on campus screaming.

His picket sign that read: Disease Begets Disease.

I wish I could forget the first time I was told