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.
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