Pride Month Poem: “Nudging Man” by The Poet Spiel

It’s Pride Month at Reiter’s Block? How can you tell?

As I did last June, this month I’ll be showcasing the work of GLBT authors I admire. I’m hoping to have time for some book and movie reviews, as well. First up, we have The Poet Spiel, a widely published author and performance poet, whose work has been featured on the Poets Against War website. His chapbooks include come here cowboy: poems of war (Pudding House Publications, 2006) and once upon a farmboy (Madman Ink, 2008).

Nudging Man

You wonder why that kid doesn’t just stay at home
till maybe 2:00 a.m.—watch Carson—
give his eyelids the cucumber treatment—
because he gets so stiff he can barely lift his warm
         beer to his face.

How he reminds you of when you pick up
         a small bird
which has crashed into your kitchen window
and it becomes completely still; it does not resist;
it does not know where it is; it does not know
         what it is.

You’ve always figured it was waiting for
         something familiar,
another bird, to nudge it, to call to it.
But the best that you can do
is place it gently in the warmth of your armpit

in the darkness of that space where nothing
         threatens it
and your body heat and the beating of your heart
are without a name
and you sense that that familiarity makes the bird
         become whole again.

You see the kid every night when you slide
         him a Schlitz-on-draft
across your bar—
never expecting a tip. A kid like him
will nurse one beer from 10:05, when he arrives,
         till the moment
when he scores: fifteen minutes before
         you close.

It takes him an hour to rise up from the barstool,
move across the room for a different point
         of view—
to where the quantity of men for choosing
         is mounting.
He’s barely touched his beer

but his eyes are darting; exposing signs of wanting.
Wanting it bad.
He’s available but shows no sense of knowing
         he has a right
to declare that he is present, as in speaking
         out loud:

“I’ve seen you here before can I buy you a beer,”
as if he fears his voice, his presence, will
         reveal himself to himself;
that this can only happen by the revelation
of the recognition of him by another man.

So each hour he repositions, stands as near as he
         can stand to a man—
nudges one of them.
But he cannot say a single word.
Then another; he nudges another and another.

This kid touches them but he cannot speak.

By 2 a.m. the men are sweaty and anxious
for the hot trick they’ve come here to find.
And the kid is nudging more of them
and nudging them more aggressively.

The room is reckless. Most patrons are drunk
and you’re hollering out Last call!
before they head on to the after hours bars
where some of them will do it raw, on site;

but you overhear the kid,
standing just inside the doorway at the far
         end of your bar,
not drunk at all,
just as you’ve heard him so many times
         at 2:15 a.m.,

point blank, his eyes certain,
entertaining the potential of unskinned meat
         from some happy nighthawk:
“You wanna fuck?”
and he gets the nod every time.

You guess he finds himself while in bed—
when he is naked—
in the reflection of another man—
where you guess he is not as silent
         as a stricken bird.