The National Poetry Review

David Moolten

SYPHILIS

I don’t care who you fucked. Anyone can send flowers.
Anyone can get married.
But would they go with you to city hall
and sit in a paper gown
in the anonymous clinic? I want to hate you.
But only with a swab is love tested.
Forget treponemes rippling like tiny fish.
Only the strung out have real desire
because that’s what it takes
in the morning just to find some church food
and a smoke. Forget blank-eyed personnel
who resemble the forms they point to.
Forget methadone one floor up
and phone trees shared with the jail
promising Espanol, numero dos.
Forget homeless shelters and tax shelters
on memory’s same bookshelf
and all those excursions Jesus took
into bars and subway bathrooms with doorless stalls,
there’s nothing more unconditional
than cradling you without having to explain
catching nothing and not getting caught.
It’s enough to pretend we’re saints
with each other, a safety net
that doesn’t let the little fish through.

DAVID MOOLTEN’s most recent book, Primitive Mood (2009), won the T. S. Eliot Award from the Truman State University Press. He lives & writes in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

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