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An American Porn Star Contemplates the Divine

Call Him God Of Mourning, Of Longing, but I claim a God
who wants us returned to the mind instead of the world
that locks us in, the God who made every cage
with a keyhole, taking the body as His blueprint.

I wonder what kind of anal sex God has.
Sometimes I think of my mother saying, Aren’t you ashamed
of yourself? Then, I’ve never had an orgasm, crying on my bed
the last time she visited, after my father’s funeral.

He wanted to be cremated, she buried him
in a dirt hole. I am ashamed I didn’t make the world
filthier so people could enjoy it more.

Saturday or Tuesday, another jock-themed shoot,
lights bounding off rented lockers so bright I can’t stay
hard. I am relieved: maybe I’ve pissed God off,
he’s taken away my one talent. I look good in surrender.

The boom guy withdraws his flaccid mic, the director
thunders off to find Viagara. Shame God made last.
Later, in an airport Starbucks, Rome or Syracuse-bound,
a man in line pays for me. I’ve seen all your movies, he says,
tonguing his bottom lip like I made him hungry, like I am
a thin film of cherry-flavored lip gloss. That invisible

is powerful. Something in me that is afraid to be naked
and is naked wants to ask him, this needlessly bowtied traveler,
How was I? —Just to remember myself someone’s deity.
I fly through the air unconscious, I am delivered

into my city and it’s Sunday again, I go dancing at the bars
where the backrooms are dark except for the videos
playing in the corners, one good eye that never
blinks or cries. In the movie they make with my body,
I say Oh God like it’s a threat. Should I feel punished

no one comes home with me after the discoball goes out,
should I feel penitent after the last synth chord fades
down the avenues? But the rolling steel doors
of the Save and Spin unlock and open, the wine bottles
empty and shatter, flung from some beautiful arm.

After night turns its face into morning, I am poured out
to the curb. I am one of you, I baptize one cigarette
with the end of another, breathing the unheavened air,
stumble-stepping into one of those taxis circling
Hell’s Kitchen, their leather seats indiscriminately slit,
soft foam spilling out its scripture: Open endlessly.

Sometimes my scene boyfriend smiles at me, big and goofy,
his tongue lolling at the corner of his open mouth,
and that deep human essence eludes the camera, the great eye
of God. He made something in us like a virus,
what’s human is uncurable, undetectable, subject to time.

Sweat crusts the edges of my mouth. I look back
and taste the salt. The city collapses through the morning
sun, eviscerating even the eyesore of Manhattan,
and we are best seen through a rippling screen, the kind

made from abdominal muscle, tensed and stretching, burning
oil from an exhaust pipe or from the open throat of a barrel.
I will go home and sleep late in perfect weather. But first,
my God, I will take anything you empty into me as far
as I can, as far as Montauk.

 
 
 

James Allen Hall's first book of poems, Now You're the Enemy, won awards from the Lambda Literary Foundation, the Fellowship of Southern Writers, and the Texas Institute. Recent poetry has appeared in Radar, The Journal, Arts & Letters, and Best American Poetry 2012. He teaches creative writing at Washington College.