Queer: Some Instructions

Queers play hopscotch. Queers shine at anything with jumping one-legged in and out of boxes. Queers keep things up their blue sleeves: rabbits, muscles, French cologne. Queers go overboard every time something new happens to enter. Vinegar potato chips. Buttery suede pants. Queers throw themselves into things. And it is true that they are frequently thrown.


Queer choirs queer music. A penny falls from a bad pocket, from a too-late hand, a shine down the leg, a tinkle. Queer goes down as far as possible and rolls away. Oh, Queer of gutter, Queer of the perverse Paris where the hunchbank hunches, where the phantom destroys the great chandelier before time does. Queer goes crying down on its audience, a thousand bits of quartz, glass, reflection. Queers have no reflection. Nor can they abide sandwiches.


Queer in the treetops turning white. Queer in the little rapids melting stone. If a queer is beaten to death is he all alone after the one who does it? Even with his alibi of panic? Even with his terror of being touched? Queer on the rock where the bicyclists turn on their nearly invisible trails among the trees. The body itself another stump. The body itself a kind of Scandinavian furniture we beat together because of the unreadable instructions.


Queer at home in the sexual. Queer who will answer in the absence of a parent who worries too much about safety to the detriment of listening. Who else treats the sea like a sister? Who else rips off the shirt it took several hours to buy? Queer at home watching TV too. The thing is queer won’t forget, even in the wee hours of the last breath, that it all was something. Queer’s mistake is not regret. Even the boredom was awake.


Jeff Oaks is the author most recently of the chapbook Mistakes With Strangers (Seven Kitchens Press). His poems have appeared in a number of literary magazines, most recently in Assaracus, Field, Nimrod, Superstition Review, and Tupelo Quarterly. His essays have appeared in At Length, Kenyon Review Online, and Creative Nonfiction, and in the anthology My Diva: 65 Gay Men on the Women Who Inspire Them. He teaches writing at the University of Pittsburgh.