Two Poems | A.M. Hooft
The Great Edwards High Lesbian Epidemic
it must be the water, it must be. afraid
like fishes in a bowl, afraid of drinking from the tainted well.
how to reach down and pull them back up, these drowning daughters of disappointment.
it’s not too late. the way they run with short hair now sleep in their cars now
hang out in bars now roll up their sleeves now refuse to say prayers now;
holding hands and sharing spliffs out in the back lot. passing saliva. skipping exams.
maybe it’s contagious. stay safe. wash your hands.
they’re disowned by every Mormon mother. create a mass of makeshift priests.
they no longer wear dresses now don’t bring dates to dances now don’t come home
before dark now so far gone now can’t be saved.
always wear a mask. but we know them. we know them. they were fine before.
our fourth-grade best friends. art class darlings. gym class queens.
how could we let them get so sick?
we traded chapstick. passed notes. braided hair. center forward. second base.
gave them high-fives when we subbed into the game. skin we once touched
now covered with ink. we squint hard to make them out from across the street,
trying to find our faces. careful, or you’re next.
we shared secrets. locker room showers and childhood beds. we played pretend.
popped the names of boys into our mouths and shrunk them small
like gumdrops, used them to bring our faces closer together as we hoped for something
sweeter. we sat next to each other on the bus, whispering until our knees would brush.
I heard there is no cure. our eyelids heavy from the hours, the waiting for so long
to come home, to be the one to catch them, feel their heads come to rest
gently upon our shoulders, so light. that when we closed our eyes, we were floating.
somewhere north of a Georgia morning I will smile
into her hair in the midst of every magnolia tree
lining the streets in grandiose fashion; debutantes filing into the ball:
and we? we will stand underneath, hand in hand in the hot, wide,
gaping mouth of the South, and tour all the towns grown
ripe: Peachtree City, Peach Pit, Peach Blossom, Rotten
type places you can pick—and her mother will thank the Lord,
bless her heart, smear her lipstick, bake a casserole, so-fine-china-thrilled
-to-have-you-here-please-stay; and her father will have left
his briefcase out in the car, look down at his plate
and grin, continuously empty, asking again if he can have more
canned fruit, the syrup dribbling down his chin.
and we? we will keep dancing and dancing and dancing—until we rise
above the branches, until the petals weep fallen beneath our feet.
A.M. Hooft is a physician and poet. She finally is making her way from board exams and textbooks back to poetry. She currently lives in SoCal with her partner and their curmudgeonly little dog. Though she isn't a gardener, she accidentally grew an enormous (and very productive) tomato plant.
Want more A.M. Hooft? Check out our interview with Issue 6's featured poet here.