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Day 19: Eros by Randall Mann

Queer Poem-a-Day is a program from the Adult Services Department at the Library and may include adult language.


by Randall Mann

Giving the man behind the counter my money,
I take from him a fresh white towel
and walk into the sex club—the safe
one—called, mythically, Eros.
I go there, as one does, to kill an hour
or two in the hopeful dark.

Out of my clothes, I step into the dark
of the back rooms, where not money
but flesh is the currency of the hour.
I wrap my torso in the towel
and grab a condom: at Eros,
the only sex allowed is safe,

management insisting that we “Play safe
or be thrown out” into the outer dark.
Life’s much simpler inside Eros,
where for a little money
I find what I need, in my towel,
cruising the sticky floors for an hour.

But it’s been nearly an hour,
and nothing—I am not going to be safe
with just anyone! Then a man without a towel—
beautiful, in the dark—
puts a hand on my chest. He smells like money.
This is why I go to Eros.

(It’s hardly my first Eros
experience: there comes an hour
when, in spite of the money,
no matter how unsafe,
I find what I need only in the dark.)
The man without a towel

removes my towel:
I fall into the arms of Eros;
that world, an underworld, dark
no matter the hour.
And it is good. And we are safe.
It is good to have more sex than money.

Copyright © 2004 by Randall Mann. Used with the permission of Randall Mann. Originally published in Compliant in the Garden (2004.)

About the Author

Author headshotRandall Mann is the author of five collections of poetry: A Better Life, Proprietary, Straight Razor, Breakfast with Thom Gunn, and Compliant in the Garden. He is also the author of a book of criticism, The Illusion of Intimacy: On Poetry. A three-time finalist for the Lambda Literary Award, he lives in San Francisco.


Queer Poem a Day graphic

2021 Queer Poem a Day

Queer Poem-a-Day is directed by poet and teacher Lisa Hiton and Dylan Zavagno, Adult Services Coordinator at the Deerfield Public Library. Music for this second year of our series is the first movement, Schéhérazade, from Masques, Op. 34, by Karol Szymanowski, performed by pianist Daniel Baer. Queer Poem-a-Day is supported by generous donations from the Friends of the Deerfield Public Library and the Deerfield Fine Arts Commission.

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