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Day 10: Ode to Sneakers by Tory Adkisson

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

Ode to Sneakers

by Tory Adkisson
Cleveland, Ohio

arranged in a pile, stinking like wildflowers,
used gym socks protruding

from their mouths like stamen.
Why is the stink of bacteria so alluring to me?

The accumulation of single cells in a dark,
damp sole, the minutiae of Adidas, Chucks,

& Nikes lying on the floor
with mute tongues. This is my secret

that stops being a secret
when I write it. There are four guys

living here, around twenty or twenty-five pairs
between them. Upstairs I hear them snoring,

masturbating, watching old war movies
while I lean low & lift a shoe to my nose

to inhale its bitter acid. I’m breathing in
a chronicle of the day’s many male

labors—running track, basketball, P90X—
with closed eyes, aware that this metonymy

can’t draw me to a field, or us any
closer, than taste or touch might.

It’s too dark. Too difficult to grasp anything beyond
myself—& even then, being invisible is exciting.

Just listening is exciting. Above me
thunder rolls, mattresses squeak, bombs

are going off. Down here, I’m face down in the chasm
between shame & denial, my erection

a bridge to a better, more sensual world.

Copyright © 2021 by Tory Adkisson. Originally published in the New Orleans Review, and then in his book The Flesh Between Us (South Illinois University Press, 2021).

About the Author

Author HeadshotTory Adkisson is the author of The Flesh Between Us (SIU Press, 2021), winner of the Crab Orchard Series Open Book Competition. His poems have appeared widely in journals such as Third Coast, Crazyhorse, Adroit Journal, Boston Review, Quarterly West, and elsewhere. He lives in Oakland and teaches writing at UC Berkeley.

Queer Poem a Day graphic

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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