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16: Matthew Gellman

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


by Matthew Gellman

I am thinking of the sister I wish I had,
red hair spilling over the sedan’s back seat
as a boy speeds her through the blue vein
of suburb and out toward the cedar forest.
Her finger hooked in the hole burned into the seat
by someone’s boyfriend’s ash, her head
tilted back, lulled by the driver’s junky radio:
Nothing’s gonna hurt you, baby, as long as you’re with me.
Even now, after years of trying to see her
striding into dusk, all beforelight, all promise,
her dress a galloping of small yellow wings,
my mind still delivers me only this:

that group of boys killing their engine
and doing to her under the cedars’ nimbus
things I will not say in this poem.
Not unlike the boy who held me underwater
in his swimming pool, July, his parents
not home, his whole body locked around me
as he pulled off my trunks, how even now
I can feel a small finger twisting my throat
when I try to tell it, if I were to tell it
completely, if I had a sister to tell.

When I find her along that highway
all her hair will be cut off. She will not speak
all summer and no kite will flutter
in her hands. But in winter, her hair
regrown, she will ask me to drive her
to that forest again, and clutching my arm
in hers, she will look out at the field
that broke her, not trying to say anything,
just rocking back and forth for a little while,
silent as the tundra glittering before us.

Copyright © 2018 by Matthew Gellman. This poem was originally published in Passages North (2018).

About the Author

Matthew GellmanMatthew Gellman is the author of a chapbook, Night Logic, which was selected by Denise Duhamel as the winner of Tupelo Press’ 2021 Snowbound Chapbook Award. His first book, Beforelight, was selected by Tina Chang as the winner of the A. Poulin, Jr. Poetry Prize and is forthcoming from BOA Editions. Matthew has received awards and honors from the National Endowment for the Arts, Brooklyn Poets, the Adroit Journal’s Djanikian Scholars Program, the Saltonstall Foundation for the Arts, the New York State Summer Writers Institute and the Academy of American Poets. His poems have appeared in Poetry Northwest, Gulf Coast, Narrative, The Common, the Missouri Review, Indiana Review, Ninth Letter, Lambda Literary’s Poetry Spotlight, and other publications. He lives in New York, where he teaches at Hunter College and Fordham University.

Queer Poem a Day graphic

Queer Poem a Day

Queer Poem-a-Day is directed by poet and professor Lisa Hiton and Dylan Zavagno, Adult Services Coordinator at the Deerfield Public Library. Music for this fourth year of our series is from the second movement of the “Geistinger Sonata,” Piano Sonata No. 2 in C Sharp Minor by Ethel Smyth, 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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