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5: Gabrielle Bates

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

Intro to Theater

by Gabrielle Bates

I can remember one particular time, in her grandparents’ attic,
her legs, slightly older than mine, shaved amphibian-smooth,
her breath around my face like an evaporated puddle.
Naked or almost, in semi-darkness, her blue eyes
dusk. We wouldn’t allow our mouths to touch.
She’d hold her hand over mine and tongue her own knuckles.
Each time was the last time until the real last time,
which felt more like a beginning. Earth on the third day.
Alluvium. Swamp lily. Wax myrtle. Rose mallow.
Adam would kiss me in a similar way not long after,
as part of the school play, using his thumb to make a barrier
between our lips, and all our classmates would watch us.
I was bleeding from my center, I remember, the moment
his hand made contact with my face—forgettable
line he’d scrawled in blue ink risking to smear
across my cheek. So much time passed
between the kiss and the ending. I remember thinking
it seemed like the applause was for our deaths.

Copyright © 2023 by Gabrielle Bates. This poem was originally published in Judas Goat (2023).

About the Author

Gabrielle Bates

Gabrielle Bates is the author of Judas Goat (Tin House, 2023), named Electric Lit’s top poetry book of the year and an NPR Best Book of 2023. Originally from Birmingham, Alabama, she currently lives in Seattle, where she works for Open Books: A Poem Emporium and co-hosts the podcast The Poet Salon.

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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