Mark Ward is the author of the chapbooks Circumference (Finishing Line
Press, 2018), Carcass (Seven Kitchens Press, 2020), Faultlines (Voidspace,
2022) and HIKE (Bear Creek Press, 2022). A full-length collection, Nightlight,
is forthcoming (Salmon Poetry, 2023). He is also the founding editor of
Impossible Archetype, an international journal of LGBTQ+ poetry.

after Jared French

Once taught, shame lives in your hands
covering your unreliable body. It stares at you
through the mirror, staring you down, the weight of
your head crushing your fingers, your groin
still naïve and faultless and causing all of this
trouble. Your skin is the problem. You dress,
blue for a boy, and as commanded, you pray—hands
clasped—for a reprieve from these feelings.

This is not my hand, you whisper after lights out.
The darkness silently agrees, as it has done
for centuries. A hand slides across fabric, across skin,
down to an opening. Each closed eyelid is
a View-Master secretly replaying what got you
here. Keep it vague, don't name him. The brain
conjures his face, his hands, and you're screaming,
stifled, yes, but joyous. They won't take this from you.

Study of a Male Nude
after Pavel Tchelitchew

stomach groin and legs
the rest of him rubbed out
black marks obscuring
his too-knowing expression
what his arms are doing
spread wide
a parody of love coveted
legs like a spider advancing
the cock softening still
bloodfull it lies against
his stomach coquettish
to be wanted if only
for the coincidence
of a body so unlike yours
hungering you reduce
him to an outline
crumpled paper

The Skyscraper
after Glyn Philpot

He looks up convinced it's going to fall.
The clock chimes the hour and each window lights
with the strength of a noonday sun. He thinks
candles will become extinct. How was this done?

A world where darkness can be discarded,
where a man can carve out space for himself
from the sky above them. It scares him
how irrelevant he might become.

The lamplighter stares at the half-lit street:
the little fires behind him securing the night,
the empty lamps he still has left to light.

He moves on, faltering in his routine.
Some lamps are lit, others left extinguished
but the gaps between create constellations.

Land and Water (No. 2)
after John Singer Sargent (and with thanks to Eric Norris)

Too far from land to swim, too rich to try
they drink the cellars dry, eat all the food,
not realizing I can bide my time.
Eventually, they creep down from their rooms,
searching for scraps. I don't eat the deckhands:
most had the sense to take the escape boats.
A boy looks at me like he has seen land.
I go in for a kiss and tear out his throat.

Boats sink. Men die. They always need crew.
The sea is the perfect dining table.
I'm the same as you, I just like the taste.
Sometimes the kiss draws blood and I push through
surprised at just how much I am able,
aghast how much of my life has been a waste.

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