ON CLOSETS

ari lohr

in 2018, the American Journal for Men’s Health released a study estimating that 1 in 2 gay men have experienced domestic abuse. 71% of these men won’t find a shelter. some men come out of the closet; others put us in them.

sometimes, i wonder if i am still in love with him.

i’m watching Sex Education on Netflix
& onscreen
a gay man is assaulted by another student at his school.
       three episodes later

the bully
fervidly proclaims his queerness
by giving the same man fellatio
less than ten minutes
after tackling him to the ground.
                                   i think a lot about closets

& the stereotypes
portrayed in queer roles;
how gay men
learn their oppressors love them

the same way
women learn
assault is simply a man’s affection.

one could confuse this for love—

when it beats,
a boy’s fist swells
to the same size as his heart,

his ribs ajar
as if his chest were a wardrobe of bone.

still,                                                            when the wound formed a violet ring
from his strike,
                                              my velvet skin dressed the bruise
as if it, too,
had crawled back into the closet.

when i say i’m revolted,
i mean
when i step
into locker rooms full of men
i don’t see potential boyfriends.

i see boys

gaze at the bull’s-eye
on my back.
i see thirty sets of ammo,

each retina release

                                                                       like a revolver revealing its rounds.

to call that love
is to play russian roulette

with a machine gun.

 

of course, i’m not saying

homophobes can’t also be closeted—

only, i find it funny
how even the queer writers consider                            a man falling for his abuser

a coming out story;
spit-soaked lips &                                                             charcoal kneecaps
nitrate hips                                                                              warp prick to pistol

i’m not saying                                                                a man is like a handgun—
but when
we discover our sexualities

by watching men                                                 shoot down each other's throats,
what boy does not learn
to grip          & take aim,
his seed a pantheon
of bullets & braided veins?

when my friend asked his boyfriend to come out,

he had a knife pulled on him.
his mother said                                                   they always fought like brothers.
when they broke up,

it was with a restraining order
and a cross-country move.
to call that coming out
is to put a band-aid over a bullet wound

& set it aflame for good measure.

 

i’m not saying
queer abusers can’t change—
but suddenly
shock-value sucking your victim’s dick

after two years of
swollen fists on velvet skin
is not a redemption arc.
abuse does not end
with five lines in a screenplay.

pretending it does
is simply writing                                                                       a second closet.

the first time i told a man no

 

i was lucky enough to run

 

his bio says masc4masc
 

but tonight

he spawns a climax of prayer and clenched fists

 

how man


turns mouth to martyr
 

how man

 

turns flesh

 

to fashion

 

 

Ari Lohr is a queer wannabe-astronaut-turned-poet attending university in Boston, MA. He is a Brave New Voices semifinalist and Slamlandia grand slam finalist, performing at various regional slams such as Portland Poetry Slam, Verselandia, and more. Focusing on the symbiotic relationship between gravity, love, and grief, Ari’s poetry appears in the Interstellar Review, Kalopsia Lit, and Incandescent Review, and is set to appear in various publications in 2021 including the Northern Otter Press and Opia Lit. He is also the managing editor for the Bitter Fruit Review and the editor-in-chief of the Jupiter Review. Ari can be found at arilohr.com or @i.o.jupiter on instagram.

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