Who wants to go back? I was twenty-five that midnight in the yard of straight people with money, with a steampunk shack of odd objects and a sneaking old cat named Yvette at the doors’ glass, black threaded with gray. Fear of cava: it rushes its cork at the night. This is how, I suppose, they undo their straightness and money, for all wholes want to dissolve. Edges mean desire to blur. This is why we get drunk, though I hope I won’t again. But that night I was brave near the cava. Though I’d learned little of abandon from home. I come from straight people, all straightness is acting, for whom money was new-feathered and proud. So for me a clear edge to undo. So the hard-muscled and hard-eyed hurt beloved I’d found, who grew up in basements on welfare. Who loved to drink: I respected that love. So blazing cannons of cava cork shot at the night: the straight people liked our undoing dance and tried on their own. Theirs was good too. I am not ashamed to say I wasted some years then, one to three, on static misery punctuated by nights. It is sad but worlds are sadder. Cava, cava, then wine-dark—wine at parties can practice ongoing. But then hinges appear in the night, unseen doors between joy and the next thing. Three hours past midnight twenty-nine-year-old Esme was killed in her house. It was a man. I didn’t know her but in my self-precious midnight tragedy’s body I walked near her house as it happened. But not near enough to hear it until the next day’s papers. Oh, I suddenly miss Austin, where this all happened—the kind of gentrifying city to which you can’t go back: Wheatsville co-op with coconut water and a Buffalo Tofu Po’Boy, and the dream that the “man” is not you. I never felt Esme’s pain but at Wheatsville I looked at a shrine to her. How I loved Wheatsville in my miserable youth among straight people—and white ones, I have forgotten to say; I have not even mentioned how white. That midnight, cava, cava, I feared no one loved my writing. It scared me when anyone loved anyone’s writing. For who then was left to love mine? And it is hard to write so punctuated by nights. Except for the purest dark lyric, you can write that. But no one wants it. No one wants anything that pure—I am certain. I didn’t but I couldn’t tell. Why don’t you love me? I screamed nightlong at Adam, the name of that beloved who is still, surprisingly, mine.
Shamala Gallagher is the author of a poetry collection, Late Morning When the World Burns (The Cultural Society, March 2019). Her work appears in Poetry, Gulf Coast, Black Warrior Review, Shenandoah, The Rumpus, and elsewhere. A Kundiman fellow, she holds an MFA from the Michener Center for Writers and a PhD from the University of Georgia. She lives with her family in Athens, GA. • Photo: Madeline Laguaite