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occasions

Recorded for Poem-a-Day, June 1, 2018.
About this Poem 

“I was recently in a mall bookstore, and as I watched the men shift and avert their eyes in front of the porno mags, I remembered doing much the same thing in Florida, the desolation and excitement of trying to get a glimpse of something illicit and queer—and I felt an overwhelming sense of tenderness toward my younger self. The epigraph and, to some extent, formal structure of the poem come from Gunn's ‘Talbot Road.’”
—Randall Mann

Florida Again

                              I forgave myself for having had a youth.
					            —Thom Gunn

At the Fashion
Square mall,
back
of Waldenbooks,

I saw my younger self
haunting
the magazine rack.
Ripping out pages

of Blueboy,
tucking them 
in a Trapper
Keeper.

Turn back.
His eyes met mine,
animal
and brittle,

a form
of gratitude
that a man
kept his stare.

Any man.
I half-smiled
some admission,
and though

he couldn’t
see it coming,
I excused him
his acid jeans;

two Swatch
watches,
two guards.
He, I,

must have been
nineteen:
sex was “safer”
then—

scribbles
on the mall
men’s room stall;
malaise

of saxophone
and PSAs.
How
did I

even
learn how to live
in 1991?
Landlocked,

cock-blocked,
Spanish moss
festering.
I forgive him.

Copyright © 2018 by Randall Mann. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 1, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2018 by Randall Mann. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 1, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Randall Mann

Randall Mann

Randall Mann is the author of Proprietary (Persea Books, 2017) and Straight Razor (Persea Books, 2013). 

by this poet

poem

It’s silly to think
fourteen years ago
I turned thirty.

How I made it that far
I’ll never know.
In this city of hills,

if there was a hill
I was over it. Then.
(In queer years,

years
are more than.)
Soon it will be fifteen

since the day I turned thirty

2
poem
        in memory of Reetika Vazirani (1962-2003) and Rachel Wetzsteon (1967-2009)
 
Sewanee, Tennessee. 
Summer of '96, I went there for 
booze and poetry and rest. 
I danced a little dance; 
I talked a little shop. 
I forgot a recent ghost.  

"Invitation to a Ghost" 
was my favorite poem in Tennessee
poem
?
is only something on which to hang
your long overcoat; the slender snake asleep
in the grass; the umbrella by the door;

the black swan guarding the pond.
This ? has trouble in mind: do not ask
why the wind broods, why the light is so unclean.

It is summer, the rhetoric of the field,
its yellow grasses,