Confessional Poem, Age Seven
Uncle Dennis is the entire state of Texas,
expanse of great prairie and oil-rigged
skyscrapers all contained in the rotunda
of his five-foot-eight frame.
But when my parents bring him home
from Houston, it is 1990. My uncle
does not wear his Stetson,
does not hug me into the cowboy
flank of his new-fangled body.
Uncle Dennis is skinny, is not
Uncle Dennis until I walk beside
his wheelchair, down
the long, bleached hallway
of the nursing home, when he turns
to me, says, Howdy, cowpoke.
Months pass. On the playground
that is being seven years old,
I kiss my best friend Eric Schmitt
behind the dugout. He shoves me
into the dirt and runs away
as my uncle’s radio moans,
If you wanna know, if he loves you so,
it’s in his kiss. That’s where it is.
But I am a child, one who never
learns quick. That night we visit
Uncle Dennis. When Mother whispers
into my ear, Give your uncle a kiss
on the cheek, the KS lesion flowers
above the neckline of his pale blue
hospital gown, a blossom that creeps
like ivy across the distance
of starched sheets between us,
into the garden, fertile, that is
my boy body, and I refuse him.
D. Gilson is the author of Crush (Punctum Books, 2014), with Will Stockton; Brit Lit (Sibling Rivalry, 2013); and Catch & Release (2012), winner of the Robin Becker Prize from Seven Kitchens Press. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Poetry, The Indiana Review, and The Rumpus. Find D. at dgilson.com.