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  • Writing Your Name on the Glass
  • Jim Whiteside (bio)

Again in a stranger's living room, waiting        to get my hands beneath his clothes,            in his hair, this man with a tight,smooth body, his muscles electric, a dancer,        his body moving through the room                like a machine, practiced            and studied movements.

And again, a man who would not trust        anything he could not holdin his hands. He lived alone and in a clean space,            said, No living thing        is in here but me, not a dog,not a plant. I slept in his arms,        the fanblades spinning overheada quiet continuous rhythm.


        Today, these were my interactions:clerks behind counters, short exchanges,        paper bags and paper smiles.            It's the kind of love I'm afraidI'm best at—brief but hopeful—        a smiling man on a small illuminated screen,saying he wants me to dominate him.            He's only half a mile away,and I already have such love for all of him,            as if every man I ever held close        was the utterance of the same broken prayer. [End Page 7]


I sat on the park bench for a long time,            waiting to wake up, watching        the bees flying around pollinating the world.I thought my life would be different—        we all thought our lives would be at least            a little different. The warehouseacross the street, all boarded up,        they say might make a nice grocery store,brimming with colorful fruit and fresh-cut flowers,            glass cases full of choices        and glowing beautiful light.


I woke in the bleach-bright room            with the doctor prodding my arm,        asking how many men I'd touched,and when, and how. And how I stayed so thin.

        I told him about the holding, after,about the sunglasses one left in my car,            about bathroom floors pavedwith subway tile, places worn thin, chips and cracks.

        I tell him about ice skating, my bruised hip            one love said looked like        a late Rothko—thin and purple and delicate.

I do not tell him about your smile,            your ever-flowing patience. [End Page 8]


I'm still here, writing my poems about light        and love, still sitting on the shower floor,watching the water pool and drain,            still writing your name on the glassshower door, watching the steam erase it slowly.


Here's what I remember—reaching            in the dark, days and nights,        the only light in the room fromthe open refrigerator, your silhouette.        You said, You're like a pumpkin,            hollow and without a heart.and I felt it. I said I would meet you        in the square, and you waited for hours.I got lost in the park looking at flowers            and thinking about grace.

You waited for me, just sat there        and waited until I showed up, my mind fullof all those open-throated flowers, everything        with its own energy and light and life, even            the struck crow on the road,        three wing feathers standing up,                shaking slightly in the wind— [End Page 9]

Jim Whiteside

Jim Whiteside is a Cookeville, Tennessee, native whose poetry has found support from The Sewanee Writers' Conference, The Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, where he earned his MFA. His debut chapbook, Writing Your Name on the Glass, is forthcoming from Bull City Press in 2019.



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