Teaching a Gay Poem
You’ll see—the air conditioning
in your classroom will malfunction
in protest. The pollen-dusted windows
will not open no matter how hard you thrust
your palms against their lower sashes.
A bottom-line-minded ombudsman had them soldered
shut to keep the pigeons out (long
before the Information Age, as we’ve come to call it).
These days, if you somehow manage to sneak a pigeon
into an Introduction to Poetry class,
the students will not have the wherewithal
to describe it. They will begin to ask
about the person who made the pigeon,
if this individual is a pigeon him/herself
and, if so, whether s/he writes poems for that reason.
You’ll refer to the syllabus, how it does not say
“Freshman/Sophomore Ornithology” at the top
of Page One in centered 14-point Garamond,
but by now their line of inquiry will have turned
to you—your sweat, your shirt-sleeves rolled up
past your biceps, your armpit-hairs peeking out
their vermicular heads. What kind of sick
show-and-tell is this? they'll wonder.
And as you stammer on about identity,
the pigeon will lift silently off your desk
and batter its filthy, feathered body against the glass.
James Phillip Davis lives in Denton, Texas. His poems have appeared in 32 Poems, Best New Poets 2011 & 2019, Copper Nickel, cream city review, The Gay & Lesbian Review, and elsewhere. He is the recipient of a writer’s residency from The Mastheads and an MFA from the University of Florida. His first collection, Club Q, won the 15th Annual Anthony Hecht Poetry Prize and will be published by the The Waywiser Press this fall.