Metro Weekly

OutWrite 2018: Poems from Safe Danger by Stephen Zerance

Excerpted poems from "Safe Danger"


Sedate in your mug-shot, I’d worry
my eyebrows weren’t impeccably plucked,
my chin double.
I’d love to be unable to move my face.
Pinch my skin taut behind my ears.
Pump my lips. Pump them
to a permanent Lindsay pout.
I don’t fear needles, incisions, or drills.
File my teeth down to the nub. Give me
veneers. I’ve got a daily ritual:
eye serums, white-strips, line breakers,
ten push-ups each time I walk into
my bedroom, crunches over crunches
over lies.
Suck my stomach to permanent morning.
Snap my nose straight.
Lindsay, I’d steal that necklace.
And I’d wear it out in public for everyone
to notice. Because it was mine. Because
if you believe so deeply that something
is yours, that it belongs to you, then it does.


Madonna of material, I snapped
my rosary, made it into a bracelet for you
at Sunday school, sneaked downstairs
to see you lit before inflamed crosses,
my fingers scented with your patchouli-
cassette. I get drunk, Madonna.
So drunk I sneak leftover drinks
from the bar. I lose myself in the mirror
plucking gray hairs, tug at the sag
in my belly. I want to conquer my fear of
heights, Madonna. Of having roaches or the virus
inside my body. I want a cheap twenty-two
year old lover that doesn’t speak
English. I want my hair bleach blond.
I want to go to the bar, Mother. I want
a vodka double, Mother, a double vodka
Madonna on the rocks.


My father hands me gifts he bought Christmas Eve:
an extra-large broadcloth and thirty-four waist khakis.

I dress different from the boys at school. My shirts fall
at my navel; my jeans are skintight.
I am to wear the outfit or my clothes will be ripped apart––

the neighbors are talking. No deals, no exceptions.
We are all there: my mother, my sister on the couch, my father
urging, Put them on. Put them on.

I strip in the bathroom with my back to the mirror.
The shirt hangs to my knees, the pants slide on buttoned.
My face is hollow. My skin––deaf, as the audience,

the family await me outside, my mother knocking,
Put them on for your father.

When I step out my mother will be silent. My sister––gone.
My father will clap his hands. He will look me in the eye, ask me:

Do you feel like a man?

Safe Danger releases August 15 and is available to preorder from Indolent Books and on

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