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Aide Mémoire

John Barton

first there was the dancer
                                       then the refugee
                                                                then the gambler
and, counting back
wards randomly, the anaesthetist,
the adjuster, the interior designer known for
his way with gilt and feathers, the former military
adviser who still liked to trail men undercover followed
by the TV actor whose wife died afraid he would contract AIDS
the librarian who collated records about his lovers into alphanumeric
order (access points being size and first name only), including Scam, the squeegee
boy with goose-fleshed skin who reeked of WINDEX, and Terrance, the photographer whose life

dissolved into the pure, alchemic subtleties of black and white
unlike the lobbyist who remained uniformly shameless
or the statistician who was so neutral about
those he loved, he seemed no
more than average

so I left him for the substitute

teacher who set such a teaser of a quiz
I could not resist him, the choices so multiple
the possibilities for love were endless, or so I thought, exhausting

his pre-scored answers far too quickly
unwrapping the Eskimo

the Dickie Dee
ice cream kid sold me after
he quit my bed and dressed, he too was looking
for a father figure, someone to sleep with who makes him

feel safe

another literary man like me but perhaps one
more famous, who might read The Odyssey aloud to him
in bed before lights out, to drag from their aimless, common moorings

I am the homeless man, hypocrite lecteur
that you long to take in

who owns no baggage to pack yours into
who always needs a shower, my shoulders especially broad and dirty
with a back it takes hours to wash, who will slip on your sweaty CALVIN KLEINs

afterwards, if you want, and then let you peel them off, who will stay
for another night or another lifetime even if you don’t
ask nicely, men are so

je me souviens, I am

the one you recognize
from the bar who looks nervously away, the one
you confront when shaving, the peculiarities of your face hard
to summarize in the clipped, forever-young vocabulary of the companion ads, you are

the Winged Victory
                                                       a Herb Ritts photo
                                                                                                              Antonio Banderas
Tom of Finland
                                                       you are negative capability
                                                                                                              the lineman for the county
the towel boy at the baths
                                                       you are Alexander the Great
                                                                                                              Dr Jekyl
Dennis Cooper
                                                       the stocker at Loblaws
                                                                                                              the objective correlative

you are

the man with the broken umbrella at the street corner in chinos
and a wet Brooks Brothers shirt unbuttoned
at the neck, whom I

hesitate to give

shelter, whose reflection
is trampled by the rainy afternoon
crowds of a city where no one ever truly lives

John Barton's works copyright © to the author.

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