Bryan Borland


You research the stage, the venue before the drive 

as much to decide what to wear as what to read.  

You learn to do this, which part of your body to cover,    

what skin to show for the red carpet or the dirt road,

the slow and easy drawl in the baseball cap

or the literati with the queer scruff and bag.

You do this naked or in drag and sometimes 

these terms reverse their definitions     

depending on your mood or the weather,   

depending on the city. Still the pretty girls will always 

smile when you say husband 

and this is how the world has changed,

though how many times you say it and in what accent 

is measured for presentation. Or protection.

In California you’re entertainment. 

In Mississippi you’re education.   

There are still freshmen who’ve never met 

a person who is openly gay and writing about it.

This is mostly in the south, in rural schools

with dry counties and curiosities wet with prohibition. 

Then there are classrooms full of students who

don’t believe in labels at all, or coming out,     

each row of desks a different color 

on a spectrum they dreamed after you woke.     

There are no lines. They all hold hands.     

Across the country you change 

the game plan on the fly, the set lists,

asking the audiences if they want it 

dirty or if they want it sweet.

No smiles means you’re a missionary poet tonight. 

Laughter means you might go home with someone,

end up in their bed, one way or another.

Your books on their floor. 

Your words in their head.


Isn’t there something about the ocean

the first moment it comes into view

it’s like waking up next to someone you love

or next to someone you have wanted so badly to love 

or next to someone you love

but maybe have forgotten you love

or at least forgotten 

you love like this.

Second Leg

It takes a moment to return to you:

the fake air, the time zones, the noise

of everything else. It takes a moment to 

remove all the clothes I over pack,

all the falsities I wear 

when you aren’t there. It takes a sea 

change to let that stranger die, 

to pry his hand open and let go, let him

evaporate into our living

room, where, in just a day or two, 

I’ll stand in the open doorway, forgetting

I’m naked, and you’ll have to push me 

out of view of the neighbors.


Author Bio

Bryan Borland is founding publisher of Sibling Rivalry Press and founding editor of Assaracus: A Journal of Gay Poetry. He is author of DIG (Stillhouse Press),which was a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award in Gay Poetry and a Stonewall Honor Book in Literature as selected by the American Library Association. He is a Lambda Fellow in Poetry and a recipient of the Judith A. Markowitz Emerging Writer Award. He lives in Arkansas with his husband,the poet Seth Pennington.