Aaron Smith

Cosmopolitan Greetings

When I read Jorie Graham I feel like I feel when I’m with someone 


who has better teeth than me. When I read Louise Glück I know I talk 


too much. I’m the person friends invite to parties and then warn everyone 


before I get there. Anderson Cooper has good teeth. I wish he’d 360 


in my mouth. I’m not afraid to go to the dentist because you’re only naked 


from the neck up. I need to work on that in therapy. Sharon Olds makes me 


want to be a better bottom: My own tongue is your cock. Her poem “It.” When I 


read Creeley I think how we met at a writers’ colony in Vermont. We read 


Ginsberg’s last manuscript because he was writing the foreword. I ordered 


a second copy of Cosmopolitan Greetings. I had extra money and wanted poetry 


I’d love. Creeley signed his emails: Onward! or Best as Ever, Bob! In the last one


he sent, he was mad at me. Are there any sexy celebrities named Bob? I just 


thought “Hope” and laughed. I misread a David Trinidad line as “Queers from 


Outer Space.” Homos who blow up churches with glitter bombs. Drag names 


aren’t interesting anymore. It’s all about roller derby: Missile Etheridge, Carnage 


Wilson, Feral Fawcett and Gory Graham. When Miguel got his flu shot, I called 


him Vaccine Waters. The gays in New York say Anderson’s kinky in bed. I’m re-


claiming my time. I don’t want him to sue me, but he’ll never read my poetry. Allegedly.


I Need My O’Hara Frank

not Maureen, 

my Lucille 


Clifton not Ball. 

And my Audre,


always, to be Lorde.

I need Sharons: 


Tate and Olds, 

but mostly Olds, 


and never, ever 

the Rose of. 


Denise Duhamel, 

not Richards.


Prince, not 

Harry or William. 


Etheridge? Melissa 

in my twenties 


and Knight 

in my always. 


Does anyone have 

a poem to Cher?


My Brad should 

be Pitt. My Daniel 


Craig. My Hardy

Thomas and Tom.


                              for David Trinidad


The Pulitzer Prize

He won the Pulitzer Prize 

and died. She won the Pulitzer 

and also died. He died,

but before he died, he won,

too. He won a prize 

that wasn’t important

and died. He won the Pulitzer, 

the National Book and died 

eventually. He won more prizes 

than she did, then he died 

and she died. He won the Pulitzer 

young, but nobody read him 

after he died. Someone told her 

she’d grow into her Pulitzer, 

and die. He said he nearly died 

when he found out he won:

he hasn’t died but will  

and soon. Everyone says 

he deserved the prize after 

he died, but they gave it to her 

who was alive, and she finally 

died. He won the prize in two 

genres and died. They split 

the prize and will die. 

The runners-up the year 

they gave no prize died.

This year’s winner will die.

Last year’s and next year’s, too.


Shia LaBeouf Enters 

Tommy tells me his students still love the musical Rent


I tell him it’s the musical equivalent of a pre-condom classic in porn. 


In the 90s, my friends and I passed around sex on VHS. 


My favorite was Dean Spencer in Code of Conduct


leather men collar his neck, shave his asshole and punish him 


when he comes without permission. 


It’s based on a book too expensive on Amazon. 


Shia LeBeouf is on the cover of Esquire


angry, furry-faced, confronting himself and his demons


in a very raw—and real—interview. 


Miguel says you can see him with a hard-on in Nymphomaniac,


but the internet says it’s his face CGI’d on a body double. 


I get erections in locker rooms under my towel. 


Scent of jockstraps, ball stink, snippets of armpits 


when guys pull bags from lockers. 


Only old men walk around naked at the gym now,


their giant-sized balls sad-sagging.  


Young guys pull their underwear up

under towels, rarely take showers. 


Three things you can always count on according to Esquire:


1) Death  2) Taxes  3) Clichés about death and taxes. 


After my mom got sick I wasn’t afraid to fly anymore. 


It’s like I knew I wouldn’t die before she did. 


The highest compliment Brandon gives a man: 


He is so hot he could do porn. 


Shia LaBeouf looks like my father when he was angry, 


taking off his belt to whip me.


Esquire says audiences liked Shia early in his career 


because he was funny, quick-witted, not distractingly handsome


I hate my neck in photographs and consulted a plastic surgeon. 


I don’t care if you think I’m shallow as long as you think I’m thin—


I either made that up or heard it in a movie. 


Porn saved my life would make a great bumper sticker. 


Now Dean Spencer lives in London with his lover. 


Shia’s afraid people will think 

he is not trying to own his shit but to put it on his father.


My father became a nicer person when my mother got sick. 


I hate my nose, too, and all the songs in Rent.


The Dancing Lesbian

on television is trying to get men to take their shirts off. I appreciate  


her determination but not her motivation—pandering to housewives 


and skin-hungry fags. Buck Rogers made me gay when he was stripped 


to the waist and forced to walk a runway. I thought I wanted to be him. 


Really what I wanted I was too young to understand. In a novel I read 


three women kidnap a man and nail his foreskin to the floor. I stopped 


reading the book when they released him. I didn’t stop Lars von Trier’s


Antichrist. I keep a naked man in the basement in my fantasy. I lick 


his cheeks if he cries. In the 80s I was afraid of AIDS. Dad called gay men 


AIDS fags. I drew naked men with colored pencils—my little-boy hand 


scribbling armpits. I drew bullet holes in their bodies and mom caught me. 


Mom cried when she found out I was gay. Mom told me to get AIDS and die.


Get Thee to a Nunnery.

When the woman asks the woman behind the counter

if they have the current issue of People,

she says, “I think all we have is the ‘beautiful’ issue,”

and the woman says, “I want ‘regular’ People.”

And before I can help myself, I’m blurting: “the ‘beautiful’ People

is the ‘regular’ People. It still has articles; I saw it on Wendy Williams.”

I hate how helpful I am even when not asked,

how I need flight attendants to like me,

so I watch their safety presentations

though I know about oxygen masks and how to float after a crash,

or I’m extra nice to the waiter, assuring him everything’s fine

when everyone’s talking, so I’ll be his favorite.

The woman looks at me with a face that says “weirdo” or “faggot”

and in either case, she’s right. Her husband is waiting outside,

looking at his watch, not watching his wife

interact with the weirdo faggot in the magazine store at the airport.

His muscle-gut and ball-bat forearms make me swell in my belly

the way I swell when I listen to Fischerspooner’s Sir.

I wish her husband was a faggot

and we could have weirdo-faggot sex

in the Terminal F bathroom where men aren’t washing their hands.

I have a friend who won’t leave the house for a hand job:

it’s oral or anal or he stays home.

Okay, all of my friends stay home unless it’s oral or anal:

If I’m giving up my parking space, I’m at least getting fingered.

My therapist says I have agoraphobic tendencies.

I ask him if it’s strange that I’m a man who dates men and am afraid of men.

He says it’s only strange if I think it’s strange, and I say:

“Wow,” in my best fuck-you voice, “that’s a thinker.”

Then somehow we’re talking about Nicole Kidman in Big Little Lies

and the line between abuse and lust.

I say something like: “Is all lust abuse, and is sex by its very nature violent?”

He says the scenes where Nicole stands up, sits down

are the best he’s seen depicting therapy.

My shrink’s my longest intimate relationship.

I just nod when he compares my life to a line in Hamlet

because I haven’t read it in years:

he’s smarter than me, and I don’t want to remind him.

But I have seen Girls, so I know what he means about the guy and girl

who masturbate together on the couch without touching,

proving sex doesn’t have to mean fucking and can be what I need it to be

and pleasurable, making my previous statements wrong.

Fischerspooner’s limited-edition vinyl has a big, thick cock—

we’d all leave the house for—on the cover.

P!nk is on the cover of People—beautiful and happy.

I love how Casey Spooner wears women’s clothes.

I should mind my own business when I fly.


When the Towers Came Down

Everyone knows the dead prefer to top.


Frank O’Hara, his gallery 


eyes, him shooting a Jackson Pollock 


on my thigh. The gayest thing 


I’ve ever done? Rinsed cum 


from my eye during Pride, or dished Sex 


and the City with chained-up men 


behind a leather bar, 4:00 a.m. My T-


shirt splashed, obvious 


on the humid walk home. Last call,


they said. I should’ve listened. 


Reginald Shepherd: 


“Midnight, look at the things 


I’ve done in your name.” 


When the towers came down, they nailed up 


curtains, blocked off 


stockrooms, man-made sex 


caves in every bar. Someone joked 


it was literally raining men. Month 


after sticky month we tangled in the debris 


of tragedy, a collapsed 


cabaret law nobody cared about. 


To comfort ourselves? To feel 

alive? Fuck that—

we were horny, and we got away with it


until someone told someone                                                                                        


to make us stop.

for Diane Seuss



Author Bio

Aaron Smith is the author of three books of poetry published by the Pitt Poetry Series: Blue on Blue Ground, winner of the Agnes Lynch Starrett Prize, Appetite, and Primer. Pittsburgh will publish his fourth book, The Book of Daniel, in Fall 2019.