Levi Todd "Lessons Learned/No Man's Land"

lessons learned/no man’s land (after Sam Sax)

been sitting in too-small desk chairs.
been taught to celebrate puberty like homecoming.
been told not to spill acetone or nail polish,
they might distort the lesson plans—
and wouldn’t that be awful

been taught that men don’t kiss each other,
boys do—and they’ll have to return their rifles.
we’ll let them keep empty shell casings
harboring crimson lipstick inside, 
because they’ll need it now
and isn’t that a shame

been told that
straight men pierce their left ear,
gay boys pierce their right,
so i got both
and isn’t that a fucking metaphor

been convinced that there is nothing manly
in kissing lips that look just like mine:
a little scruff above,
little electric shock
little reminder that i’m not filled with hollow,
that testosterone can still move me,
still validates my y chromosomes
and that’s not how it’s supposed to work

have wanted to play mapmaker on a man’s clavicle,
on his calves and on his tongue.
have wanted him to whisper a war cry
(or a lullaby) into my throat
that stays there.
have wanted him to teach me
how to not need directions within my own bones,
like i’m actually from here,
like i would recognize the landmarks
if someone showed me the projector slides.
and isn’t that sad



have kissed a few girls and wanted to.
have played careening cartographer on familiar hills;
have followed the lesson plans.
been humming pitches into open lips,
memorizing landmarks,
trying to shed my effeminate accent
and scrub my tongue.
and isn’t that how it’s supposed to work

have only kissed that one boy (been taught that’s what he is)
with the industrial piercing,
who i met at the party just before the cops came.
the boy who knew how to french inhale
pineapple vapor and who asked
if i would really text him the day after.
and i think i kissed him

because i’d had a few drinks, enough
to forget how we ended up outside
in the first place






poetryHannah Schneider