From the Archive: Rumpus Original Poetry: Four Poems by sam sax


This was originally published at The Rumpus on July 18, 2019.



T H E   L A F A Y E T T E   I N N

last night i took pictures of myself
in a borrowed leopard print robe

in my head i was beautiful, the imitation
cat skin opened like a book down the middle

proust or another lonely queer
whose obsessions make clean taxidermy

of the temporary body. disgusting to look
upon oneself in any capacity but especially

here—face rearranged in the split approximation
of pleasure. glamorous for a moment

then gone. it’s not the lens but the living
who fathom eternity. my face so full

of wonder it’s sick. how many men have
passed through this room, through my lips?



i’ve been angeled by loss
i’ve been strangled by loss
i’ve been drained, rearranged & then mangled by loss
i’ve been blood ankled & wrangled & tangled in loss
i’ve been caged in & ancient & fanged in my loss.
i’ve been stained gold by loss
i’ve been mangoed by loss
i’ve been famous & famished, my animus lost
i’ve been vanished inside my unanimous loss
i’ve been canceled & candled, an anthill of loss
i’ve been gossamered, gossiped, & blossoming loss

once in los angeles i watched the couple who’d
just fucked me     sob                            holding onto each other
as tho they’d just lost something forever inside me


T H E   C O C K

you can’t spell basement without semen.
or i suppose you could but then it’d just read bat.

somewhere south on second avenue, a staircase
you pay ten dollars to descend onto a ‘dance floor’

tho more a dark field of men who’ve already removed
their heads so as to blend into the eternal body

which is always loosening & welcoming fluids. what becomes
of the indivisible soul in basements such as this?

here where the spirit is passed around as a yawn or religion.
soul i say, welcoming someone me yet not

into this rented & temporary skin when an oddly cold erection
nuzzles its wet nose into my palm like an elderly dog.

in that old story the three headed dog guards the gate
to the world of the dead. in this underworld, it’s the living



Great porcine drag queen

You who grew erudite in the slaughterhouse shadow

Eyelashes like black swords teased up to challenge heaven

Eternal in your powdered foundation

Refusing everyday the knife’s inevitable & unkosher ending

Be-snouted fount of youth! Seminal queer iconoclast!

Pearls to bed, pearls in the junkyard, pearls on television

Diva of late night, of talk shows, of prime time

Door-kicker for non-conventional romance

Shown us how to love across identities arbitrary as phylum & species

Bless that impossible coupling!

How you took an entire frog inside you & remained the same bad pig

Who’d karate chopped anyone dumb enough to disrespect                                         HI-YA

What little faggot wouldn’t look upon you & be seen or saved or salved?

You who never questioned you were destined for stardom

O miss miss! O great swine demimonde! O dame pig!

I’m yours ‘til i end       You, my religion      How I understand us all now

We are ourselves & the hand inside that guides us

We who are given voice by that same spirit that gives voice

To everyone we have ever loved

sam sax is a queer jewish writer and educator. He’s the author of Madness (winner of the National Poetry Series) and Bury It (winner of the James Laughlin Award from The Academy of America Poets). He’s currently a Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford University. More from this author →