It is with a sad sort of liberty do I realize
my existence does not warrant
an assault tonight. 
Unless, of course, my binder—
the shadow of which
the street lights try to
out—is noticed. How much worse
the beating, then? 
The breasts beneath
my shirt, tucked neatly away.
Little succulents. Little
potted plants. But no,
I am convinced I am
convincing: shirt white as shaving cream,
the practiced Windsor knot,
black slacks lacking bulge.
Get some socks fashion yourself
a cock makeshift member penis
Something about this feels
deadlier than its         absence,
the way I imagine it
slipping, falling off, detaching
itself from me, sensing who and
what I am. And so
I find myself
declining, thank my partner
for the pants and shirt and tie and exit,                       
stage right.

Yes, I am man tonight,
rolling the word between
tongue and teeth. Bitter ginger. Sour
candy. A mouthful of
wasabi peas.
Here, these cobbled streets, brick slick
with wet, cementing steps
with evening sheen.
Every passing house,
a cacophony of hollowed gourds,
wilting pumpkins. Yes, already, their eyes
turned sad with decomposition,
the point of people
choosing to carve early;
late October turning them,
turning me.
And the ghoulish howl from
silicone graves,
purple orange winking,
store bought cobwebs—cheap imitations
like me.

And here I am, five hours short
of the witching hour.
When, from around the corner,
I see him. Crouch and pat
my thighs, say, “Good dog, good
boy.” Fresh out of bite
and bark, he just wants
a little love. So
I assign pronouns,
bend the knee,
comb my fingers through
his fur, matted and a little
unclean. He licks,
and then, there—rolls over,
sex exposed beneath
the yellow light. She, she, she.
Disguising herself
like me,
and oh, yes, how brilliantly
executed, a flare of hope
in the howling dark, my inability,
a recognition in
spirit only. A disguise that isn’t
a disguise at all. The anonymous
full moon. Our waxings, our wanings,
that sweet and sour
in between.

Samuel Clark graduated with his MFA in fiction from the University of North Carolina Wilmington in 2019. A 2021 candidate for the Kenyon Review Writers Workshop, a recipient of the LGBTQ+ Writer Scholarship for The Muse & The Marketplace 2019, and a partial scholarship recipient to Sundress Academy for the Arts, his work has been published in literary magazines such as BOOTHBlood Orange ReviewGris-Gris Literary JournalThe Conium ReviewArtemis Journal, and Shenandoah. He’s currently based in Fort Collins, CO, where he lives with his adopted cat, Emily D.

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