“Gay males are thought to only represent 5% of the total male population but among males who have eating disorders, 42% identify as gay.” – National Eating Disorders Association
While the moon yawns outside the bedroom window,
I think of him as a white paper towel roll at a party:
In the beginning, a baby in the plastic-tight embrace
of his mother. Smooth, sensitive, plump,
he eyed others crowding around him, squeezing him,
soiling him with dirty hands of disappointment,
he believed. Holding me in the bed we used to own,
he once told me he hated himself for being himself,
for being the vanity’s prank upon the planet.
Since childhood, he’s thrown sheets of himself, papery
shreds of flesh, into the trashcan of life. Nothing remains
except a cold gauze of skin over his bones, the exposed
cardboard roll of his spine, which now I caress as he
falls asleep dreaming of what? Dreaming of food he’ll
never eat? Acceptance he’ll never accept?
I don’t want to compare him to a paper towel roll—
to any other object, for that matter—but as long as he retreats
into himself, refusing my help, how can I not see his body broken?
His spine’s a cracked telescope, fractured kaleidoscope,
revealing little in its lens, in its limited lightshow:
a glimpse of the brilliant borealis of his upbringing,
a glimpse of his future—colored slides in the light?
I imagine pressing an ear against his sunken chest,
a smashed treasure chest harboring, I hope, an ocean’s lullaby,
an ocean’s laughter. But now I hear him—
snores hoarse, whimpers raspy—begging to be more,
to be firm as muscles, firm as fat filling dead space.
Tomorrow we’ll talk. He and I will talk about this tomorrow,
before he fades forever like a breeze in the trees outside.
Until then, I close the curtains, tucking the moon into bed,
snuggle down under the covers, dark as an ossuary,
and dream of him—his smile wide as the crescent moon,
his once bulky body now protected in the warm plastic of my arms.
Former poetry editor and longtime gay author Jacob Butlett (he/him) holds an A.A. in General Studies and a B.A. in Creative Writing. In 2012 he earned a Scholastic Art & Writing Awards Gold Key for his fiction, in 2017 he won the Bauerly-Roseliep Scholarship for literary excellence, and in 2018 he received a Pushcart Prize nomination for his poetry. Some of his work has been published in The MacGuffin, Panoply, Cacti Fur, Gone Lawn, Word Fountain, Ghost City Review, Lunch Ticket, Fterota Logia, Into the Void, and plain china.