Under the Sea                                                                                                

I. 

I want to be where the mermaids are

down where it’s better, 

down where there’s harmony,

where they love all the species of the seas.

down where it’s better, 

down where sharks are sharks

and not men in suits disguising their lust for blood. 

down where it’s better, 

down where mankind’s iron fist

isn’t there to grip at the soil or my fragile heart.

II.

My youngest dog is

like Flounder, a loveable

goof following me,

warily wading 

behind me as I search for 

a scale-bottomed man,

a charming prince to

protect me from the monsters

that walk on this earth.

III.

Disney changed the ending.

In the original story, 

the mermaid realizes being human isn’t being happy

so she tosses herself, in human-form, off a ship –

in death trying to make her way back home,

diving into the stormy waters, dissolving to sea foam.

IV.

Did you know that Hans Christian Andersen

wrote The Little Mermaid as a love letter to another man?

Loving a man in the nineteenth century was like a fish loving a man.

It would never work.

Sometimes being a man loving another man feels like that in the twenty-first century too. 


The A-to-Z’s of Losing You

Appetizers split at Applebee’s. 

Banana Everclear shots. 

Chipotle. 

Daytime drives. 

Evening snuggles. 

Fast Friday morning fucks. 

Grinding with some guy from Grindr. 

Heavenly, time-stands-still hugs. 

Ignoring each other’s faults and sometimes cries for help. 

Joking at funerals. 

Kisses galore. 

Laughing at comedy specials together. 

Moving apartments tests a relationship. 

Naps.

Open dialogue about open relationships. 

Picking stuck celery out of my teeth for me. 

Queer marches, queer votes, queer revolution. 

Reading each other’s lips, eyes, and poetry.

Sitting side by side when there are no words. 

Tucking you in when you are sick.

Unbuttoning, unzipping, undoing. 

Various artists on various mix tapes on various road trips.

Wet premium lubricant. 

X-rays, surgeries, and other hospital visits. 

Yellow dining room walls. 

Zzzs lost when we were up all night binge-watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

All these memories remain, leaving me feeling:

Ambivalent. 

Bitter.

Crippled. 

Damaged goods that can’t be returned. 

Earring missing its match. 

Fast Friday morning fucks ups. 

Grinding with some guy from Grindr. 

Health food can go to hell. 

Ice cream helps. 

Jumping thoughts. 

Kisses somehow remain on my lips. 

Lips yearning for your skin. 

Moving out is easier than moving on.  

Naps – lots of naps. 

Open heart, broken, but still open.

Picking up glass from broken picture frames.

Quiet cremation of old pictures. 

Reading your texts again way too many times.

Searching for clues, searching for answers.

Tucking a few memories in the bottom of a box.

Unraveling. 

Various artists sing sad songs to me.

Wet pillowcases from tears. 

X-rays can’t be done on broken hearts.

Yellow walls must be painted back to white before we get our deposit back. 

Zzzs lost when I lost you.


One Last Polka

When I visit my great-grandma, 

she usually doesn’t know who I am.

Sometimes she thinks I am my uncle. 

Last week, she thought I was her brother.

Before that, she thought I was my father.

They say not to correct someone with dementia,

that destroying their delusion could lead to an episode.

So I smile and nod and play that part of whoever

she thinks I am on any given day.

I smile and nod as she asks me 

if I can absolve her of her sins.

I’m not sure if it’s because I’m wearing all black

but she thinks I am a priest today.

And though I am far from holy, 

I take her sins upon me and forgive her every transgression.

She beams like heaven is within her reach. 

I smile and nod as she asks my great-grandpa

why he left her here, why he hasn’t called,

why he hasn’t taken her out dancing.

She misses dancing.

So I pull up polka music on my iPhone

and dance with her in her wheel chair. 

She beams like heaven is in her eyes.

I lean in and whisper that I love her

after her spirit has left her body.

I wonder who she thought was holding her hand and saying goodbye.

Who did she think I was in that moment?

Did she know it was the real me

or did she just think I was a child who never came to visit?


Charles K. Carter is a queer poet and educator from Iowa. He shares his home with his artist husband and his spoiled pets. He enjoys film, yoga, and live music. Melissa Etheridge is his ultimate obsession. He holds an MFA in writing from Lindenwood University. His poems have appeared in several literary journals. He is the author of Chasing Sunshine (Lazy Adventurer Publishing), Splinters (Kelsay Books), and Safety-Pinned Hearts (Alien Buddha Press). 

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