i am the breaking
of small things — sheets
try covering fractures
along my skin.
i lie too still
on this bed.

you stare, nervously,
with a tainted expression
walking circles,
accusing me of having caused
sickness & plagues
to hatch, to grow —

i knew what festered,
observing fear:
miniature bombs
exploding in your veins
shockwaves beating
against your heart. i watched
the heave from your chest —
breathing was complicated —
you would always smell me,
& everything society
no longer wanted you to love.

Poet’s Note

The interpretation of the theme ‘attention’ in my poem surfaces through paying attention to small details and their surroundings. In “Second Empire” (the title comes from Richie Hoffman’s first book), a relationship is broken as the fear about the speaker’s homosexuality grows in the person opposite. The occasion of the poem emerges with the speaker suppressing their anxieties as they consider the minutiae of the face of the person who has noticed them – and who associates their sexuality with destructive and frightening stereotypes. These fears manifest in precise body responses: the way the other breathes and the way their blood feels in their veins. All at once, they become horrible and disturbing.