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CW content warning

Content warning for references to homophobic policy


When I picked him up at Newark Airport
after his collection of flights from Bali
and the icy interrogation by immigration
agents who manipulated him to admit
he was a queer visiting his American lover
and because this was 1990 when any person
afflicted with a psychopathic personality
(read: homosexuality) dare not step inside
the United States, they traded his passport
for a court subpoena. But that’s a painful
story of the injustice system and lobbying
by none other than Barney Frank himself
I choose to stash away in the backstory
of this narrative so as to recall instead thirty
days to introduce this man who swept me up
on a beach of Bali and whisked me round
his tropical paradise to autumn in New York.
Shivering from exhaustion, stress, and cold,
he slipped into the down coat I had brought
and into my yellow Mustang and as we drove
he asked me why all the trees had died. Fall
shocked him even more when October torrents
turned white and he would not come inside
my apartment till he caught flakes on his tongue
and rubbed laughing and screaming his face
with snow.

James Penha


A native New YorkerJames Penha  has lived for the past three decades in Indonesia. Nominated for Pushcart Prizes in fiction and poetry, his work is widely published in journals and anthologies. His newest chapbook of poems, American Daguerreotypes, is available for Kindle. His essays have appeared in The New York Daily News and The New York Times. Penha edits The New Verse News, an online journal of current-events poetry. Twitter: @JamesPenha