blood brothers

in response to a statistic citing gay men as almost 4 times more likely to suffer from substance abuse than their heterosexual peers.


We whose love is a betrayal first
and then a dazzling strobe, a zoetrope of joy and shame
creating only the illusion of real movement as we circle endlessly
the disappointment of our fathers and the abandonment of our gods.
We broken boys— we have to teach ourselves to fix.

The first time I shot heroin I was 19.

I untied a dishrag from my arm. White fire crawled towards my heart
bringing with it strange forgiveness. I remember, I said, wow…nothing hurts—
before vomiting all over everything.

In retrospect, this first and last time with the needle
was an overdose—I lie in bed cold sweat, a gasping fish.
My roommate took pictures of me naked
while the girl who brought the drugs
force fed me water, and then gave me a blowjob
during which I blacked out.

Years later, my brother, fresh escaped
from his court-ordered drug rehabilitation center, and I
are sitting my parent’s attic, blowing pot smoke out the window—
we are two fuckups, trading our best war stories.
He tells me about the time
he let a stranger fuck him in a bathroom stall for two bags,
so I tell him what I’ve just told you.
He looks at me, and says,
                 Huh. You shot heroin? You really are my brother.
as if our blood were somehow thicker for our common agonies.

My first love died inside the dragon’s mouth.
After the funeral, I tore through all my journals, finding there
devotion crowned with thorns.
I knew he was a junkie, so when he offered me his arms, I ran from him
and gave that as an excuse, but the truth:
every man I’ve ever held has been so shattered
that his jagged edges shred my hands

We fags, we blood brothers, we brilliant salmon
thrusting upstream through a filthy river—
while the rest of the world celebrates another victory for our equality—
we drink.         we use.
And on the nightly news, somebody asks us, See? See how much is changing?
but the water only flows         one way.

the night before he died, I pressed my ear against my love’s chest
and I heard his heartbeat scrape against his ribs.
A shovel through the sweet earth.
The sound of his dull longing
as it dug his grave.

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SP Mulroy
SP Mulroy is a nationally recognized writer and performer, and an award winning professor. He holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is a 2013 Lambda Literary Fellow, a 2017 Kurt Brown Prize Winner, and 2017-2018 Writer-in-Residence at The Kerouac Project.