before talkies

Celeste Gainey

Back when men wear handkerchiefs
in their breast pockets,
I press a crisp bright square
over my hidden heart
for you.

It looks snappy
against the imported alpaca
of my sport jacket,
the collar of my very white polo shirt
spread open, à la Billy Haines,
the tan of my smooth skin peeking through.

An actor of the silent era,
I learn to be manly & discreet,
never disclosing our desire
for each other’s sameness,
how you give it to me—exactly
the way I want.

But then there’s that afternoon
at the lawn party, in front of LB’s guests
when the shuttlecock glances your eye
and I leap to you
like a lioness to her cub,

pluck my handkerchief
to dress your wound
and like that,
             just like that—
                                       the world stops.