December 2021 Winner

A First Time at Rage

Albert Sotelo

THEIR SPLATTER of sweet sweat coats your flesh

like a blitzkrieg of pheromoned rain,

this warehouse floor of dancing male marionettes,

slippery chisel of bare pecs writhing serpentine

beneath the thump of disco lights.


The only sweat you create is your palms

gripping the wall-rail tighter than ivy-choked-trellis.

Sixteen-year-old Trespasser you

in view of male hands dawdling near the hem of male pants for the very first time.

Your tingled nerves peering into a world

your closet door allowed no peephole for.


The shy part of you feeling smaller by a stool

of half-drunken cosmopolitans,

near groups of men huffing cigarettes

in the outdoor patio,

discussing careers and politics and Y2K

in the midst of your Axe body spray

drowning out the icy-sleek musk

of their Hermes Equipage.

The exhilarated part of you determined to belong

to the sway of bodies dancing to Eiffel 65

with reckless abandon.


And then a slip of fingertip and tendon caressing your neck

from a stranger man,

peppery Marlboro breath whispered

from his face umbered by the neon of the light,

the crackle of vodka and ice in a tumbler he hands you

an invitation to dance.


The twisted thrill of a smile on your face

when you drink up and follow him, hand-in-hand,

into the crowd of shadows and light.

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