Endowed in perpetuity by the Glenna Luschei Fund for Excellence

The Signs of Choking


The Signs of Choking

Aaron Smith

The Victim Can’t Speak or Breathe
and the world is silent, a slow blur, each red car
in front of you: specific, the strangers around you: pure
movement, everything enlarged, then microscopic, trying
to get back inside your body, and then you remember
your first pillow (smelled of Tide), your first pair of underoos
your first swim (afraid to go underwater), your first day
leaving home (the Disney-school-bus-lunch-pail in your hand)
and how your mother cried in the kitchen window,
remember the way everything always
never mattered
before this?

The Victim Collapses
again and again and differently
with each remembering, and just maybe it was meant to be this way
or already happened, always already
happening, just maybe the one last thing that matters
is how you die, or the one good suit
you wore everywhere to everything that made you feel important
and happy, or the way you let yourself be touched
and tasted and liked it, the way you didn’t know then
your father driving off in his red pickup
would be every man you’d ever love
returning love.

The Victim Turns Blue
and it’s not so bad really, is it? to be the robe of a virgin who made a
who saved a world from wanting, not so bad
to be a bruise spit out
from the mouth of last night’s undressed
stranger, a magic marker uncapped on the living room floor
of a snooty next door neighbor,
a dead friend’s favorite cup filled up
and sipped from each morning, a broken-in
pair of jeans, a perfectly stained
T-shirt, to crave
what you were afraid to crave
and get it.

Prairie Schooner, Volume 79, Number 2, Summer 2005, pp. 38-41


Author Photo of Aaron Smith

Aaron Smith is the author of two books of poetry: Appetite (Pittsburgh, 2012), a finalist for both the Lambda Literary Award and the Thom Gunn Award, and Blue on Blue Ground (Pittsburgh, 2005), winner of the Agnes Lynch Starrett Prize. His chapbooks are Men in Groups and What's Required, winner of the Frank O'Hara Award. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in numerous publications including Court Green, Pleiades, Ploughshares, Prairie Schooner, The Best American Poetry 2013, and on Andrew Sullivan's blog The Dish on The Daily Beast. A 2007 Fellow in Poetry from the New York Foundation for the Arts, he is assistant professor of English at West Virginia Wesleyan and poetry editor for the queer literary journal Bloom.