Jacques Rancourt

Golden Gate Park

Tonight, walking the aids memorial,
I am thinking about the man who hydrated
his lover by passing ice chips to him
with his mouth. Someone stumbles down the path,
maybe drunk, maybe a little fucked up,

and I know enough not to make eye contact,
not to stop. But I do stop—This man, slightly
younger than me, wants to fuck right here
on top of the red earth. Back East,
where I grew up, the past persists

like a forest: a man hits on another man
in a rural bar, and so is beaten
with a cast iron pan, and laid across
the tracks, and severed in half by a train.
Here, this stranger’s mouth still sweet

from the clove he’d been smoking,
we kiss like those men of our fathers’ era
who’d rendezvous in parks past dark. Never
again will I destroy the earth by flood,
God told Noah after the sun broke through,

the covenant signed in rainbow.
There was a time when I believed in God:
So convinced was I that the Earth was his
own beating heart, I talked to him out loud
in the forest at night. I felt endless then,

and knowing I wasn’t only enlarged me.

Raised in Maine, Jacques J. Rancourt is the author of Novena (Pleiades Press, 2017), winner of the Lena-Miles Wever Todd prize selected by Hadara Bar-Nadav. His poems have appeared in the Kenyon Review, New England Review, Ploughshares, Virginia Quarterly Review, and Best New Poets 2014, among others. He has held poetry fellowships from the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing, the Cité Internationale des Arts in Paris, and Stanford University, where he was a Wallace Stegner Fellow. He lives and teaches in the San Francisco Bay Area.