Jamaal May

The Hollow Made by Her Open Fist

The first time a woman said choke me,
though I cringed at how well her breath-full
stalk fit into the hollow made by my open fist

and marveled at how much pressure
I could apply without actually stopping
her exhalation and whispered instructions,

I never hesitated.
Not even as I cringed
at how easily it conjured

the perfection with which
the larger man’s forearm fit
under my chin, as he pointed a gun

so small
I thought it was a toy
until he cocked it and whispered

I’ll fucking kill you.
There should be a Freudian
version of this encounter where,

pinned by this man, my erection
rises at the same slow pace of a pistol
pressing deeper into the salt of my cheek.

But if I was a flaccid boy then,
wriggling like a fly whose motion
only calls forth an eight-legged death,

am I more accountable for the tingle
she loves to feel skitter across scalp
after the hair has been pulled taut like a web?

The first time I told a woman
to choke me, I never actually told her to
choke me, but what became clear when my cheek

burned against the rug, as my jaw turned
to one side under her filament-soft palm—
was what aria we’d stifle if my throat didn’t yield.

Jamaal May’s first book is Hum (Alice James Books, 2013). He is a Detroiter and founder of Organic Weapon Arts Chapbook Press with poems appearing in The New Republic, Ploughshares, The Believer, and Poetry. Honors include the 2013 Indiana Review Prize and a 2011–2013 Stadler Fellowship from Bucknell University.
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