Two For Q

by Jeff Oaks

Queer: some instructions

Queers play hopscotch. Queers shine at anything with jumping one-legged in and out of boxes. Queers keep things up their blue sleeves: rabbits, muscles, French cologne. Queers go overboard every time something new happens to enter. Vinegar potato chips. Buttery suede pants. Queers throw themselves into things. And it is true that they are frequently thrown.

Queer choirs queer music. A penny falls from a bad pocket, from a too-late hand, a shine down the leg, a tinkle. Queer goes down as far as possible and rolls away. Oh, Queer of gutter, Queer of the perverse Paris where the hunchbank hunches, where the phantom destroys the great chandelier before time does. Queer goes crying down on its audience, a thousand bits of quartz, glass, reflection. Queers have no reflection. Nor can they abide sandwiches.

Queer in the treetops turning white. Queer in the little rapids melting stone. If a queer is beaten to death is he all alone after the one who does it? Even with his alibi of panic? Even with his terror of being touched? Queer on the rock where the bicyclists turn on their nearly invisible trails among the trees. The body itself another stump. The body itself a kind of Scandinavian furniture we beat together because of the unreadable instructions.

Queer at home in the sexual. Queer who will answer in the absence of a parent who worries too much about safety to the detriment of listening. Who else treats the sea like a sister? Who else rips off the shirt it took several hours to buy? Queer at home watching TV too. The thing is queer won’t forget, even in the wee hours of the last breath, that it all was something. Queer’s mistake is not regret. Even the boredom was awake.

Q X 4: an excess

Quinine in the tonic maybe. That side taste in which something brushes the tongue like suede or butter. We drank a lot of it near the equator. Otherwise the mosquitos were deadly, cruising, half-Q-tip, half dentist drill. Cumulatively they might take a whole bloodstream off into the air. They’re all female the ones we swat and spatter. Stay very still. They read us for heat, not for money, not even for IQ. Some of us stink a little better. Some of us like gin on the rocks.

Once you sit in one of the classroom chairs, you’ll see why it’s difficult being querulous here. Everything is stiff and will not let you get up easily once you’ve slid into the seat and put your elbows on the desks. My third grade teacher was a kind of quarrel unto herself. When she didn’t like you, she’d hit you in the back of the head. Everyone grew quiet. How odd that the capital Q in cursive looked so much like a complicated 2.

Better when the letter’s inside the word. Equipment. Equal. Antique. Better not to start something you can’t quit. Quibble all you want but that won’t end it. Nothing ends the same where it begins. In this way it resembles a kind of aesthetic of the unresolved circle, the struck out whole, the balloon with a pin in it the millisecond before it bursts in your hands.

Quartz remember, they say, their handling. Quirks in the electrical field return to normal. Whatever the quality that makes them so impressionable, certain of us remain skeptical. But there they are among the grains and shells and snails absorbing the sea. We grow queasy at the end of so much looking for a mouth in the midst of all that whispering.