James Allen Hall


I'm no innocent. Call me something that makes a man wince,
then beg for it repeated. His name: I'd twist my body

to mime its curves, the twinned a's and snaking s of Isaac,
the man in bed beside me. There's a love of endings in me,

a stockpiled arsenal. All my gunpowdered faces
turn upward from the bottom of a dark well, asking for a light

in this Madrid, stripped down and silent, disturbed
only by purple-tongued dogs underneath our window,

yowling in their too-small cage. Who names them
owns them, they exist until he says stop.

When I was young, I carved the name Jaime next to mine,
scarred an oak tree in his parents' backyard. The first boy

I loved. A sapling—the name did it in.
Then he was kindling, limbs in the firebox.

I burn now to exhaust the future. No water from the well.
Don’t call me Fetching. Let me live a dog’s life.

I’ll know my name by the tags I wear around my neck.
Touch their edges, make them proper. My name is James,

I am descended from the Wildes, the last of a purebred line.
I wave to you from long ago.




There’s no one left who remembers how I was before,
hanging upside down on the jungle gym, my smile
rushing to my ears.

I was bad at history. I confused the faces of barbaric kings.
Teachers tied my shoes until I was six.
They kneeled, heads obscuring my legs.

I was bad at telling time, the big hand on top of the little hand.          

But I was good at dodgeball, at stopping anything
bent to harm. I paralyzed with a look. Now I am stopping
a man, my knee square in the small of his back.
I know it hurts, I’m sorry.

In this light he's the man who taught me pain.
Same beard, same stare I blushed into.
He kissed me to a shudder. We slept, he fit me
to his chest, my angles smoothed to curve.

I was bad at love, he choked me awake.
I couldn’t make him stop with my hands.  
Be quiet as I cut off his head.

I am doing my good work. The light keeps going
dark, faces sicken into shadow.
Every man is a rapist.  

I am taking back what he took. His head,
all that remains in the world which remembers me.





I think of "James Untitled" and "Self-Portrait as Boy With the Head of Goliath" as Madrid poems. Caravaggio painted his David With the Head of Goliath around 1599, and it resides now in Museo del Prado in Madrid. He returned to paint the same story and the same scene twice more, but this first version is muted and intensely private, with the painter's characteristic chiaroscuro in full effect.

"James Untitled" came about while in Madrid as well. Marriage is available to all people, regardless of sexual orientation, in Spain, which is also a devoutly Catholic country.