A friend of mine has his yard torn up for gas line inspection. There’s a hole the size of a small casket. A power washer and hose loosened the dirt and sucked it away, leaving an open rectangle of bare roots. In yellow spray paint the word “boy” marked where the dig will occur. Did this mean male tools verses female tools, like an outlet, or just an acronym of some kind? X calls me boy sometimes. Boy, as in bitch, as in less than a man, as in his. And I accept the nickname, though to X I am a doily, a ribbon, a petal, at least it is his voice naming and I’m captured by the gift. I feel marked by X when he calls for me in a name no one else will use, though all of our friends must think I’m spineless for answering to it. My friend shows me a photo of the roots, freshly washed, this time with his son lying on top of them, his hands behind his head as if the underground skeletal system were a hammock. The child smiles in his tiny windbreaker and sunglasses, but who is he kidding, it’s not safe to lie across a rack of ridges and divots, to place all your weight on a cage.


John Muellner (he/him) is an LGBT writer from St. Paul, MN. His work can be read in Gertrude Press, Denver Quarterly, New Delta Review, Emerson Review, and elsewhere. He’s currently an MFA candidate in poetry at New York University.