April 29, 2010

Curtis Rogers

The Prisoner's Dilemma

The HIV clinic
downtown marked
with pink triangles
like tribal symbols. Inside—paper pamphlets

and stickers, things
to take. A bowl of condoms sitting bouquet-style on the desk.
The receptionist grins.

I say I would call my brother, when they ask.
That’s a lie. No, no smoking. Drugs.
Never sold myself. No one offered. Sorry,
that’s a joke. The test just as it is. Plastic, gloves, time.

In the waiting room I never felt so small,
but on my way out I pass a man
like a finger passing through smoke.

23° 26'

The first package I didn’t
understand, bruise colored
beads packed tight,
with instructions to roll
twice daily.

The second with
two marble
colored geese,
preserved in salt and
soaked in mint
jelly to help with
the smell. Then,

over the next
few weeks others arrived, tinsel
and walnuts, deer tracks
stenciled onto papier
-mâché ornaments,
an axe head covered
in pine sap, and a pair of
sunglasses with
clips on the
temple hinges.

This morning I dug out the
letter you’d first sent
asking how I liked Florida and
I remember telling you
“It’s nice but I
miss the winters” and how
you called and said you’d send it
to me, winter, next time
it came around.

So I thought about writing to say
I miss you too, more. But I knew
that was your point, your perfect
cruelty to show me
what you consider
too great to give.


Curtis Rogers is a 2012 MFA candidate at NYU for Poetry. Currently he lives in Philadelphia. His work has previously been published in Peregrine. He is a tea enthusiast.

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