Men’s Ten-Meter Platform
We sip white wine and peck at iPhones.
Crowd around the London Olympics
and talk from the sides of our mouths
like ventriloquists. Wait for the grill to heat.
Not all of them are gay, I say quietly.
Just to be real, that’s not very likely.
The first of many summers in my
twenties where I defend the male body
to my family as a trial run. Where I sniff
the air, retreat. My father opens
bottles before the last is dry. Of
course they are. Look at them.
My brother mumbles that I am acting
like a bitch. Teeth bare until someone barks.
Crystal is crunched into the carpet.
The meat is burned. My mother vanishes
for a long walk. The television slurps
the entire room in a soft, glowing wash.
And no one watches the boy my age
make his lonely climb up the ladder. No one
sees him shake loose the nerves from the
ropy twine in his arms, ripple of muscle
that waves up his back as he inches
onto the balls of his feet. Waits
for the right moment. Flashbulbs cocked.
Originally published in Word Riot, 2016
The night he was admitted, the counselor said
my father was unnervingly quiet. He asked
why he was there, scoffed meanly to the front desk
about doctors not needing doctors, slumped
into a sitting redeye slug on the waiting room
carpet. Spent the next morning coughing
up reasons to leave: water the bushes, contact
his clients, speak to his family, hold my
mother. After dinner, during a meeting,
he apologized to everyone for being so sick
and rude and sad. For refusing help.
Said he finally understood why he was there,
why the work ahead could not happen
over night. Finally time to face the music.
That midnight, staff found him on the shoulder
of the highway—same torn v-neck he arrived in,
his entire life stuffed into a ripped Trader Joe’s bag,
whites of his eyes flashing like bones
in the dark. Dancing in the high beams
of each passing lighthouse.
Originally published in Amazon's Day One Literary Journal, 2015
Adam Falkner is a writer, educator and PhD candidate in the English & Education program at Columbia University. His work has appeared in a range of literary and academic journals, and has also been featured on programming for HBO, NPR, BET, NBC, in The New York Times, and elsewhere. He is the Founder and Executive Director of the pioneering diversity consulting initiative, the Dialogue Arts Project, and Special Projects Director for Urban Word NYC, a nationally acclaimed youth literary arts organization. A former high school English teacher in New York City’s public schools and writer-in-residence at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, Adam has toured the United States as a guest artist, speaker and trainer, and was the featured performer at President Obama’s Grassroots Ball at the 2009 Presidential Inauguration. He teaches at Vassar College and Columbia University’s Teachers College. www.adamfalknerarts.com