Photo by Nikko Tan / Pexels

The summers swole me: knuckles first, then wrists right down to the elbows.
My family there — richer, unknown to me, and queerly religious. Megachurch
parishioners. Gossips. Voices cantering through the dark with emphatic lilt.
Porch light interrupted only by the salt-sweet of the bread factory and water
bugs churning out steady as if made by the trees. One aunt kind, the other
queer. Religious. House empty of all but lizards and an open bible. Diet all
raw. In long skirts and sleeves in heat that swole me. They told me, as all did,
that there was nothing wrong. That I could stand to lose a little weight. Put
me on a diet. Set me to walking around The Oglethorpe Mall in a little suit.
Took me to church for the queerness. Left me to wait out a funeral. Invited
me to no funerals, despite how commonly I stayed. Took me out to Vidalia,
teased onions sweet as apples. Sat me at the buffet, but scolded every option.

Slim and swollen, as I packed to leave we explored a tiny tea house, my bracelets
cut into my forearms. A peach baked in filo, honeyed, filled with strawberries.
A pleasure syrupped over months of restriction. An elegance. A half apology.

Cyrée Jarelle Johnson

Cyrée Jarelle Johnson is a poet from Piscataway, New Jersey. He is the author of SLINGSHOT, which won the Lambda Literary Award for Gay Poetry. Johnson was awarded a Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowship from the Poetry Foundation and served as the inaugural poet-in-residence at the Brooklyn Public Library. WATCHNIGHT, his forthcoming book of poetry, considers ancestry as history in the context of the Great Black Migration of the twentieth century, familial estrangement, and queer family. He is a 2023 National Endowment of the Arts Creative Writing Fellow.