Thomas Merkle, June 21, 1946 – May 3, 1986
Early, I wait at the door, like a
schoolboy, scrubbed, grinning, ready.
Tom Merkle, aproned, arms open, answers.
He’s lovely, and my Tom can cook!
Ushered into his kitchen I learn his cranberry
sauce didn’t come out of can, nor his green beans,
or haricot vert; with shallots? It’s Thanksgiving,
1974. Feeling like an orphan, even though my family
Is only twelve miles across town eating pie and watching
The Game. The TV is off, the game here has nothing to do
with football. “You should take off your shirt to mash potatoes.”
Tom commands, “Mashing potatoes can be a messy business.”
I slip off my vintage rayon bowling shirt, Leona stitched on the pocket. In
the fridge, I grab butter, cheese, and sour cream. How much butter do I use?
Mashing potatoes, Last Tango in Paris loops “go get the butter,” Inconveniently.
This moment lives, not because I know what’s coming, it’s how naive I am,
setting the table, a minefield of doubt, opening the wine, a grenade.
Guests arrive, I answer the door, shoeless, shirtless, purposeful.
Tom is as gracious as I am clumsily trying not to appear clueless, so
I drink too much, laugh too loud, knock over the Margaux, soak the
table, half the guests, then commit seppuku by corkscrew.
Two wine-soaked guests get naked, two more, “when in
Rome.” Tom winks and strips. OK, I stand on one
leg, hands help pull off my jeans, my Calvin’s.
A call for pie, no, just whipped cream, some
chocolate, I know what’s coming next, I
am dessert. Is this what I want?
And how! But in front of everyone?
Yeah, well, “when in Rome.”
#ellopoet #poetryislife #aidsmemorial #poetryislove #mylgbthistory #143