Michael Montlack, “Gertrude, you had Alice…”

In this week’s Poetry Spotlight, two poems from Michael Montlack’s new book Cool Limbo (NYQ Books).

Peter Berlin

In a very real way … she’s the purest art form.
I bet she said … just how many art lovers can one get to know?

____________“Greta” –Stevie Nicks

They call you Garbo of gay porn.
They call you That Man, meaning The Man.
They call you. They call you. And
they have called—decades now.

But there are no phones in the gutter
and the best beauty is mute.
Though some claim to hear you,
to claim you as ours.

Those hours posturing: patient tableau
fractured by a slow turn, directionless strut.
Destination: always right here.

Those same white hip-huggers and
you’re never quite the same
canvas—on cobblestone, back-lit set
or a Fire Island boardwalk—
a briar your backdrop, there
where they wove your crown of thorns.

Vanity or generosity—Smut or art?
Just enough blur softens the image,
your blonde sweep.
_____First: lost and lonely Dutchboy.
_____Then: Penus Fly-trap.

But no one was your fantasy,
your leathered up pin-up, your Peter Berlin.

Who nurses the nurse?
Sings the songstress to sleep?
Who, Peter? Who got you off?
Lured you down midnight streets?

Who left you standing on some corner
sparkling darkly in the dust
on the verge of verge,
wanting more and more hunger
without having had
even one little bite?

Gertrude, you had Alice.
But I had him (so briefly) and now we don’t even talk.

“Well, you could just call him.
You could just call. You could.
You could say something.
Something about anything.
About anything you might want
to call him about. About him
not calling. About wanting to call.
About wanting him to call.
About him calling you. You could
say anything or something.
Or even nothing. About you. Or
him. Or you just wanting
to call. Or you just wanting him.
Yes, you could call about something,
even nothing. Call about you
just wanting him to call. About you just
wanting nothing. Or wanting him.
Wanting him to just want something.
Want you. Or you to call. You could.
You could say anything at all about him.
About him not calling. About
wanting him to call. Or him wanting
something. Or nothing. Or wanting you
to call. Or wanting you. Or something.
Something of that nature. Or the nature
of something. Of calling. Or not calling.
Or wanting. Or not wanting. Or nature.
The nature of wanting. Or wanting him.
Wanting him to call. Or wanting to call him.
Wanting him to want to call. To say
something. Anything. Anything that might
want saying. Before nothing more
is not said. Before more nothing is said.
Because nothing is more nothing
than not saying something when
something wants saying.

And that, well that’s something.”


MICHAEL MONTLACK is the author of the poetry collection Cool Limbo (New York Quarterly Books, 2011) and the editor of the Lambda-nominated essay anthology My Diva: 65 Gay Men on the Women Who Inspire Them (University of Wisconsin, 2009). He splits his time between New York City, where he teaches at Berkeley College, and San Francisco. Currently he is at work on his first novel.