Grant Chemidlin :: “Cruising,” “Portrait of a Plant on Fire,” and “Sally (When There’s Nothing Left to Sell)”


Two men meet in the middle 
of a secret, 

hide behind
the bushes. The trees,

who see no deviance, offer
their trunks for cover.

Two men meet in the middle
of desire, slip out 

of their armor, bask 
in the unclad sun,

in each other’s arms,
in each other’s tongues. 

In the middle
of a better world:

Two men, undone.
Two men, unbelievably soft 

when they touch. Even 
the stubble-studded chins

are silken moss.
A twig-crack. A gruff shout 

in the distance
& two men 

All that’s left—two hollowed logs

holding their breath

on the forest floor. 

Originally appeared in New in Town (Bottlecap Press, 2022).


Portrait of a Plant on Fire

M came back from the hardware store today
with a big bag of soil. & when I asked
what he was up to, he gestured to the dying fern
in the corner, how its long & fan-like leaves
had turned pale yellow, spotted & droopy.
I watched with fascination—his caring hands
as they cupped the spidered roots, lifted up
that hopeless little fern from its hollow crimson
home. Right then, I could see it: the slightest smile
spreading on his face as he replaced that dry,
that useless dirt with layer after layer
of new & fertile fluff. Is this not the perfect image
of true love? Of what life can be boiled down to
in a bright red pot? The very core of all our hopes:
that someone, someday, will come along in our most
dire moments of need, of feeling lonely,
& feed us a fresh, an unconditional love.

Forthcoming in What We Lost in the Swamp (Central Avenue Publishing, 2023).


Sally (When There’s Nothing Left to Sell)

Plants in Los Angeles look like coral,
like seaweed, which is another way to say

that every time I’m walking down the street,
I’m underwater. Look at that bush over there

with its long, pipe cleaner limbs, like a spindly green
octopus. How’d you get so deep down here? he asks,

but I’m too busy looking up at the surface,
minding my silence, wondering why every note

that dives below sounds muted, wondering
how something as violent as drowning,

as sinking to the bottom, from above
looks peaceful, looks small, looks

practically invisible to the flock of gulls
passing by.

Forthcoming in What We Lost in the Swamp (Central Avenue Publishing, 2023).


Grant Chemidlin is a queer poet and currently, an MFA candidate at Antioch University-Los Angeles. He is the author of the chapbook New in Town (Bottlecap Press, 2022) and the illustrated collection He Felt Unwell (So He Wrote This). His second collection of poems What We Lost in the Swamp will be published by Central Avenue Publishing in 2023. He’s been a finalist for the Gival Press Oscar Wilde Award, the Philip Levine Prize for Poetry, and Atlanta Review’s International Poetry Contest. Recent work has appeared or is forthcoming in Quarterly WestIron Horse Literary ReviewTupelo Quarterly, and Atlanta Review, among others.