ANOTHER POEM ABOUT CORNFIELDS, BY KAYLEB RAE CANDRILLI
for Shana and Pulse
We worked the hookah bar together for years,
tossed rose shisha into clay bowls and lit it up.
We sold bongs to kids on their 18th birthdays,
but called them water pipes, with authority
and know-how. After work, at three am, we’d
pile into your car, and you’d just drive. We’d cut
through the Pennsylvania cornfields and we’d
trace the long and winding tube of the milky way
with our too-stoned fingers, pointing through
your wide-open sunroof. When I was young
I drank three bottles of Delsym cough syrup
a day. And so did you. This is just one of the dark
and orange flavored addictions we shared.
We shared Coricidin, and Benadryl, and booze,
too. We never spoke about the hurt behind
it all, because why bother. Some truths aren’t
even worth the breath. When you died, so did 50
other beautiful people in an Orlando night club.
You would have hated to know they were gone.
You would have hated living a single moment
in the world without all those young and vital
queer people. I miss you; I miss them. There’s
a photo I keep, and it’s you on Halloween
in a green and purple bejeweled mask, looking
more like yourself than I’d ever seen you.
What else is there to say? I remember
the stars, and the corn, and all of you.
Kayleb Rae Candrilli is a recipient of a 2019 Whiting Award and is author of Water I Won't Touch (Copper Canyon, 2021), All the Gay Saints (Saturnalia 2020), and What Runs Over (YesYes Books, 2017), which was a 2017 Lambda Literary finalist for Transgender Poetry and a finalist for the 2018 American Book Fest's best book award in LGBTQ nonfiction.