The Boxers I Sniffed in a Boy’s Bathroom in Middle School

by Dylon Jones

after Doug Paul Case

They were blue, patterned
with little white ships, the waist
wrinkled loose in the back where one of his bros
yanked them down after the game.
Everyone laughed. Him, too. Even me.
I sculpted a grin & picked sand from my teeth.
What else can you do when you’re a boy & a boy
pinches the tide & pulls back the ocean?
Thinking fabric fabric
not a new wet world.
On the bus ride home, my window framed
a shifting landscape—I don’t know what kind,
it was all pitch black past my wavering
reflection. Sand in my hair, on my knees.
A week later, he found me when the bell rang
& took me home to shoot crab-mouthed aliens online.
He made all head shots. I didn’t land a single round,
just pulled the pin from my grenade
& fell down. At least you took some out
with you.
My suicide a score.
Near morning he turned
the TV to a random channel,
his version of whalesong or counting sheep,
& the static sound of waves on Discovery
drowned the screaming in my head that had screamed so loud
I’d worried he would hear it through my skull.
His hair fanned on his pillow. I realized my hands
were fists. Two stones in his bed. Lying beside him.
I was lying about something without knowing what.
My jeans too hot under our shared fleece blanket.
His shirtless sleeping form dappled
with sharktooth, sealblood light.
When only red foam remained
onscreen, I tiptoed to the hall,
dawndark. Like seas,
bathrooms hold secrets,
monsters, treasures, salt.
A mast rose from my body.
In his hamper: sails.

Dylon Jones is an award-winning poet, writer, and journalist based in Louisville, Kentucky, where he works as a staff writer for Louisville Magazine. His poems also appear in Tinderbox Poetry Journal and The Collagist.