A Poem By Stephen Burt

A Crime at Pattaya

          The following year, in a highly publicized case, four transvestites (one a transsexual)
          robbed a Hong Kong businessman and others by first inducing their victims to suck
          on their nipples, which had been coated with a tranquilizer.
                    —Holly Brubach, Girlfriends: Men, Women, and Drag

I would do it again. I felt
paradoxically adult—
each chevron on each wave on that warm ocean
pointing backwards and up the pale twist
in the shadow below concrete stairs. I was led by my wrist.
There was a great oval mirror,
the hush of a closing door,
two earrings unhooked and a square plastic bottle of lotion.

There was a bare smooth shoulder, and suppler hands
than mine on the buttons around my collar and neck,
my clavicle, my sternum, and points just south.
There was an oversized rocking chair, and a rock
that shone like a wet star-opal around her throat,
her fuchsia lips, her softer mouth,
and commands that could never have felt like commands.
She was a moonless night at the prow of a boat,
and I was a pilot, a ghost in the womb: I obeyed.

I woke up to mopeds, car horns, and particulate haze.
I had wet myself. I had slept for two days.
The consul had come and gone, leaving ill-fitting shoes,
but I walked away shaking and barefoot. I would have paid,
and happily, twice as much as I lost, to lose
my reason again so utterly: how could I choose
to leave this beach forever, this tideless fold
with its plain rice and its thin shade,
where for the first time I lost it all, got rolled,
erased, knocked out, taken for granted, and was not afraid?

Stephen Burt is Professor of English at Harvard. Belmont, his latest book of poems, will appear from Graywolf in 2013: he’s also the author, most recently, of The Art of the Sonnet, with David Mikics (Harvard UP, 2010), and Why I Am Not a Toddler and Other Poems by Cooper Bennett Burt (Rain Taxi Editions, 2011).

After months of costly and dangerous exploration—the expedition lost ten men in the first three weeks alone—we have finally located the hidden trove of poetry of which the legends speak! Enter if you dare! You may contact the editor at poems@theawl.com.