A Poem by Timothy Liu

by Mark Bibbins, Editor

Fucking Ass in the 19TH Century

or doing it with a sheep could land you in jail.

A penis was required to get you
on the books. Girl and girl was beyond

unspeakable. Legally, it didn’t exist.

Debates ensued: was penetration enough
or did one have to come? Didn’t matter

if it was man on man or woman or child

but the hole you found yourself stuck in
and whether or not someone would

report it. No mention of gay, straight or bi

in any of the books. Looking back, the laws
seemed fairly clear: a white man fucking

a black woman was fine as long as it was in

her pussy. But catching a black man
doing it to a white woman was beyond

the pale, didn’t matter what body part was

used. Age didn’t matter. Or whose bed
you shared. Just be mindful of where you put

that prick, what century you find yourself

living in. All through my teens, I never knew
what sodomy was exactly. Did it involve

the mouth? Was it anything other than

non-procreative ennui? — a gilded book’s
uncut pages left under a shroud of dust.

Timothy Liu is the author of nine books of poems, including the forthcoming Don’t Go Back to Sleep (Saturnalia Books). He lives in Manhattan with his husband.

You will find more poems here. You may contact the editor at poems@theawl.com.