A Life In Pictures

Mark Ward

A room, reserved for company,
empty, with an unsupervised tv.
I remember myself as fifteen,
sixteen but was only twelve
when I watched Stonewall.
It wasn’t a re-run. I knew
it was on, I must’ve planned my
good behaviour to slip out of
sight. I remember the room
feeling cavernous, unable
to contain the film I watched,
the shower scene, my reaction,
the certainty.

This riot led
to Jackson: My Life, Your Fault
nestled into Queer Street season
back when we were niche, when
Channel 4 was everything to me.
Being all of fourteen, it was another
shower scene that burned itself
into me, two men just talking with
one saying, I’m getting married as if
it were possible, as if boys could do
that. I wanted my reflection to seep
into the screen.

I knew every
fictional gay boy and what made them
breathless. I found the VHS in the back
of the Virgin Megastore, when media
spanned huge shops and moments
could be rewound, words mouthed
alongside, vicariously. The cashier
smiled sadly and refused to sell me
the video, rated 18 but 15 in the UK;
boys like me were legal since ’93
but shouldn’t get ideas, shouldn’t
learn how to sway.

Others embraced
tentative fumbles with girls that
grew more serious, carnivorous,
they learned to love, to fuck,
all of it. You were suddenly
incomplete without your other
half, a girl that you didn’t need,
a boy that you couldn’t be, or see
outside of the tv, there was only me.
I watched This Life; Warren cruising
through his easy city, doing whatever,
whomever he wanted. So,

I chose not to be haunted,
merely shadowy. I agreed with off-colour
jokes, embraced every slur they threw at me
to throw them off, or I smiled Fuck off
despite wanting what they accused me of,
but stopping short of being the first in school
to step out from the screen and say the words
everyone knew that scorched me into silence.
I watched Nathan from Queer as Folk rend
the world to his will, star of his own life, 
he’s really doing it, going through with it,
unwilling to sit still.

I sought out thrills,
since romance wasn’t on the horizon,
and being all of seventeen found them.
Falling behind the other boys, I learned
anatomy, biology, chemical reactions
where skin ignites upon contact.
Nathan, in the sequel, was doing
just that, but had grown jaded with school
by now. I wanted romance, the great love
I was promised by my fictions but suddenly,
it was graduation and I stepped into the screen.

Page 120, Poetry Ireland Review Issue 124
Issue 124

Poetry Ireland Review Issue 124:

Edited by Eavan Boland

Poetry Ireland Review 124 contains new poems from Paula Meehan, Ciarán O'Rourke, Lizzy Nichols, Mark Ward, Gabriel Rosenstock, Özgecan Kesici, Doireann Ní Ghríofa, and many other compelling voices. Also included is Eilean Ni Chuilleanáin's remembrance of her Cork childhood, excerpted from The Vibrant House: Irish Writing and Domestic Space, a book of essays reviewed in issue 124 by Caitríona O'Reilly. Other books considered in this issue include collections from Annemarie Ní Churreáin, Mark Granier, Tara Bergin, The Cambridge Companion to Irish Poets, and the Collected Poems of the late Dennis O'Driscoll, and there's also a short interview with Thomas Kinsella along with an essay on Kinsella as poet and civil servant. Another Kinsella is this issue’s Featured Poet, Alice Kinsella, and all artwork for the issue is supplied by artists associated with the Olivier Cornet Gallery on Great Denmark Street, around the corner from Poetry Ireland.

Available now to purchase online or in all good bookstores.