The Minotaurs

Don’t I, after all, deserve a world of love?
Haunted and far from the home I knew, I entered
the darkness of the baths. Warmth seeped
in: the clink of the ticket machine, the hum

of murmurs and sighs. Far from anything I knew
I asked a man for directions. He smiled
white as a silver dollar, his answer clinking
against me: a prize I had won without knowing.

Here in the maze men prowled, directed by
their desires. One stood by the door
- his body turned like a prize against the light -
watching as the others filed in. He displayed his desire

with the directness of a monster. Every door
led into dimly lit corridors, wide baths
filled with watchful attendees. Many men
would approach me, speaking in clipped syllables

I pretended to misunderstand. The dim corridors
swelled as they filed in. It was after dinner, 
time for the second feast. They approached
each other, ready to warm their bodies

and in the shadows they feasted, a dinner
of darkness transformed, conquered skin.
I had imagined myself ready for sweetness
but nothing could prepare me for this

transformation of touch. All my life
I believed in my own exile. I was not
prepared for the men who approached me
who said silently with their touch that I was here,

that I was desired. Like many exiled people
who were welcomed open-armed, I believed in love
but my heart could not reconcile it.
A thousand times desire asked me to be let in.

A welcome that scorched at me, illuminating
the heartwood of my denial and fear.
I wanted to be strong like a monster, racing a thousand times
against the fire. But from absence comes ribs of zenith

a wasteland for the heart. I deserved love
but fear blinded me: it made me a maze of myself. 
Like a minotaur, I wandered with the night at its zenith
searching for love’s burning mantle --

note: The final image of this poem, "love's burning mantle," is received from Seán Hewitt's poem "In the Bode-Museum."

Kendrick Loo is a poet and reviewer. His work has been published in fourteen poems, Singapore Unbound, and Sundog Lit, among others. He can be found on Twitter and Instagram at @stagpoetics.