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.