It started with a birthday party ––
balloons and confetti for the girl who wanted to kiss me.
Seated there at the table in her parents’ kitchen,
surrounded by 14 other kids, all I could do
was pretend that I wasn’t nervous ––
that the curse of my social phobia wasn’t burning
in my chest like those 10 candles on her cake.
I suppose I was too proud to run away ––
to say I had to take a piss and sneak out
through the bathroom window.
Maybe I should have raided the cabinets
for something flammable, doused my pride,
and tossed it into the fire behind my ribs.
Maybe I should have stolen her birthday wish
and wished for the ability to stop being a pussy.
But I opted to do nothing but sink in my chair,
look at my feet –– and after we finished the cake,
when someone suggested that we all go
into the basement for a game of spin the bottle,
all I could do was reluctantly nod.
I had never kissed a girl before.
I didn’t even understand why people kissed.
Later, sitting on that basement floor –– where the bottle
spun like the big hand of a clock fast-forwarding
through time –– I waited for my fate to be determined.
I waited for the bullets of laughter to pierce me.
The other kids seemed so experienced; they kissed
with their tongues. My tongue was a folded napkin.
Quivering limbs, sweating palms –– I saw the bottle
slowing down. The birthday girl had just spun it,
and her eyes followed its neck. Her Cheshire Cat smile
made me lightheaded. I felt like my entire brain
had just fallen out of my head and rolled under a chair.
I was only 10 or 11; I had not yet lived.
But when the bottle finally stopped, I stared
down the nose, wishing it were a gun barrel.
ANATOMY OF THE MALE MIND
There’s a businessman in the park,
holding his head in anguish.
I see him perched on a bench
with an open MacBook on his lap.
Next to him, his wife or girlfriend
tries to console
their screaming infant in its stroller.
“Fuckin’ help me,” she says. “Jesus.”
He powers down his MacBook,
slowly closes it, puts it in his bag.
Maybe he’s thinking about
killing himself tonight.
still has a long way to go.
Yesterday, I put my hand on the stove
and then felt confused
as to why I got burnt.
B. Diehl is the author of the poetry collection Zeller’s Alley (White Gorilla Press, 2016). His work has been published by Hobart, BOAAT Press, Literary Orphans, Words Dance, and other venues. He runs the website Philosophical Idiot, where he publishes writing by people he likes. He also hosts a reading series called I Hate Poetry in Catasauqua, PA. When he is not doing literary things or breathing in dust at his warehouse job, he is usually hanging out with his cats.