A New Poem by Rickey Laurentiis

June 29, 2016  By Rickey Laurentiis

The erotics of phrasing, the formal tensions of constraint and release, embody the queer politics of Rickey Laurentiis’ gorgeous poetry. In his new lyric, “Beautiful Bottom, Beautiful Shame,” the reader can hear in the title a familiar logic among gay men, one where beauty and shame exist simultaneously as alluring and disturbing equivalencies. He is a poet capable of helping us to hear in language always a “woundedness revealed”—from the “O” that conjures poetic address as much as it does anatomy, to the subtle symmetry of his stanzas that mimic the alternating rhythms of sexual fusion and difference. Today, dozens of formally ambitious gay poets engage daringly with the subject matter of queer life and intimacy. But among the many, Laurentiis’ work feels to me among the most achieved, mature beyond years, mortal, muscular, musical. His psychological phrasing is incomparable.

—Adam Fitzgerald, Poetry Editor

Beautiful Bottom, Beautiful Shame


The way he writhed

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Beneath the other man

Argued his loneliness,

But he wasn’t just a blank measure

Waiting to sound;

However much an O

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His mouth made,

He wasn’t just an O—

Thrusting back, up,

Against what is almost

Like a finger, though

It isn’t, always needing


To be touched

Like a finger, to be held:

—I’m lonely.

My waist cinched

Inward like some vintage

Japanese fan, the clever


Blade of my back,

Working inch-by-inch

Toward a pleasure

Half mine, the way fire


Wax pleases . . .


What does possession mean?

No, really. Tell me.

That at this moment

Someone beside myself can feel

How many times

I shudder?


Asked if I like it,

I like it, I speak out

Those few syllables, mess myself.

The point is, I think,

To empty—?

It feels good.


To be two men

Interlocked in a sentence

Still forming. We

Danced the dance that says I want you,

Come closer,

Come in me.


No, really, he said

As a whisper—Boy,

You want to be possessed.

Because, you see, he’d been removed

From his body then,

Per usual,


His beauty, like a talisman, offered,

His woundedness revealed—

Rickey Laurentiis
Rickey Laurentiis
Rickey Laurentiis was raised in New Orleans, Louisiana. He has been the recipient of numerous honors, among them a Ruth Lilly Poetry Fellowship and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Atlantic Center for the Arts, and the Civitella Ranieri Foundation in Italy. In 2016, he traveled to Palestine as a part of the Palestine Festival of Literature. His first book, Boy with Thorn (2015), won the 2014 Cave Canem Poetry Prize, the 2016 Levis Reading Prize, and was a finalist for the 2016 Thom Gunn Award for Gay Poetry and a Lambda Literary Award. He currently teaches at Columbia University and Sarah Lawrence College.

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