Bradford Tice

The Fluffer Works in Elegy

It seems wrong to tent the sheets to a memory.
Erik Rhodes, dead of an overdose. Arpad Miklos, Roman
Raggazi, suicides. It’s all so self-referential, this speaker’s

“little deaths,” his mortal fear at the camera’s inability
to immortalize, all that ferocity, motion suddenly
no longer a part of the world. Don’t dismiss

the skill of being able to come on cue, nor how poorly
those lessons prepare one for the early exits of stars
that appeared so well-fitted in the firmament.

Is the difference between lust, despair only a shift
in where shadows lie across the body, the direction of light
that shellacs, the right pieces of flesh made deceptively bigger?

There is more to completion than a steady rhythm coupled
with a firm hand. When younger, in my first few years
of freedom, my own body just a series of jerkings, I came

upon Lukas, Eastern European ingénue to a seedy art.
They said his bright eyes were what sold, his boreal gaze
more animal than what’s proper to speak of.

Eight inches erect, cargo shorts slipping past a hip I heard
someone once call life-affirming. How I wore out the tape
of those bootlegged films! They say you never get over

your first love. Carry them like muscle memory, the dream
of their touch a shivering in the leaves outside the window just
now. My boyfriend says, He’s not dead yet. Still in the business.

And he’s right, I should stop writing premature elegies.
But if I may, isn’t it always about the anticipation? The gasp
of air as you warn the director, I’m about to…

I can’t recall him ever sharing a scene with any of the lost ones.
Josh Weston, HIV-related complications. Cameron Fox,
cause of death not yet known. But I can imagine the first stroke,

Roman or Erik, maybe both, taking him hard by the arm,
leaving a bruise no amount of grease or powder could conceal.
Isn’t the still image always a kind of death, a reeling up

of a scene degraded by slow chemical process. So I take
the lesson. Lukas, while there’s time? Together now? Form taut,
eyes heavenward, the forward tilt a we push out and into the empty.