Poetry: “Big Boys Fear Shotguns Too” by Jonathan Carroll

What does a dead boy talk about? / Who does he love?” 

In a long and storied tradition of queer longing, Jonathan Carroll spins a tale of Southern yearning with a heartbeat of danger that thumps throughout the poem, effortlessly juxtaposing powerful emblems of sensuality and fear.

Big Boys Fear Shotguns Too 


What does a dead body talk about?                                                   I. 
What does it love?

He doesn’t love me
We’re just gay together
We go on walks
and sometimes hide
in bushes

Our hands barely

His lips wouldn’t dare—
They     hang     boys     here
because they can’t stand to
see it.

What does a dead boy talk about?
Who does he love?


His prayer:

ashes to ashes, dust to fertilized soil, and all green things—

he thinks we will die if
our lips touch, he says:
In the south, bodies bloomed.
felled, ripened like peaches or
plums— everything a
        blush, a bruise
or a lesson.


Itchy inching trigger fingers
with owl-open
mouths stick thick with tough tasting tobacco
and trailer truck
chatterchoke in our presence                                                                  our tongues tailgate
under a halo of dimming dome lights                                                               heaven at last 

Jonathan Carroll

Jonathan Carroll is a Southern-born Black nonbinary poet living and working in Seattle, WA.

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