Rob Colgate


Poem for Eels

From the stillness of no normal comes

the harm –

the coral reef is bleached in its death,

but there is no normal; eels continue to slip in

and out of the brittle white gaps, their home

headed towards a little white collapse, no normal

affords the pitiful blight mishaps.

The normal boy looks at the stillness of the coral

and does not see anything not normal.

From there, the normal boy

becomes a psychofag; from there, he is lost

in the jagged woods, he thinks

the trees love him (please love him),

he holds pine needles close like the smell of

a new car, he crashes going the wrong direction

and gets off without a ticket.

I am running from the shrapnel,

bits of skin sloughing off

until I am painfully, palefully white

and there is nothing left to slough off.

This does not normally happen,

but when not normal happens,

it is best to let not normal happen,

so I just go out dancing.

I dance, shove my jagged collarbones

into the chest of a stranger (boy, white, normal).

He says there is no normal; I pretend

to believe him, we grind informal,

I bend but don’t leave him. he deepens

his color through me, in bed he looks right

through me, we get white then wipe and sleep in.

I am normal when I kiss a normal face

(this one is skin colored, has freckles).

I held his face with my fingers and

my fingers looked like bones; soon,

we are just bones together, bound together.

And normal bones are white, normal

bones are clean, normal bones let me

shift to somewhere in my life where I am alright

if the light is white and there is

nothing normal left to write.

The light turns white when the white boy

writes me to ask me on a date. For me, a chance

to be normal. For him, a glance across my face

to take in everything that is not normal.

The great white boy makes his great white choice

and I will become his great night toy.

My stomach does flips like it’s full of eels.

I arrive and I am flimsy, flippant, fucked up,

fighting against the urge I have to let my eye

be drawn to the blank space of his blank face

like an eel to a hole in the coral.

I feel immoral as my attention slips

into the emptiness, the default place

that stays open and waits for something

a little more chromatic to fill it up.

I am a little too chromatic to fill him up,

his body so normal, dry and white,

and mine so slippery, wet and blue from the water –

I slide into my sliding place and rest inside my resting place,

building up the strength to act

normally, just for fucking once you Goddamn Idiot.

I want to fill this space in me that is normally empty,

but that means looking and feeling horribly empty.

True enough, it should not be white,

but soon enough I’ll forget what night is like.

The normal white boy is everything between

ultraviolet and infrared.

I carry inside of me only things green,

multiple violent feelings dead.

I wish that were an accident,

but light is never an accident.

Light is never an accident because

it all turns white in the end, so long as

we are talking about what we normally do –

reflection, refraction,

brilliance, vibrance,

normalization physics.

The way things should behave.

The way I should behave on this date

is obvious, bathed in white light – normal.

I squint at the bright and think about

what would be normal. The eye

normalizes to light through

contraction and dilation of the pupil,

a black hole in the coral of the face.

Eels slip in and out of my vision while

I try to focus on his normal eyes in front of me;

normally the blue iris would dominate my vision,

but right now his eyes are all black pupil,

and under fluorescent lights I know

that this might be because he likes me too.

My sight turns blue as I stumble and feel

and try not to mumble any more

about eels.

And yes, it has been a short time in the grand scheme,

but I do not live in the grand scheme.

I live in Connecticut, the whitest state in the country.

I fall into my whitest state of fun-speak

to try to make this white boy like me

like I am normal.

“Are you feeling this right now?

Do you like it?”

(Does it feel normal?

Why can’t I stop looking at you?)

The date ends, I go home,

I tell my friends I’m not alone.

You’re the stranger white boy

emitting dangerous white noise

that keeps me from committing

to my own color and for some

reason I still like you.

Soon I’m high on York Street

but you’re on High Street.

I’d hike to your street,

but it’s yikes on Whore Street

as I learn that your sheets

are not normal with floor meat

like me inside of them.

I look at the reason that I still like you,

hold it in my hands like I held your face

when you were just white limbs dancing

and I was just the right him glancing across

the room until you crossed the room and

let me hold your face in my hands.

Facing the reason in my hands, I hold it

up to the light, hoping it holds inside of it

an explanation of why I still feel inside like

eels and tides are churning when I think about

your eyes’ dilation, and I hope the explanation

is right.

But the reason is covered in white.

I turn it over in my hands and try to understand

what else it could be but white. I try

to place it back into its homeland but

the reason is covered in white.

Shocked like the eels inside me were real,

I drop the reason. Crushed under my heel,

I turn away from the bright white light.

And now I know why your eyes

dilated. You did not feel joy for

the eel boy you could have dated

if he were a bit more normal, a bit

less shaded. But there is no normal.

Your eyes turned black as soon

as you saw me, and that’s not normal,

but there is no normal.

I stood there, brilliant and vibrant,

reflecting and refracting light out of my eyes,

my collarbones, my fingers,

and it all is going in the right direction,

hitting your face in the right direction.

This white boy got up to leave when

my light hit his eyes and he realized

I have no space in me for him to fill.



"Poem for Eels" is the poetic encapsulation of every mediocre date and hookup I've had with white boys, framed against my own personal context. The idea of "no normal" l has always struck me as saccharine and narrow-minded – for how long should people believe their suffering is normal until they learn that it isn't and that there is a better way to exist? There have to be have to be standards of normal, and those standards have to be based in truth. Suffering should not be the norm. Neither should being a white boy. If we don't investigate what defines normalcy, everyone loses.”

Rob Colgate is a senior at Yale University studying psychology and neuroscience. Having written at least one poem every day since the beginning of 2017, his style is constantly evolving, but tends to be influenced by queer poets including Tim Dlugos and Richard Siken. He focuses on the use of poetry as an emotional tool and intends to obtain his certification in poetry therapy alongside a doctorate in clinical psychology.

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