OXIDANT | ENGINE : Issue 12

Joshua Garcia

Self-Portrait as the Virgin at a Drag Show

                   From the Parable of the Ten Virgins, New Testament 

A crowd gathers around a great warmth, 

and from the warmth a great sound. 

And seeing the people enjoy themselves, 

I thread into the scene tentatively 

as a baste stitch binding the peripheries 

of sound and color. I slip between two men,

careful, reverent as a sequin needled 

onto couture, as if I too was made to catch

light. And from the great warmth, a sound. 

And from the great warmth, Look! 

I shoulder deeper, as if into a garment 

of feathers, as if into skin. 

The crowd waves dollar bills to stoke 

the kindling, to feed that which consumes 

and does not consume. And I, not knowing 

to carry money, open and close my hands to

air like a boy clapping a mason jar over

lightning bugs in rural Tennessee, wondering how 

to collect that kind of burning in a glass.

Self-Portrait as the Virgin Painting His Nails

                   From the Parable of the Ten Virgins, New Testament 

What if I painted my fingernails gold? 

To see how it feels to adorn, 

to adore oneself with such precision. 

And what if, with the slip of a heavy stroke,

the gold paint rolled onto skin. 

I might wipe it away with a thumb and find

the color smeared across fingerprint 

so brilliant I’d paint my whole hands. 

And seeing a rivulet shape inside my wrist, 

I’d brush the excess across my soft belly. 

I’d touch my neck at the spot where once a boy

anointed me with his lips— 

but not like this, not with metallic tongue. 

I’d run my hands over face and bicep. 

I’d tip the bottle upside down: the color of halos,

the gold leaf pillows of so many saints 

hallowing my back as I fashion myself a glimmering

man. I’d stand to let it run between 

my legs. I’d work it into my thighs, 

fingertips edging toward the parts of myself

I can hardly reach, until I’m covered— 

shiny, ornamental, acetate fuming.

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Joshua Garcia lives and writes in Charleston, South Carolina, where he is pursuing an MFA in poetry at the College of Charleston and is an editorial assistant at Crazyhorse. His poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Arts & Letters, Image, The Massachusetts Review, Poet Lore, and elsewhere.