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Monday, October 28, 2019


by Mark Ward

This week Ugandan police arrested 16 LGBTQ activists on charges of gay sex—which is punishable by life imprisonment. Police arrested them at the sexual health organization where they worked and lived and cited condoms, lubricants and anti-HIV medicines found there as evidence of a crime. Police then subjected them to forced anal exams, which can amount to torture under international law, before releasing them on bail, according to a statement by activists. —The Washington Post, October 26, 2019. Photo: A Ugandan man with a sticker on his face takes part in gay pride in Entebbe, Uganda in 2014. (ISAAC KASAMANI/AFP/Getty Images via The Washington Post)

I feel his fingers pull me apart. 
I am on all fours on a steel trolley
somewhere underground in town. 
All I can see is feet passing. 
                       I clench. He smacks my arse
and for a moment, I am at home
with you—this easy intimacy 
before bed. 
                        Fingers always hurt. 
The nails. Even through gloves. 
That illusion of hygiene. 
                                               He opens me
to peer inside. 
                                He rummages, 
searching for sedition, 
or semen. Something to prove
I walk around with sinful innards.  
                I make no sound. 
                                                  And when he is done, 
despite telling me I can dress, I remain, 
                  trousers round my ankles, 
without shame, fully aware of my 
unprovable proficiencies
                                                  until he leaves in disgust.

Mark Ward is the author of the chapbooks Circumference (Finishing Line Press, 2018) and Carcass (Seven Kitchens Press, 2020), and the full-length collection Nightlight (Salmon Poetry, 2022). His work has been widely published at home and abroad. He is the founding editor of Impossible Archetype, an international journal of LGBTQ+ poetry.