Mary Archer

mary at coffee bean
Photo by Angela Nishimoto

Mary Archer is a University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa graduate with a baccalaureate in English. Her writing has appeared in the two previous editions of Ms. Aligned: Women Writing About Men. A poetry suite dedicated to Robert McHenry, a professor of English at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, appeared in the inaugural edition of Ms. Aligned. In spring 2015, her essay and narrative fiction piece appeared in Ka Hue Anahā: Journal of Academic & Research Writing, Kapi‘olani Community College’s student periodical. She is a New York native and current Hawai‘i local.

Excerpt from “Desolation Row”

Amber streetlight shining
like electric setting sun
hung perpetual like
a cut of forever warmth

He is alone, slung deliberate
over graffitied post office box,
shirtless in this spring
or summer night,
or fall

Dusky light encounters contours
of a once youthful cheek
then fourteen, now twenty, or thirty,
or as old as time
as old as the streets

Chin too young
to be this sunken,
muscles, abs and arms
lonely in their skin—
a straight man’s wares
angling in any “trick”
who knows
exactly what he gets

Excerpt from Statement

“Desolation Row” is the story of a cocaine and heroin user identified as Matt in the 2005 documentary Dope Sick Love, which follows two drug-addicted couples around New York City: Matt and Tracy; and Sebastian and Michelle. The documentary is told without interview questions, narration, or exposition, so I wrote this poem out of my impressions of what Matt was willing to show or say.

The documentary showed Matt having oral sex performed on him by a middle-aged gay man, whom Matt had called for their weekly session at the behest of his girlfriend, Tracy, when no men were approaching him for sexual favors that night. It was implied that Matt made the call for money, though no exchange was mentioned or shown. What the money would have been used for is unclear, but we learn it could have been drugs, Matt’s mother’s down payment on her house, or Matt and Tracy’s future and the household they were building together.