for Jack Fennell 1948 – 1992

The lesions in your brain are growing algae
in your fishtank. Your life has been reduced
to wide-eyed glances darting this way and that
there in Room 808, and all you see is this
bustling life on the other side, blurry
but undeniably real through the glass.

You wonder how you ended up here in this tank,
how you let yourself become dependent
on the IV pump, the oxygen tube in your nose.
So many of your friends have already fallen away
from peering any closer through the glass.
Their minds are now in isolation tanks: quarantined.

The glass walls are empty except for the clock.
The shape of each number and the slope of the hands
are burned in your brain, somewhere deeper
than the lesions found in the X-rays last week.
It is the deepest gravel of them all,
crumbling into particles angrier than salt.

You swim this way or that through the plants,
bright and green under the ultraviolet light,
focused steady and clear-eyed on your memories. WasnÍt
it sweet, having that apartment of your own right
on Christopher Street, sweet and easy to scoop up hot men
literally off the street and whisk them up the stairs?

Wasn’t it magical, crowding together
a posse of deaf gay men in discos and bars?
The poppers promised the scent of everything.
There had been so many beautiful men
who shimmered and swam once past your eyes
under the flashing and swirling strobe lights.

But the plants are becoming fewer and fewer;
their greenness seems somehow more vibrant than before.
The bubbles from your oxygen tube carry you now,
but your gills are tired of propelling forward.
Your left side is paralyzed, your left arm feels
hot and cold, your right arm is weak . . .

Your lips are parched, aching for a reason
when even the heater can’t calm your temperature.
You take in some water from a Styrofoam cup,
but you are already lost in the gravel of time.
Your scales have lost their giddy slipperiness
and they no longer shine so easily.

You’re tired of being tested over and over again,
just to make sure your pH balance is intact.
You’re suffocating from the alkaline of stares
pretending that you are still beautiful.
It is ichthyophthirius of the worst kind.
You wonder if they ever notice their own tumors.

The lesions in your brain have become algae
themselves, slithering with a green blackness
all around the happy green leaves of your aquatic plants.
They are now greedy leeches, sucking
every leap of synaptic energy from your gills.
They’ve even reduced you to wearing diapers.

And last night one of the scavenger nurses
found the IV tube wrapped around your neck.
But no, it wasn’t tight enough. You are
still breathing, your parents are coming
soon, your body is again slagging with pain,
your mind is fixated . . . Where are you?

You flounder from one corner to another.
But even the water has turned to sewage.
Your body has become a tank of toxins.
You close your eyes once more, hoping
you never have to navigate again in pain:
A sweet warm-bodied ocean awaits you. Go.


Silence is always a powerful statement, but even more so in the hands of Raymond Luczak, who demonstrates in his third collection what it’s like to navigate between the warring languages of confusion and clarity. As a deaf gay man in the hearing world, he lends an unforgettable voice to his reality of ache and loss beyond the inadequate translation of sound.


The cover shows two photographs: A panoramic shot of a gnarly tree in the foreground against a manicured lawn far into the distance; the black-and-white photograph is tinted in a light teal. Below it is a pair of young men closing their eyes and resting their heads against each other off the edge of a sofa. The wall to the right shows the title and author's name in white: MUTE | RAYMOND LUCZAK. Near the bottom of the image says A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S PRESS.

Related Books

Skip to content