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 “‘Dope Sick Love’ Man”

That line you say you crossed
When you said there was no turning back
Beyond a boundary, when the lifestyle has you locked,
Was the line set at 12 at the Garden, Madison Square,
where you scalped tickets and sold concert arena highs for higher,
Or was it clocked at age 13,
Downtown at Penn Station moving with the hustle and the con
“Sweet talking people out of their money”?
Or was it all the way down,
Greenwich Village, “hustling homos”?

Since 14, you been here all your life.
You hunch over a mailbox,
Trying to look “lonely and pathetic,”
Your girlfriend says,
A straight man enticing tricks beneath a street lamp,
The orange glow carving out
Sunken cheeks and chiseled muscles,
Still youthful,
Which you show, shirtless,
Making your living.

Excerpt from Statement

“‘Dope Sick Love’ Man” 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.