The Candied Body of Felix Gonzales-Torres

by Temple Cone

He left every ounce of his flesh in candy for us to eat,
Left the weight of his lover, gobbled by AIDS, the weight
Of the two of them huddled and crying on a couch.

How strange that beauty comes to the sorrowful
When they most need it, when it least avails them.
He draped strings of muted lights from a ceiling,

Called them Leaves of Grass. He understood Whitman
Better than whole universities of scholars
And sleeps chest to chest with him on a bed of stars.

He stacked black-and-white posters of clouds,
Wanting us to take one for ourselves,
Like peeling back the museum roof to expose

The endless possibilities of the heavens.
He worked with nothing you couldn’t buy at Rite-Aid.
Cheap, disposable gifts the dying give the dying.

Candy melts to nothingness, humming tungsten breaks,
The poster is lost in an attic of cardboard boxes,
And over the world’s body the clouds go, nevertheless.

                              For Jonathan VanDyke

Temple Cone is an assistant professor of English at the U.S. Naval Academy. He is the author of five chapbooks of poetry—Eurydice & Orpheus (Finishing Line, forthcoming), Radiolaria (Pudding House, 2007), Quandary Farm (Pudding House, 2007), A Father’s Story (Pudding House, 2007), and Considerations of Earth and Sky (Parallel Press, 2005)—and of two reference works on 20th-Century American poetry and on Walt Whitman. He has received a Maryland State Arts Council Individual Artist Award in Poetry and the John Lehman Award in Poetry from Wisconsin Academy Review, and was an Open Contest Winner in Best New Poets 2005. He lives in Annapolis, Maryland with his wife and daughter.