aster's asterisms

Back to Poems


Leviticus 18:22: "Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination."

In love, my fingers sketched your chiseled face; The shouting flares. The men demand their death. Still, I sink further to my love's embrace. On your exposed back, my hand, high with breath. You know, I had a dream nights past, the Lord Appeared, said I'd be saved from Sodom's end If I fled here, but I'd forget my award-- You. I spat on Him. You, my soul extend. The righteous all left Sodom; soon, the fires. We have no ark, only our bodies. A bang. A father's house, in flames. Destroyed desires. A woman screams, a trumpet blows. A clang. The roof in flames. No regret. Home: an urn. My love, my heart, to ash we shall return.


As a queer person in the West, I feel like your existence consistently has the background noise of people telling you that you will suffer eternal damnation for just living your life. As soon as I came out my classmates in middle school bombarded me with the fact that I will go to hell and there is absolutely nothing I can do about it-- a scar that still remains.

The poem is, obviously, a retelling of the story of Sodom's destruction within the Hebrew Bible. This is when I confess I've never actually read the Bible before, but retellings of old stories has always fascinated and delighted me. This leads me into my second major inspiration for the poem, which is Natalie Diaz's Of Course She Looked Back, one of my favorite poems of all time. The story is from the perspective of Lot's wife and her reasonings for turning back to look at Sodom. I highly recommend reading it and the episode from Poetry Unbound on the poem (which is how I discovered it!).

The third obvious inspiration in Shakespeare's Sonnet 18 ("Shall I compare thee to a summer's day..."). I've always had a delight for the sonnet form, in particular for it's association with romance-- which was why I decided to write this as a Shakespearean sonnet. Free verse poetry is not exactly my forté, and I find the constraints of poetic forms help with fueling creativity and improving my skill.

My inspiration for this poem came from the first night I spent with my now-boyfriend. This was the first time I ever did anything romantic or sexual with another guy (or person for that matter) and it was just... absolutely magical. Being with him, feeling his warmth, seeing his smile-- it made me forget about my anxieties. It confused me on why people hate gay people so much, when this was the most amazing experience of my entire life. For that, I dedicate this poem to him (hi Sam :)). The original poem, before I decided to make it as a retelling of Sodom & Gomorrah and to put it in sonnet form, was much more erotic and hyperspecific to that night. Perhaps that's a poem for a later date.

Starting the poem with the famous Leviticus 18:22 off was to specifically place the poem in the Biblical canon, but also the juxtapose it with the rest of the poem. The scripture is cold, harsh, and uncaring-- the love the speaker has is passionate and caring. It's also inspired by the epigraph from Ocean Vuong's Seventh Circle of Earth.

Let's begin with quatrain one. "Flares" is an obvious reference to the later burning down of the city. The "their" mentioned is Lot and his family. The second half of the quatrain adds a sense of tranquility to the scene. I wanted it to feel comfortable-- despite them knowing their fate and the harshness of the outside, they still are choosing to embrace each other.

The second quatrain is my least favorite of the three, but I really wanted to keep this in the poem. I wanted to justify this within the logic of the Bible-- God said he would spare Sodom if even one righteous person was within the city. The speaker was righteous, but deliberately chose to insult God at the prospect of having to leave his love. I originally toyed around with the idea of breaking the sonnet form in this section, in order to show the all-powerful nature of God, but I decided against it as I feel it probably wouldn't read.

Quatrain three continues this logic and includes the characteristic volta with the destruction of Sodom. The sentences become much shorter in length in order to express the dire situation the speaker and his love are in. I don't like how I used "flames" twice in quick succession but I can't think of a better replacement.