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Elegy for a Sense of Safety in Freudian Terminology by John Tobin


In the moment that Daniel quite literally took your

breath away, you still heard the alarm in your mother’s

voice on the phone in your hand when you stopped

speaking. His hands around your throat were warm as

always, his familiar weight pinning you against a wall.

You defaulted to your senses to define the scene

because you simply lacked the emotional cognizance to

understand such violence after a simple

miscommunication regarding a broken laptop. As a

result, you were dominated in that moment just by how

damn good he smelled.


Warmth to the cold during Michigan's changing

seasons. The flowering of the dogwoods. The rise of

the corn. The harvest. The slow coat of ice. The cold.


Let us address John’s conception of queerness via the

observation same-sex power dynamics and their

interplay with the environment. To set the scene: one

partner is a gymnast, capable of flexibility and power,

precise and strong. The other, a man with the slight

build of a soccer player, small and quick, a runner with

corrective lenses. Let us establish a predator-prey

relationship between the two wherein the gymnast

hunts the glasses-wearing soccer player after six

months of physio-emotional contact: clasped hands on

the banks of the Huron River during the fire of the

sugar maples, a reassuring touch on the shoulder

during the Thanksgiving meal, sharing warmth on an

arctic trek across Ann Arbor to a hot bowl of noodles

at Tomukun Ramen.

As prey living in the same building, what good is

spotting a predator around a corner and how effective

is running in a hallway? If he were to flee outside, what

of visibility in the falling snow or crossing sheets of ice

on the street?


John Constantine Tobin is a PhD Student from Maryland in the Center for Writers at the University of Southern Mississippi in Poetry, where he also teaches College Composition, Technical Writing, and World Literature. He is a Co-founder of Merfolk Games in Shanghai, received his MFA from the University of Baltimore, and his BA from The University of Michigan. You can find his recent poems in Beyond Queer Words and Alluvium - the Journal of Literary Shanghai.

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