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    Kid if you go out there tonight
    you are likely to meet Soft Shoulder
Soft Shoulder speaking softly
    quick-stop-tongued lanky cur dog
    lisping languid in jeans
    crushed up rolling paper and a red clover
    in the pocket of his fieldmaster suede
Soft Shoulder of the many ageless lovers
Soft Shoulder of the Matzoh Western
Soft Shoulder of the dappled-in-light-tuesdays
Soft Shoulder single cup of whiskey single cup of wine
Soft Shoulder flitty slinky hips
             no dancer
Soft Shoulder leather queen spit hole
Soft Shoulder sucked your brother
Soft Shoulder Long Lash
Soft Shoulder had a dog as a boy
Soft Shoulder stupid poodle cowboy
Soft Shoulder isn’t in the band
        but they like to have him around
Soft Shoulder is a comfort
Soft Shoulder is highly capable
Soft Shoulder brings a certain ambiance
Soft Shoulder loves a closet case
Soft Shoulder has a heart of gold
Soft Shoulder has a gold tooth
Soft Shoulder is missing a canine
Soft Shoulder has had spotty and inadequate dental care
Soft Should smiles and says
    these are just rocks and I’m just a river


Soft Shoulder will corrupt you
Soft Shoulder will glimpse you up utopia
    and in this way he will transmit to you his disease of longing
    and you know what longing makes you, right kid?
Soft Shoulder coaxes pit bull soft belly
Soft Shoulder coaxes psychotic geriatric chihuahua
Soft Shoulder knows the touch of the maligned
Soft Shoulder runs jeweled fingers over
    the chest of a beautiful old man
    each coaxing beloved panting need
    an evening an afternoon
Soft Shoulder says when two faggots rock their aching hips
    and learn spelunking science (i heard the real guys call it caving)
    edging into the darkness of any gorgeous opening they find–––
    –––that makes the creosote sweat and glow
    dazzling in the clear unflinching desert
    –––that makes the good movies get made
Soft Shoulder says it makes the whole fucking earth vibrate


Soft Shoulder lives in another man's throat
    warm humid pink bedroom the light
    comes in dappled and flecked, bouncing
    off the grapefruit sized disco ball
    resting against the uvula
Soft Shoulder makes his living
    off whatever comes down
    he and the man have an arrangement
Soft Shoulder makes himself scarce a night
    or two when asked, no questions
    both contribute to the floss fund
    and in this way they get along fine

    what does Mouth Man get out of it?
Soft Shoulder is wonderful company


Soft Shoulder resolves against rules in favor of a better life
Soft Shoulder has had his share of gurus, culty people,
    in-one-hand-and-out-the-other reiki guys, revolutionaries,
    clergymen, middle managers, woo-woo peddlers, the PTA
Soft Shoulder is a union man indeed it was
Soft Shoulder who first sketched––joint bouncing
    between his Talmudic lips––the first logo of
    but he has been known to miss meetings now and then
Soft Shoulder says no number of rules will save your life
Soft Shoulder crumbles coast sage between his fingers
    What IS it with Jewish guys and the WEST
Soft Shoulder’s grandfather traveled with the opera in a cover wagon
    ––––No shit!
    So he has that going for him
Soft Shoulder considers the poolhall but heads home to play oregon trail
        you have died from typhoid
        you have died from cholera
        you have died from snakebite
        you have died from accidental gunshot wounds
        you have died from exhaustion
        you have died from exposure
        you have died from madness
        you have died from virus
        you have died from bad news
Soft Shoulder gets death like a person who has loved dogs and older people
Soft Shoulder gets death like a faggot
Soft Shoulder is the stick pile beside a well tended compost heap
Soft Shoulder throws back his head and laughs
                 IN CURSIVE

Zach Ozma is an interdisciplinary artist. Embodiment theory, archival research, and neo-classically gay imagery inform his practice. Employing mimesis, pedagogy, humor, surprise, and reward, he works in a variety of materials including ceramics, found objects, performance, writing, and works on paper. He is the author of BLACK DOG DRINKING FROM AN OUTDOOR POOL (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2019) and with Ellis Martin co-edited WE BOTH LAUGHED IN PLEASURE: The Selected Diaries of Lou Sullivan (a 2020 Lambda Literary Award winner. Nightboat Books, 2019). He holds a BFA in Community Arts from California College of the Arts in Oakland. Ozma lives and works in the Philadelphia area.
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20 May 2024

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