One-Night Stand and Other Poems

One-Night Stand and Other Poems

by Arnold T. Schwab


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"I'm a big fan of Arnold Schwab's poems -- devilishly clever, and revealing, to say the least! As a ninety year old myself who hangs on to his sexuality, I give a cheer to another ninety year old who refuses to allow himself to be neutered by society's ageist prejudices and writes about his sexuality. I can't praise enough these skilful, entertaining poems that invite us to peer in through his bedroom window -- and there's plenty going on there!"
-Edward Field

"I love reading Arnold Schwab's poetry, and you will too. Witty, bracing, sexy, elegant, self-deprecating, but always honest, his verse covers a full range of human experience with a kind eye and understanding heart. As a craftsman in the art of poetry, he's stingy with words, choosing only the fittest. Lucky reader, see for yourself."
-Leslie B. Mittleman
Emeritus Professor of English, CSULB

"If A. E. Housman were alive in the past three decades, he would have welcomed Arnold Schwab's keenly crafted and frank observations on life as an aging gay man. Literate, ironic, humorous, and at times poignant, these poems are a welcome addition to the canon of 21st-century poetry. Readers of any sexual orientation will find something in them to cherish and relate to."
-Clifton Snider

"While most writers are past their creative momentum in their eighties, Arnold Schwab's pen does not run dry. Well into his nineties he continues to write poems with news that stays news, contemplating among other themes loves that might have been, and recording underexplored frontiers of gay experience in old age. Saturated with ever present irony and humor paired with self-knowledge and expert skills, Schwab's use of vocabulary, rhyme, and meter creates a generous legacy that contributes to our knowledge of the gay human condition from youth to advanced old age. The range of themes in this collection is as impressive as the span of decades and the cultural changes it addresses."
-James Benedict, PhD

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781496904874
Publisher: AuthorHouse
Publication date: 05/20/2014
Pages: 192
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.44(d)

Read an Excerpt

One-Night Stand and Other Poems

By Arnold T. Schwab

AuthorHouse LLC

Copyright © 2014 Arnold T. Schwab
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4969-0487-4


    After the Ball

    The college prom drew near and I required
    A female date. I could not bring a guy
    As one courageous gay youth did in high
    School later. Now, no hero, I desired
    What other juniors did, and was inspired
    To ask a plain but bright co-ed in my
    Drama class, hoping that she would not try
    To be more than a one-night escort hired
    To dance with me.

    But post-prom I grew tense.
    Would she expect that now I would make out
    With her? My brain revolved in fruitless swirls
    On how I could decline without offense,
    Avoiding any giveaway or doubt,
    Until she said "Relax, friend. I like girls."


    "You sure as hell don't look or sound
    Like a Navy officer;
    The Navy must have been awfully hard up
    During the war
    When they made you a JG!"
    I reddened. (I would have made full lieutenant
    If promotions hadn't been frozen
    A month before I was due.)
    But what could I say (in my high voice?)
    It was 1948, and I, a Naval Reservist,
    On a training cruise to Europe
    With eager Annapolis midshipmen,
    Was bunked with regular Navy ensigns
    Freshly graduated from Annapolis.
    A "ninety-day wonder"
    Under the V-7 program,
    Which was supposed to allow college students to graduate
    Before being called to Midshipmen School
    To receive three months training
    And an ensign's commission,
    I didn't feel like an officer
    Despite two years in the Pacific
    Aboard a baby aircraft carrier.

    Now a baby-faced graduate student in English at Harvard,
    I didn't talk about "dames"
    But spent my off-duty hours
    Reading for the PhD oral exam.
    In my working hours on this ship,
    I sat in an office coding and decoding messages
    As I had done during the war.

    My favorite duty then was writing poems
    For the yearbooks at graduation from Communication School
    And at the dock in Tacoma,
    While the carrier awaited decommissioning.
    When the ensigns' taunts continued,
    What plain message, I wondered,
    Could I send them
    To end their insults?

    When we reached Villefranche
    And some officers, hot for whores,
    Were asked to request condoms.
    I got an idea.
    I remembered reading
    That Oscar Wilde, in exile
    In a French village,
    Went, at Ernest Dowson's insistence,
    To visit the ladies of the night with the poet.
    When Dowson asked him, as they left,
    How he had liked the visit,
    "It was like chewing cold mutton," Wilde replied,
    "But tell it in England
    Where it will entirely restore my reputation."
    So when condoms were distributed to officers,
    I lined up just ahead of the ensigns
    And took a handful (which I didn't intend to use);
    Their eyebrows lifted,
    They looked at each other,
    And one of them raised his thumbs
    And winked at me.

    Back in the bunkroom, I heard them discuss
    When and where they planned to visit the brothel.
    Reaching it before them,
    I managed to pay the madam
    To instruct her girls to tell the ensigns,
    Who arrived just as I was leaving,
    "That young officer who just left --
    What a man!"

    For the rest of the cruise,
    I heard no more snide remarks.

    Killed in Action

    Don't prate of war by fingering a place
    Within a patch of pins stuck in a wall
    To mark the towns and villages that fall.
    Describe to me the frowning, frightened face,
    The sweaty palms, the mind and pulse that race,
    The chest that tightens at the sergeant's call,
    The legs that stiffen on the muddy crawl
    That leads from human lands to no-man's space.

    I had a golden friend whose body lies
    "Not far," they said, from pointing to a mass
    Of battle-tracking metal, cold and bare;
    But nothing pin-wise generals devise
    Can rescue him from geometric grass—
    And that is all I understand or care.

    Set in bronze, the lapis lazuli eyes
    Framed by the bullion fringe that was his hair.
    The grace, the glow, made people stop and stare
    And feel a mild sirocco swirl and rise
    Across his wake, heating December skies.
    The hibernating hearts that left their lair
    Too soon he thawed and saved from disrepair,
    Sparked into April beating by surprise.

    I guess he met a lonely stranger, tall
    And dark, one icy day, who walked apace,
    Glanced casually and dazzled did not pass.
    But bore him home to warm a frozen hall;
    For summer disappeared without a trace
    That year for me, and gold turned into brass.

    Born Again

    When I still sought perfection,
    Naive and innocent,
    My soul failed stiff inspection
    And off to Hell I went.

    And there I faced the fire
    And breathed the acrid scent
    Of an heretic's pyre
    Lighted with my assent.

    But as my toes were toasting
    I started to repent
    The notion I'd been hosting
    In my predicament.

    "You need a fresh beginning"
    Were signals smoke had sent,
    "To suffer without sinning"
    No human being was meant.

    "Before you burn in prison
    You should be pleasure-bent."
    So like a phoenix risen
    I flew for devilment.

    First Gay Date

    New York, late summer, nineteen forty-eight:
    Naïve at twenty-six, still it was clear
    To me I was destined to be queer
    And needed help in coping with my fate.
    My counselor, no doctor, was first-rate:
    And told me what I needed most to hear:
    "Accept yourself for what you are, don't fear
    What others think, date guys, you'll find a mate."

    I mentioned then that I would like to get
    To know the blond whose hour preceded mine.
    The invitation to his flat so lit
    My kindling hopes for days I pictured wine,
    Soft music, candlelight, a tête-à-tête—
    Instead, we four played hearts—and that was it.

    First Relationship

    1. The Beginning

    We met in Hollywood at a gay dance
    My closest friends had urged me to attend.
    Timid at thirty-eight, I never went
    To such affairs. This time I took a chance
    There'd be no raid, disc jockey or a band
    I don't recall. I doubt that I would fend
    Off curiosity enough to send
    An invitation by voice or by a glance.
    But then he came—tall, dark, an average face
    Not at all my fantasy 's blue-eyed blond.
    We danced for hours, talked, clicked, and then wound
    Up on a couch-bed in my friends' beach place.
    What seemed a simple one-night stand began
    A partnership that had a three-year span.

    2. The Ending

    It wasn't love at first sight or romance.
    It was, I think, a signal that I sent
    Myself that he at last might be the friend
    To help me leave my parents' house and fence
    And with his greater gay experience
    Lead me into a world that I was meant
    To enter as a youth who liked a gent
    But slowed by war and fear of label "nance."
    Because my father never showed a trace
    Of an embrace or kiss at home, I found
    I did not hug or kiss my lover, grounds
    for leaving. Too, I craved the sex-sought chase.
    It struck me, as without my tears he ran,
    I should have sowed wild oats, then chose a man.

    Midnight Snack

    When he came home at midnight
    From the Chinese restaurant
    Where he worked as a busboy,
    He brought into the bland bedroom
    The seductive aroma
    Of won ton soup, fried shrimp,
    Barbecued spareribs,
    Egg rolls, hot mustard,
    Peking duck, chow mein,
    Sweet-and-sour pork.
    Soy sauce, glazed pineapple,
    Pea pods, water chestnuts,
    And exotic delicacies and flavors
    I couldn't identify.
    One whiff awakened me with a pang
    Of hunger.
    "You smell good enough to eat,"
    I always said.
    "Well," was his usual reply.

    Cruising the Penny Arcade

    Willy, sweet Willy,
    Peep-shows are chilly,
    You need flesh-fire
    To warm you and fill.
    Come to my live show,
    My rock-and-role jive show
    (The temperature's higher).
    Will you,

    Willy, sweet Willy,
    I'll play you a dilly,
    Double-length features
    The swingingest bill
    With all the trimming,
    Except of course women
    (They're not my creatures).
    Will you,

    Willy, sweet Willy,
    I'd really be silly
    To offer you money
    That's only for swill.
    My theater's free,
    No coin slot for me,
    It's curtain time, honey;


    One-Night Stand

    Did you have a good time on liberty?
    I guess there's hardly any place to go
    If you can't enter a bar.
    You're old enough to fight a war
    But not to drink a beer in a bar!
    That's mean.

    How old are you?
    Where are you stationed?
    Do you like beer?
    I have some at my place.
    Want to come with me?
    Do you live far?
    Only ten minutes away.

    Bet you could use some relaxation.
    And I'll drive you back to the base.

    The Excuse

    After we both had come from draining sex
    In which he didn't act as merely "trade"
    But took no more than what he freely gave,
    I had no warning signal to expect
    His saying as I started to get dressed:
    "Stay naked, faggot, till I get my pay;
    I'm glad I'm not like you, a fucking gay.
    If I don't get the dough your blood is next."
    "The only money I keep here, " I lied,
    Is in my wallet; take it now and go.
    If you could face the truth, you'd realize
    That money wasn't what you wanted most
    And understand your need chose me as host:
    I didn't make you hug and kiss and blow."

    Before Foreplay

    "You have a hard chest," I said,
    Tapping it,
    "You have a hard stomach," I said
    Patting it,
    "You have a hard thigh," I said,
    Pinching it,
    "This should be hard now," I said,
    Inching it.
    Then we went to bed.

    The Old Flame

    We were never lovers
    Though I loved him for years.
    On our one trip together.
    I stroked his head one morning,
    Just after we awoke
    (In twin beds).
    The only time I touched him
    Except for an arm around his shoulder
    Or a handshake
    After a long separation.
    But if I was driving,
    He would light two cigarettes
    At the same time
    And give me one,
    Like a kiss.
    During the winter nights near Boston,
    Where I was living with friends.

    Not far from his house,
    He listened, in the parked car
    With the motor running for warmth,
    As I spilled over
    With explanations
    To help him understand gays,
    While he lit the cigarettes.

    When he broke his leg in an accident
    After basic training,
    I visited him almost every afternoon
    At the nearby military hospital.
    I thought I saw gentleness

    In his eyes when he looked at me then;
    Perhaps it was only pain.
    After his medical discharge,
    We were together often.
    I don't know how I found so much to say,
    As we smoked.
    But needing more than he could give,
    I finally put a continent between us.

    Three years later,
    When I returned to stay
    With the same friends,
    He was unattached
    And apparently had no girl friends,
    Still living at home.
    Over the phone, his voice sounded tender.
    Soon, we were swimming, playing squash,
    Going to ballgames, talking,

    To keep us together,
    I came up with the crazy,
    Wholly impractical idea
    Of our going into the real estate business
    With my father in California.

    We even set a date for leaving,
    Before he told his parents.
    Then, suddenly, the phone calls stopped.
    I lit my own cigarettes,
    One after another,
    Until I quit smoking for good
    A few weeks afterward.
    That summer I drove across country alone.
    Eventually, I heard he had married
    And had three kids.

    Fifteen years later,
    I bumped into him
    At a baseball game in Fenway Park
    While I was visiting my friends again.
    I recognized his voice first.
    Yes, it had been a long time.
    No, I hadn't gone into real estate.
    "I'm in sales."
    No, I'd never married.
    "I'm divorced myself."
    No, I didn't live alone.
    "I ... I'm sorry about...."
    Forget it.
    "Here's my card; call me sometime."
    No, thanks.
    My lips relaxed:
    He didn't light me up


Excerpted from One-Night Stand and Other Poems by Arnold T. Schwab. Copyright © 2014 Arnold T. Schwab. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Acknowledgements, xi,
A. Early Gay,
B. Gay Relationships,
C. Miscellaneous Portraits,
D. Parents, Relatives and Friend,
E. Celebrities,
F. Old Age,
G. Light Poems,

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