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Billy Merrell

Billy Merrell (c) 2013 by David LevithanBilly Merrell was born on January 7, 1982, in St. Louis, MO, and raised in Jacksonville, FL. He studied writing and journalism at Douglas Anderson School of the Arts and the University of Florida before receiving his MFA in Poetry from Columbia University. In 2003, at the age of 21, he published his first book of poetry, Talking in the Dark with Scholastic’s PUSH imprint. In 2006, he co-edited (with David Levithan) The Full Spectrum: A New Generation of Writing about Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning, and Other Identities, which received a Lambda Literary Award. His poems have since appeared in the print anthologies Best Gay Poetry 2008, The Best Young Writers and Artists in America, Divining Divas, 21 Proms, A Face to Meet the Faces, and in David Levithan’s The Lover’s Dictionary.


[All he drinks are suicides]

All he drinks are suicides,
schizophrenic elixirs
that let him pump his cup,

trigger after trigger,
down the length
of the soda fountain.

Our friend says it’s gross.
He shakes his head and smiles.
That’s the risk, he says,

offering me a taste.
But when I take a sip
it’s the same old sugar.


Of course, it gets easier. But there is still that
occasional panic. Hungry, or even starved
for history, that sense of belonging, you
do a frantic search at the library. Keywords:

WRITER and the screen distills the canon.
You pace by the aisle until it’s empty, read
that anthology in a safe corner, embarrassed

by the cover, though there’s really nothing
threatening about it. And then there are those
first loves: Auden, Doty, Whitman. They say
Here is the world. Here. It’s yours and it’s

all right. So you want to check it out, even
stand in line while your palms sweat
against the laminate, before you figure out
you have five dollars and thirty cents,

which is just enough to photocopy
the better third. So you step out of line,
hurry frantically until fifty-three pages
of their world are yours.