SPOTLIGHT: Carbon Footprint, the new chapbook from Donny Winter

Goth Night at a Gay Club

Rap slaps my ears

in whimsical club-smoke

while I watch you wrap

your legs around him like scissors.

A lemon slice hangs on an empty glass

before it shatters beneath them.

Chain necklaces clink and knot together

as Edward Cullen doppelgangers make out

beneath nuclear blast strobe lights.

The dance floor booms under footfalls

like a thunderstorm, while its black light

electricity keeps us all aglow, and I,

the moth in a field of butterflies, am

willingly swallowed by their bodies

to keep this eyeliner a solid charcoal.


Every day, you come in and touch me,

hands on thighs,

breath on neck,

half-wit compliments.

You joke that I get more action from

your advances than anything I’ve ever

gotten from a man.

If only you knew what I’ve “gotten.”

Your eyes glare behind leers when you’re with friends—

You hate gays, but you’re okay with touching them.

Yes, I hate that I blush when you put

your patriot eyes on me.

You find ways to get what you want

from the half-plucked gay, picked the wrong way.

You strut in, get your cup of coffee,

flit around me—a deceptive wasp

hunting for undeserved nectar.

I hide behind coffee pots and pastry racks,

hoping you’ll just leave.

Then you ask,

“How’s my buddy?”

Your strong arms embrace me —

whether to hug or ruin, I don’t know.

I yearn for customers to come in when you

hold me for more than ten seconds,

but I’m there alone.

This isn’t a hug anymore.

I move, then get pulled back—fingers through belt-loops.

                        Am I blushing?


It’s subtle how it develops,

the way old soil bloats beneath our feet

like an overfilled water balloon.

We make plans to deflate ourselves by

any means necessary because we’ve

lost the will to fill the extra space 

we think we consume.

Mirrors are reality checks where 

phantoms laugh at how we don’t

fit in the frame, so, we don some black

and act like photo editors:

crop the top to blend our bulks

into backgrounds where it’s safe with

no attention drawn.

We conveniently justify what we do:

skip meals to save money,

take laxatives to cleanse ourselves

of this gravitic density,

exist as slaves to exercise equipment because

our bodies are planets in decaying orbits,

but at least we’re smaller when we evaporate.

Mary Sue

On nights lit by laptop light,

word-documents were paper shields

swallowing me, protection from bullies at school.

Tokusatsu sinews glued my bones together,

the wreckage of the math-class monster’s rampage.

For years, my Godzilla-fingers plodded across lettered cities,

key-clicks became crowd-roars when I saved Tokyo—and finally

they noticed me and gave me Mothra-wings.

I found ways to drive them away; the beasts always fled—

those that remained were the monsters in my head.

Today, sculpted stories are rubber suits I wear as

I’m an anomalous monster in an angst-filled city,

a fierce warrior on paper because I was always bigger in Tokyo.


You walk in,

head held high—

solar eyes dawn

in a crowd of casual college kids.

Muscle-knuckles interlaced,

warm flesh-nets bandage half-healed wounds

as you smile and wave,

a spirited nod.

Your hand must feel strong

when embraced with his—

palms pressed together

like vines braced against trees.

Fingers clasped—

sway back and forth like playground swings.

Eyes focus, heads turn—

nods of praise

in awe of the two-man parade.

“In these dark times, especially for the marginalized, Donny Winter’s debut poetry collection, Carbon Footprint, is a godsend. While the book is a compilation of several individual pieces, one could argue that it reads like the narrative of a protagonist’s struggles related to his identity. Filled with outstanding images, many of which are tied to the natural world, the book introduces readers to the buried anecdotes that haunt the speaker, the details of how he comes to terms with who he is, and finally, how he rises above the “bones” that he has finally excavated. This poetic journey is ultimately a story of triumph. It is a book, a beacon, not just for the LGBTQ+ community, but for all decent people who are desperate to find the light that will guide them through what seems like a never-ending tunnel of despair. Simply put, Carbon Footprint is the hope we need.”

– Jared Morningstar, Author of American Fries: Poems and Stories


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