Even the Title is a Safeword

A Democrat’s safeword is, “Beagle!”
A Republican’s safeword is, “Beagle!”
A Libertarian’s safeword is, “Ayn Rand!”
The President’s safeword is, “Drone strike!”
Sarah Palin’s safeword is, “This is what our troops are fighting for!”

A Presbyterian’s safeword is, “Picnic!”
A Catholic’s safeword is, “Sorry!”
A Jew’s safeword is, “Yom Kippur!”
A Buddhist safeword is, “What if this pain is an illusion?”

A common lesbian safeword is, “Patriarchy!”
or, occasionally, “Audre Lorde!”

Gay men have had the same safeword since
the late seventies, looking back on its origins
with a sense of camp nostalgia: “Mustache!”

Except of course for closeted gay men,
who seek discreet sexual partners by using Craigslist.
Their safeword is, “Bro, what the hell? I said I don’t kiss!”

Allen Ginsberg’s safeword was, “Peyote!”
Amiri Baraka’s safeword is, “Crackers!”
Walt Whitman’s safeword was, “Hubris!”
Stephen King’s safeword is predictable.

The first recorded use of a safeword
dates back to ancient Babylon,
when King Nebuchadnezzar told one of his concubines,
“Stop… Stop… Guards!”

The state safeword of California is, “Fake tan!”
The state safeword of Texas is, “Immigrants!”
The national safeword of England is, “That’ll be all, thanks!”

That woman from your neighborhood, the one
who always wears t-shirts with wolves, dolphins,
or Tweety Bird on them? She has no safeword
because she can take it.

Sometimes you’re most afraid
of using your safeword, so you just say,
“I do.”

*

Evan J. Peterson is the author of the chapbooks Skin Job and The Midnight Channel, as well as volume editor of Gay City 5: Ghosts in Gaslight, Monsters in Steam. His poetry, fiction, journalism, and criticism have appeared in Weird Tales, The Stranger, The Rumpus, Court Green, and Aim for the Head: An Anthology of Zombie Poetry, from which his poetry was excerpted in The New York Times. Evanjpeterson.com

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