To answer your question, Backstreet Boys: yes, you are sexual

Marlin M. Jenkins



I watched it again and again on my sister’s VHS —

          abandoned in haunted mansion, bus broke down, the boys

sleep and wake as monsters: werewolf, Dracula,

          Phantom, Mr. Hyde, and of course Nick as a mummy

asking, Am I original? Am I the only one? Am I

          sexual? — and all his boys a chorus of yes. I watched you

and I too wanted to call myself back, to have my body

          rocked. Just as we all knew what would be revealed

when Kevin’s Jekyll profile turned the other way, we

          knew the tropes and I knew already what it felt to wake

into something monstrous, knew just one context

          for the word abomination: the monster I was, am.

Nick asks not Am I sexy? but Am I sexual?

          in this house they find and upon their entering

it becomes theirs. No one questions Nick’s

          questions but we know boys need to prove.

We should know to ask in response: if the yes

          or no was from a woman, would he wait to hear it?

What might he later take, despite the case

          dismissed? As could be expected, turns out the being

a monster wasn’t real: a bad dream. Or was it?

          They all scream. “Backstreet’s Back” implies

a return, a pattern. I know I’m not the only one

          to see five boys banded and want from them

answers. These boys, this haunting, a question

          about the self I waited for other boys to answer.

I too wake and scream and in my dreams I dance.

          Usually the boys danced together but this time they spend

as much time apart: there are different kinds

          of monsters, each with a desire to take, be it blood,

an angel of music, another version of self. When girls

          screamed at these boys I wished to scream too but

the trapped voice called me back to my own body.

          Who’s really the monster here? I keep asking questions

even when I already know the answer.


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