Steve Orth

Favorite Gray T-Shirt

I'm in my living room, eating some sardines, increasing my omegas.

Got a little bit of oil from the sardine can on my khakis,

and that’s a bummer.

I'm not sure if that'll come out in the wash.

Sometimes stuff like that comes out in the wash and other times it doesn't.

It can ruin your clothes if it doesn't.

It got close to happening once with my favorite gray t-shirt.

A few months ago, I was frying some food, doing some cooking

and I was wearing my favorite gray t-shirt.

It was a perfect storm of me being too laissez-faire with my favorite shirt.

I should've worn an apron or changed into a different shirt,

a shirt I didn’t give a shit about.

Hey, remember when we were kids and we were painting

and they advised you to bring in one of your dad's old shirts,

like a button shirt that you wear backwards.

I could've done that, even though my dad and I are the same size now.

The point I'm trying to make is that I should have done something.

That's what I'm trying to say.

Because, sure as the wind blows, some grease splattered

on to my shirt, as soon as I added these beautiful lean boneless

skinless chicken thighs to the hot pan.

I remember yelling in a rage that I got grease on my favorite gray shirt.

My then-girlfriend Bernice came running out from the bedroom.

I told her what happened, and she told me to take the shirt off

and so I did. And she started putting a bunch of salt on the shirt

and I'm thinking, "why the fuck is she seasoning my shirt?"

But I'm in the middle of cooking these lean boneless

skinless chicken thighs, and I've got to focus.

And hot grease is still splashing out, hitting my stomach,

my bare chest, and my nipples.

I scream out each time the grease splashes me.

I look over at Bernice, wondering why she's not reacting

to my screams of pain, and it's because she's too focused

on my gray t-shirt which, at this point, seemed fruitless.

She should probably just throw it in the garbage,

because it's probably ruined, but Bernice was now dabbing it with club soda.

And I say to her, "what the fuck are you doing?"

And she's like, "what?" and I’m like, "don't use the club soda!"

and she's says, "I'm trying to save your favorite gray t-shirt."

and I in response say very powerfully, "But, I was going to make mojitos!

I need the club soda for mojitos!" And then fucking Bernice,

you know what she said?

She said, "I thought you promised you were going to quit drinking!"

And I was taken aback. Because I didn't think she was serious about that.

So I said, "I am going to quit drinking.

I was planning to cook us a beautiful meal and have mojitos

as a kind of send-off to drinking. Like one final night of celebration.

That's why I was wearing my favorite shirt, because it was a special occasion."

Bernice stopped scrubbing my shirt and looked really serious.

She said, "I can't believe after everything I said to you last night,

after you came home at 4am with dried blood on your face…"

But as she was talking, I realized that the chicken was burning

and I had to turn away from her, so I could focus on the chicken,

because I was trying to salvage our special dinner.

Bernice yelled at me, "You need to listen to me!"

And I was like, "Babe, hold on. The chicken is burning."

And so, I flipped the birds in the pan, and yeah, they were dark,

but I had managed to save them from burning.

I moved them around in the pan a bit and added some pepper

and that's when I heard the door open and shut.

And I guess that was Bernice's way of breaking up with me.

So mature! The stain did come out of the shirt, thank god.

But now I'm in a very similar situation in the present day

with the sardine oil and my khaki pants.

And I'm all out of club soda because last night I made mojitos again.

So, I don't know. I might be shit out of luck with these khakis,

which sucks. They were my favorite pair of pants.


Me and My Horse

Dear Abby,

I feel like my horse is upset with me.

Yesterday, he refused all hay.

And today he won't even look at me.

I'm afraid to ride to be honest.

Our trust seems splintered.

He's never been violent,

but he's never treated me this way before.

I don't know what I did wrong.

I wish he would learn to speak and tell

me if I did something to offend him.

My gut thinks it has something to do 

when recently we were out on a ride

and a swarm of bees circled my head.

I lost my composure and kicked and pulled 

at the same time. And my horse hated that.

Abby, if you were to Google the phrase,

"what not to do when riding a horse,"

kicking and pulling at the same time

is number 3 on the list.

Number 6 is "showing off"

and I never shown off.

I am actually a pretty bashful rider

because I frequently masturbate while riding my horse.

This is just something I like to do.

It all started, a few months ago,

when I was still reeling from a breakup

and feeling awfully lonesome.

And with the rhythm of the gallop between my legs,

I thought "hey, this feels pretty darn good."

But the best time, the greatest time happened just

the other day when we rode out to Hickshaw Ridge

and I saw the most beautiful sunset I've ever laid eyes on.

The clouds were pink and blackberry and the whole sky

was purple and teal.

It was like I felt the power of the universe

for the first time. A swell of nature's majesty

and that's hot as hell!

So, I started going at it & it felt really great.

It got so intense as I was nearing climax,

I was hootin' and hollarin', fully giving myself over to the sunset,

and that's when my horse started neighing, and rearing, 

standing up on its hind legs. This element 

of danger really pushed my orgasm into the stratosphere.

And I was able to fully let go

of any inhibitions, and the fears of dread that have plagued me

through my recent years.

My eyes stayed transfixed towards the hot pink phenomenon

And that disappearing sun was a portal to not just sex ecstasy, 

but, dare I say, the divine. A real thrill ride!

I headed home as the dusk filled the sky,

taking long drags from my Marlboro Red.

And that's when we ran into all those damn bees!


I would love to get my horse feeling good

again, so I can return to the ridge

and get off on that exquisite reminder of grace

and fragility the universe surrounds us with.

Do you know much about horses?

And if so, what should I do?

Guy With A Horse



STEVE ORTH is a poet based out of Oakland, CA. His books include Lust for Life (Travelin’ Lite, 2018), The Life & Times of Steve Orth (Dogpark Collective, 2020), and most recently Inflatable Ball (Bottlecap Press, 2023). His work has appeared in Hot Pink Magazine, SFMOMA blog, Afternoon Visitor, the Bullshit Lit Anthology, and Trilobite.