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Conversation with a bigot

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She’s got red-tights on and she’s got her nose in a book. It’s pretty a-typical.

The Bigot watches her drink her hot chocolate (with Almond milk, hold the whip cream, nix the vanilla) until she picked up her copy of SMITTEN this is what love looks like / poetry by women for women.

The Bigot made clucking sounds as he reads from the table over, the front cover of the poetry anthology written by 120 lesbian and bi poets and artists and eventually, unable to restrain himself, the bigot came over to her table (uninvited, as bigots usually are).

“Young Lady. Do you realize homosexuality is a crime against humanity?” He proffers in the same calm tone he might have asked; “Do you really like Hot Chocolate on a 80 degree day?”

She might be a little vain and a little shy. She might not like putting her face in the limelight but she’s met enough people like The Bigot to know how to respond. “Says who?” (She wanted to say a great deal of other possible replies, but holds her relatively well mannered tongue).

“Says GOD” said The Bigot.

“Have you spoken to Him lately?”

“I speak to Him every day.” (a self-satisfied grin)

“He makes that much time for you?” (raised eyebrows)

“He does.”

“Well that’s good then. I’m glad you have someone to talk to.”

“He would talk to you too you know. If you weren’t hurting him.”

“I’m hurting God?”

“All Queers hurt God. You go against the natural order of the world. God wants us to procreate and have families, God wants us to be happy. No homosexual is happy.”

“I think 120 poets might disagree with you here.” (points to book, which looks pretty happy next to a half-finished hot chocolate).

“They’re lost souls.”

“Lost from whom?”

“Lost from God. Shut out from God because of their behavior. Their choices.”

God doesn’t talk to them because they’re gay?”

“He wants us to love one another but obey the natural laws. Homosexuality is not a natural law.”

(thinks of stories of gay penguins or cheap shots like ‘oh but it feels so good’ and then decides it’s Just. Not. Worth. It.)

“Well you are entitled to your opinion (thinks; although I’d rather not hear it) Sir”

“You should be ashamed of yourself.” (I guess he’s not getting the reaction he wanted, wonders what reaction he expected?)

“I am not sure you can speak FOR God Sir.”

“That’s right you can’t.” – Young man, green waistcoat, brown eyes, standing to the right of The Bigot.

“This is between myself and the young lady” The Bigot is not pleased at the interloper’s presence.

“Not as long as it’s about hate it isn’t”

“You one of those fag men then? Standing up for bestiality and abomination then?”

“What if I were?”

“Then you Sir, would be a sinner.”

“Says you.”

“Says God.” (he sounds awfully sure)

“I don’t hear Him saying that.”

“He wouldn’t make himself known to you, if you were sinning Son.”

“I’d have thought that’s EXACTLY when he’d make himself known. After all why would He talk to YOU if you have all the answers? Wouldn’t He talk to the Sinner most of all?”

“Do you KNOW your Bible Son?”

“I know THE Bible Sir. I know the Koran too. And the Talmud. I try to stay up-to-date with things of importance. To avoid being a bigot.”

“You calling me a bigot son?”

“I’m saying the chances are it’s not God talking to you Sir, it’s your own fear and hate. I’m saying that if God exists He wouldn’t hate someone for being born unable to love someone of the opposite gender.”

“You’re just making excuses for criminal acts son. God would be disgusted at the lot of you.”

“Including the 120 poets in SMITTEN Sir?” I interrupt (pointing to the book, now next to a 3/4 empty cup of Hot Chocolate, I managed to get a few sips in).

“All of darnation if you intend on spreading that FILTH.”

I think of the words. FILTH. CRIME. HATE. CONDEMNATION. DISGUST. I remember a conversation I had with my grandmother who had unexpectedly converted to Mormonism a few years prior to her death.

“Grandma, I think I like girls.”

“Sure you do sweetheart.”

“No. I mean I really like girls.”

“We all like girls sweetheart.” (we DO?)

“I like girls in the way you like boys.”

A HIDEOUS SILENCE

A BOOK PLACED NEXT TO MY BED THAT EVENING, ENTITLED: Why Homosexuality is a Sin.

NOTHING ELSE EVER SAID.

I think of all the kids who had these and worse experiences. Of the kids who were kicked out of home. Of the kids like me who grew up to lose jobs, lose friends, struggle to fit in. I think of the hate that became okay to spout without any basis and without any defense. I think of the Supreme Court hearing the case right now about Discrimination in the Workplace and whether it should be legal for a person to be fired based upon their ‘sexual preference’. I think how it’s nearly 2020 and we’re STILL asking questions like that. I think of how I made the point to a friend of mine about how if it is wrong to stop people of different races from marrying, the same argument can be made against firing someone because of something they are born with. I remember my friend saying it’s not the same thing. it doesn’t say in the Bible that people of color marrying people of another race is wrong, but it does say homosexuality is wrong. I think of how that’s not exactly true and without being pedantic none of us really know the background of Sodom & Gomorrah but it’s a heck of a lot more complicated than ancient homophobia. I think of how women who menstruate aren’t forced to do so outside of city walls and how everyone eats shell fish but somehow that’s okay. How we pick and choose our hate. How we still as gays, have a long way to go and being only 2/3 percent of the world this will likely always be the case.

The Bigot has moved off. He was talking to the brown eyed man but I had tuned them out. Thinking instead of how maybe 20 years ago I wouldn’t have read a gay book in public I would have been too afraid. How there were still reasons to be afraid but I’d be dammed if I stopped now. Now I’d create the damn books myself if I had to!

The brown eyed man comes back to my table. He smiles a warm smile and says; “I’m sorry about that. I’m really sorry about that. I couldn’t keep quiet when I heard what he was saying to you.”

I smile and thank him quietly. What I really want to say is; Thank you for standing up for me. For all of us. Because so often people don’t. They don’t think it’s necessary. They don’t think it matters. They don’t think it affects us. Or that we feel any less safe than anyone else. Just like a black man walking down the road with a hoodie on. A gay may fear being raped or beaten for kissing someone they love in public. It still happens. IT STILL HAPPENS.

“I used to be a homophobe.” The brown eyed man explains. “I’m sorry but I did.” He sighs. “Until my daughter came out. And then I had to re-think everything. At first I was angry, disappointed, confused. Now I understand much better. I try to speak out for her. I want to be part of the change.”

I give him my copy of SMITTEN and I say; “This is a present for your daughter.”

“That’s terrific! But this is your only copy? You haven’t finished it yet?”

“I’m the editor of this book. I was re-reading it because it brings me so much joy. I’d be honored for your daughter to have a copy.”

I leave. It’s time to get back to work. The trees are beginning to look bare and the wind is picking up. My cup is still 3/4 empty and now it’s cold. But I feel really, really warm inside.

 

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life, poetry, prosetry, Uncategorized

Something of

Joan_of_Arc,_by_Gaston_BussiereThere is something

about you

they said

and they were right

in that way that isn’t universal

she did have something about her

and then she gave it to you

and you had

something about her

locked around your filigree neck.

When you whistled

only she heard your call

came running time and again

hands powdered with flour or words

losing each moment

something about her

because that is what happens when

girls give it away

without thought in little hand-made envelopes

as if it, and themselves, were

a paper boat let loose to rent

how then to remain whole?

they have to have it

to be

something

about

them

or they stay as tinsel in corners

gathering misapprehensions dust

no one remembered to take down

after the celebration was over

as hollow as old marzipan

left to suck up dry cupboard air

when placed for safe keeping by soft-hearted child

leaching color onto old towels

still smelling of beach and sand

how to build on sandcastles turning to powder

how to make bread rise when it rains

or dry clothes in damp

girls who grow from weeds

standing on asphalt

as cars spit exhaust and the world

is dirty and cold

how do they remember

the something about them

to keep going?

when rivers dry and the shape of regret

lies like a trace of memory

itching in place

we find our strength through

lifting others toward light

where for a moment they remember

in the purity of being held

tightly with grace

something of

 

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life, poetry, Uncategorized

Night becomes us

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I push people away

as they pushed away from me when I first learned

that’s what people do

so run ahead and do it first

you might tell them your real age, or show them the scars in your skin, that usually does it

with online trolls who really only want a

mirror little narcissist

you might show them your face and all the welts that

lay invisible and divisible like trails of tears

finding only drought

you might reveal your defeats and play join the dots

with stories for each one and then you may

know me just a little

except I don’t want to be known and even as I write

I remain anonymous to myself

the perpetuation of a dream instead

where we dance sweaty and disordered with our hair

collapsed like flamenco skirts in rivers of ruffles

two people with thick manes and thin skin

I taste blood on your lower lip and the depth of it

makes a vampire of me

your pulsing neck is salty from your keening

we interlace our hands like church mice and bad girls and best friends and artful dodgers

I feel your fingers pulsing within me as together we cleave

so much comes from a body who wants and so little from one who does not

when I see you, I want to close my eyes and hold onto the image

how you stand, the light caressing your flawless skin as

oil might run her rivets down your elongation

If choice were a bird, I’d choose you again

And once more, with the release of my lips from yours

A song passed between mouths like a key

Open my heart, keep yourself there

If choice were a thought, I’d choose you again

And once more, with the capture of your ebony and ivory

You, who is seamstress to my soul, play your flute

I hear it behind my eyes in the vault of my trust

If you were a dream I should better wish to wake

Our drowsy love may keep us drugged by its tempest

Sleeping in the passion of your touch

As sun sets and night becomes us

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prosetry

Sleeplessness and Unexpected Music

It’s far too early in the evening to say here accept this and good morning, let’s be hopefully oblivious to whatever may lie ahead, maybe, maybe no, not by night. What you do is for yourself, so no worries, though, maybe. We’re all in our heads anyway, curators of our own realities—or so I’ve heard and at times repeated. I am making my anyway down the still sun-sizzled sidewalk carrying fear in a ragged black duffle to the pawn shop on the other side of the overpass to swap it for the awful, uncertain of the deal I’ll get. Are you afraid of dying? a billboard asks in terms so uncertain I swear it’s trying to sell me something dark and pointless and cliché like tears in the rain but the sun is still up and the sky is clear though our humanity’s tearing at the seams, overstuffed with what divides. The forecast called for an 80% chance of fate, and the rest of life will precipitate from the choices we make, or so I mumble under my breath, feeling ashamedly hyperbolic. Sometimes I have eggs for breakfast, though, and I’m much more matter of fact. Sometimes the shadows cast by spells from the trees outside make me think about how thinking about you as I lay right there beside you in bed the night before left an aroma on me that the simple sometimes not so simple plunge of sleep did not wash off, a residue which in the fresh fleshy light of morning has condensed into a thin film over my entire being that if I were a scientist I might cheerfully analyze and classify. If I were a shaman or a healer and this duffle contained strength, grace, and dignity, on the other hand, I could write to you and create a small space for us, a universe within a universe, a small space of space where the sense of time is utterly independent and we are merely supporting characters summoning essences to mix up in our rituals. Rise, fall, rise, fall, rise—and on and on and on and around till death marked the final up or the final down. Such would be the tempo and tenor of us, the trajectory of our necessary indifference to “them.” We’re still who and what we are, though, thankfully, retracing faint dusty dried up traces of what were once slippery existentialisms like soapy bathtub bottoms for collecting shower thoughts, thoughts to turn to pictures, pictures to turn to stories, always to turn to stories. A right turn, and then a quick left, just past the corner store, I’ll see you there, maybe, maybe no.

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poetry, prosetry

fading out under the ashes of the night

For the child, time stretches out immeasurably in all directions, and it’s as if nothing more is needed than unencompassed possibility. A little blonde girl walking down the sidewalk with her father makes eye contact with me as I sit myself down in the couch by the window in the deepening sunset evening to read. She gives me the warmest little girl smile and a friendly wave as if fanning simple kindness my way through thick summer air and I hear her say “the neighbor” to her dad over the cicadas’ divertimento, without hearing what came from him. Did she come from him? I wonder about her future, and, in doing so, think back to what was once mine and I remember the way it looked from the interior, seemingly infinitesimal like looking up at stars projected on the dome of a planetarium. For some of us, the ceiling is just another direction. For others, it’s a destination.

My friend has been dead for six years though I only found out today and I’m not at all sure what kind of friend that makes me but I am certain we once shared dreams like young friends do of being more than where we came from. Some nights are defined by lack. Some nights are just thoughts. Some nights are like tonight.

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poetry

How to Steal the Sun

I fashioned her a heartstring harness
and asked her to jump
and she did –
into the beds
of prettier men.

I asked her once more
and she did –
but this time,
onto a plane,
unravelling the gossamer
as it flew.

But I remember –

how she had
plucked
the sun,
as if it were some shiny fruit,
and,
caressing it,
showed me
that it didn’t have to burn;

it was poignant
and fleeting –
like her smell,
which had refused to stain my sheets
and clothes.

She left,
promising
to love me tomorrow,

and when she did,

I forgot –
how would tomorrow come,
with the sun
sitting snug in her back pocket?

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life

Misgivings

You know most of this already.

In the car with them, sitting in the back seat with her up front passenger-wise and turned back to me the two of us and talking fast like always like she had something to sell that she knew we hadn’t the cash or care to buy and the rain pelted the windshield and the wipers swung right back and the dark was outside full of unfocused and flickering points of light, streetlamps and headlights and incidental bokeh, while some vague figure in shadow form all the while drove us on.

Afterspiel, when she’d used up all her words and most of the air in the vehicle, I told her in fact no, our problem is we try to do too much too fast, all force and no finesse, just blind dumb vigor and ataxia and too little brains, like these wipers here, perhaps, I felt, reaching for a metaphor, sweeping dismissive overreliance on artificial intelligences built up around sleights perceived and true and entitlements seemingly due, ungrounded emotion and mechanical philistinism with an inarticulable mission like the goons who forcibly removed that doctor from a plane in Chicago and probably went home that night and had the nerve to believe in civil society though in their idiomatics it’s hard to believe any such nerve is needed, they haven’t even the proper vocab for the fact that kids in the same city kill with AK-47s and five people died last Wednesday just because, nothing happening, nothing going on, just a Wednesday in the city and what do you make of that, if you were to stop and sit still and be quiet for a minute.

The other there with us in the back seat with me was compelled to agree with me and I wondered what keywords in her repertoire of principled social consciousness I tapped, knowing for sure she wasn’t packing even the slightest hint of directional allegory, as oblivious to irony as those goons and maybe just as gullible, just as crowdsourced, giving a mere simple pacific piggybacking mhmm and nod of head, pleased that someone had done the thing and spoken out because somewhere along the straight and narrow well-meaning way she acquired the notion that speaking out said something but it at the very least for the moment changed our atmosphere.

And with that, nevertheless, just her up front stillness and quiet and that slight sound and musculoskeletal gesture in the back beside me within the still-floating presence of my words, I’ll be damned if a faint fellowship did not for a moment shine upon us all four road-weary travelers like the immediate aftermath of a photograph flash, a fraction of assent trying its best to be illumination and hanging in the air and draping us in what I can only think to call our common humanity, common and shared and base, and for that instant it felt not as if we were two against her brazen, impudent one, not as if the three of us outshined and consumed his resolute nothing drive-along indifference and better-knowing onlooker’s bemusement, but as if we were actual, and in that actuality a forward step might be taken, an honest word might be uttered, some responsibility assumed, a tide turned, a leaf flipped, a change made.

But it swiftly turned to dust as always tends to seems to happen with everything with vocal chords and no backbone and all was once again rain and shadows and distorted glows and she just looked at me through streaks of darkness and light and a sort of crazed eye blaze on par with Colonel Kurtz and I wished I hadn’t said a thing, wished I could vanish along with the dust of our fleeting fellowship, right along with it be turned to dust myself and taken away by wind and washed away by rain,

but all I could do was shrink from the terrible inordinacy of the space she occupied up front in that fractured darkness, already shaking off my rejoinder like a dog fresh out of water while I began inwardly apologizing by proxy and diminished presence for others’ misdeeds, her misnomers, our great misanthropy, daymare dreaming in my passive defense a wishful little thesis about going beyond thought as if awareness were something cartographical lying somewhere off the edge of the world, somewhere where I might forever sever ties to the false freedom of staying small amongst the throngs and the safety sense that silence might be the way to say what life’s about, beating myself into a backseat submission that like a deep bruise I felt lacked his up front strength and dignity, and yet

And yet there is hope, he said, and stopped us all.

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poetry

Hymn

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The dancer has purest art

no need for vocabulary

rules apply not to those

born unable to speak or justify

their choice

language can become a snare

numbers lead to label

you confine yourself by

obeying

while the dancer

her feet in balance

listens to the spinning harmony

of chakras recharged

within as fingers whirl plates at dizzying rate

all is harmonious

a child irrespective of years

charged with equality in all sphere

her center cannot be punched out

not her strength shoved in passing glance

the mirror shows elegance

tamed fire creating music on the floor

needing no conflict or measure

she could be herself in braids with unhinged head and intact hope

or winter bird dying in first snow

living above and beneath

no need for shape or illustrate

hers is the simplicity

bound to no-one

dare to define

she will your bonds

break

and in step with

a deep hymn

spin as fast as lights

glazed on still water

appear to unlock

submerged secrets

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life, poetry

Constellations

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A list exists

of all the addresses of all the people I have ever known

well enough to remember

a list like a map of constellations

pointing in myriad direction

if you go this way and lie underneath the lilac tree

you will grow long white roots

if you choose another path, the one where the orange soil

burns the soles of your feet

you may never return

and if you choose to fling

yourself from the rocks of Cyprus

into a green sea

you may see the magnification of the world

through your veins

already we know the choices we will make

what lies impossible for us

drying out starfish pressing against sand

may seem like an option but

everything is preordained before we know

as if some guiding hand

moves us sundering toward the end

with gentle entreaty

I could have told you at seven years old

what I would have done and those things

better left for dare-devils who Rollerblade

closer to the sun

I could have written out my sum

and all its stars

and made of the paper a map

of my journey before indeed

I knew the meaning of such quest

for as the girl sits out the game

thinking of faraway places instead of pursuit

or she who climbed the tallest tree knows

this will not confine her hunger

at such tender ages we become

the calculation of ourselves

I was always wearing costumes

left over from school play

and when it came time to remove my mask

and my tail

I found it melancholy to return

to ordinary

as others seek riches, or know how to

surf the highest wave

fearless in their far-flung gaze

I knew the edge of the lake

was as far as I would dare step

without looking back

without some regret

and nothing and no one

changes so much

they cannot find

their way

back

(image location; https://www.pinterest.com/pin/433893745323247752/)

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