Want & Ritual

Helmut-SPREAD-6FI grew up fetishizing

the nubile antonyms of beauty

Helmut Newton’s exploitation

penis behind camera stroking

sloe-eyed girls with tired mouths

smoking yellow papered Gauloises

nipples grazing peach crinoline

men’s eyes like dry stones, seeking squeezing

I grew up thinking

contortion and bondage was

an art form not

excuse for masochism

as unsupervised child, I’d look through

graphic design manuals

that inexplicably had vulvas and

perky breasts

to illustrate Pantone

it was after all

the seventies

what did I know? Except

women on beaches without tops

giving me francs for not spilling their dirty martini’s

Mon sucre d’orge, sois gentil, va me chercher mes cigarettes

always gentleman watching

the rise and fall of female throats

nicotine mouths, stained vermillion

long tan legs swept beneath chiffon

men taking them to hotel rooms

children

smoking the leftovers whilst adults

fucked behind closed doors

wondering

when I grow up

how can I lie beneath

a girl whose sweat glistens

like marzipan

and if she should

sip on me I think I’d scream

all my silver bracelets falling off

like metal flowers on hotel carpet

after all

life is a film

where we tie ourselves up

with want and ritual

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Anything seems possible

image002.pngEating peanut butter always reminds me of the night a gay man tried to seduce me

the irony is I never ate peanut butter until I became American

nor did I have any gay male friends

they thought me too girly with my waist-length hair, frilly frocks and high socks

an object easier for ridicule, there are status levels of coolness I didn’t care about

because I didn’t fit in with their ideas just as they were not

societies chosen children

it seemed a shame two outcasts wouldn’t bridge the gap

but Rick did, he was he said, a Bear in the gay world

what does that mean? I wanted to know

it’s a kind of look he said

there are others, like geek, school boy, father

why must you have labels when society already forces them?

maybe that’s why we do, he said and looked sad

which was an unusual thing because he laughed all the time

you know what they say about comedians and how

they make others laugh because inside they hurt

and he was left handed-too like me

maybe he did resemble a bear

 

so when I sat on his lap in the bar and he whispered

the feel of you is driving me crazy

I gave him a double-look

those words can’t be coming from you

I thought I was safe on a queer man’s knee

you’re not safe on any man’s knee in this country he said

we’re no longer in France and it’s not du rigor

all men want sex, gay men may be gay but they still

sometimes take to bed the occasional woman

I hadn’t known that

the lesbian world was more rigid with thick rule books

and tightly closed legs

it was hard enough to sleep with another woman

lesbian-bed-death and all

but men? A few who couldn’t get pregnant with turkey-basters

fell in love with their male donors

but only on a full moon

and whilst I made no habit of sitting on men’s knees usually

the bar was heaving with sweating twenty year olds

and he was gay and I was gay and everyone should be gay and do a little dance

except I was sad and lonely and Rick complained that

men down the leather bar thought 30 was old so he feared

the day when he would be irrelevant and nobody would desire

his gentle paunch and diminishing hairline

I told him that day will never come you matter to me

and we both saw how we filled each others needs

better than someone of the same-sex ever could

which seemed a painful irony

I might have drunkenly slept with him if I didn’t

already know he’d been promiscuous

and I am a responsible child of the AIDS era and

not fond of navigating awkward mornings

he might have slept with me the way a lonely boy

finds a hole in any surface

to release the places he keeps hidden

then we wouldn’t have been friends

and that would have been the last time

I’d sat on a boys knee, queer or straight

so I wouldn’t have seen you on stage performing or

your ex girlfriend staring at you with open-mouth desire

when she was supposed to be courting me

that night I learned a little about people

I would have understood less from the back of the room

forgetting the advantages of the heterosexual girl

smoking a black cigarette and knocking back my gloom

for minority status isn’t all about being different

it can be the loneliest place in the world

and even dyed in the wool queers

have fantasies about knights, princes and castles

when the room is dark and oily

and anything seems possible