Inherit their voice

2012610_1809dSat facing away from the sun

an old man wipes years from his eyes

drawn over with cataract like milky bath water

he strains to see the outline of motion

 

where are all the old men? He thinks

once so barrel chested and neatly trimmed

with mustaches and shiny hair like Cover Girl teens

where are all the eighties queers who painted beaches

with tight abs and tiny shorts in tropical shades?

 

now half empty, the beach longs for color

only rotund women with bristly chins

unkempt hair chopped without thought

some with children or children’s children

placing sensible shades and thick UV factor 50

on slow-moving parts of themselves

 

in previous years you could

reach out and paint a rainbow

in their courage of being twenty

though lesbians and gay men do not

always a palate make

such contrasts in their expression

these women without restraint

mopping the brows of dying beautiful boys

unwilling nurses drawn to duty

by suffering ignored

 

some judged, as is human’s wont

even those judged themselves

learning in pious pews the curses afflicted upon

the sinner

their ingrained prejudices wondered;

Why so many striken did not stop frequenting steam rooms

smelling of bleach and pleasure and illness

looking for strangers with no way to tell

if death stood beside them?

 

perhaps; time old division of the sexes

rather than, one bad, one good

men will find a hole, stick it in without regard

this is not a homosexual thing but

the nature of a penis

gay men acted upon that unrestrained impulse

all men share, save those who learn greater depth

than the hand, the orifice, the gag reflex

then disease clasped them in a death grip

chewing away at fragile worn tendencies

soon no beautiful boys remained

hot in steam rooms to blink their doe eyes

fringed with fear

 

some divisions are economic

lesbians with babies, lesbians without brawn

unable to act upon their natural instinct

remained married, starched at home, dying in place

whilst young men, fed on corn and barley, took good

California jobs and soon the boom grew teats

 

educated baby dykes today do not know loss of freedom

or the true price of salt

they can rack up bed notches in reckless abandon

imitation not always the greatest flattery

but back then …

all so new and unsanctioned

people didn’t have road maps or internet

to gauge behavior by

and in the dirty rim of a third glass of whiskey

courage and terror would sometimes blind

best intention

 

girls today repeat the worst inventions

of boys without purpose

those early days of the movement

can a life be a movement?

they died weekly and by the hour

in shabby rooms without succor or sense

strangled by disease, shamed by the ‘told you so’s’

just coming out

only to climb into a coffin and be carried

jeers and spit and hate to their graves

where few wept, for they too shared death

mottled with kaposi’s sarcoma

some haters slinging mud shouted;

you depraved souls! You reap what you sow!

is this the word of Mohamed & Jesus?

or cruelty with nothing more than hate to grow?

 

now gays think they are safe

over the hump, socially acceptable

on TV, in your face, sitting next to you, earning more

painting their rooms mauve, their wallets thick

HIV can be lived past, no more automatic death sentence

adoption is legal, and marriage, a thriving business

do they even remember how many fell?

before they could inherit this tenuous hour?

 

the old man was one of fifty

the last survivor of his generation

depleted by silent war

struck down by AIDS and her harpies

over time even medication failing hope

or bodies, tired from their walk

collapsing on scalding streets without

the kindness of stranger

 

the old man, he cannot say to today’s youth

this is how it was, learn from the past

because they do not care, it is their time now

and if they knew it would not matter

only the hour of their immediacy

compelling them forward to their own history

one day past them and in reverse

they may share his loneliness then

too late

 

the old man

who used to be a beautiful boy

with golden skin and hazel eyes

a thick swath of black hair hanging like a wave

he looks at his gnarled hands and sagging arms

with their scars and their ragged hurt

and he wants to be as loud as the young

and shout out;

 

where have they gone?

the beautiful boys of my time?

why must I outlive them all and see in my decline

the loss of their right, to be recalled!

for whom among us, shall pick up the mantle

and say their names, once we are all

beneath earth?

an entire generation cut down

and smoothed over like asphalt

 

do we ever think of that?

in our perpetual urge to be present, in the moment?

those who have gone before

stand now like ghosts around him

an entire era

strangled before they ever could

inherit their voice

 

(This is my contribution to Pride Month. I want to remember those who are not here with us, because they died when they could have lived, if they had not been forgotten and repulsed. During and afterward, Africa was equally rejected, neglected, ignored, and millions died. Worldwide HIV/AIDS is still a death-sentence, make no mistake. Those with power decide who lives and dies, whose life has worth, whose does not, decisions are not made out of mercy they are made coldly with calculation and lack of compassion. All the rest is froth on a daydream. Our memories are sometimes the only thing keeping us from repeating history). #neverforget

 

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Re-deliver

thNo

you can’t be

you died giving birth

legs gaping

mouth heaving out

curses

you stained my forehead

with the yolk of an egg

meant for curanderos

to interpret

your throat as long

as two hands encircling

a belly tearing out

her burden

your lovers wore felt

holding their hats in nicotine fingers

instead of joining you

theirs was the watchful crow

blue in lamplight

touch the fleeing blood

growing cold on lynx tiles

she was your lover

all of you shared her

grief and easement

like a tenancy of trombones

blowing cold you are

unable in your tarnish

to re-deliver her

scolded by her nature she is

bound by insemination

pushing against her wet thighs

a different kind of urge

get it out get it out get it out

her eyes inherit the cataracts of her

blind ancestors

you rue the days you turned her like a book

leafing through her cavities

planting your frustration in her deep recess

not thinking for a future

where blood makes palm prints

on her hot cheeks and as she lifts in agony

you recall her climax and breathe in

the stale dusk of death

ushering life on the tail end of

unwanted consequence

here is your daughter

she stands naked and boneless

sucking your inability to

grow dignified and wise

you fidget in your plastic seat

as her hands grip your weakness by the stem

enveloping provocation as

men will reach for their reflection

one last time

smoke to the last

their comfortable curse

feet reddened by women

who die beneath

deed

For I feel

080-francoise-dorleac-theredlistTremulous ghosts must stand in patent shoes around me

for I feel their hands on my shoulders tugging at my seams

I who do not cry

weep openly with sorrow

imagining is often harder than

bearing reality

I think of when he will not stand discontented

staring out at flocking birds

I think of the time I found a starling chick

lying cold on the ground

wondering at the bitter sky

why didn’t you give them a chance?

why did you let me stay instead?

discontent

the child who knew the flavor of strawberry milkshakes

was an artifice

lies from adults, how many more?

behind closed doors and screens

I met a poet an old lady who

wrote like she was on fire

when she didn’t write for a time

I knew she had died

again I railed

why take her? why not me?

I stand disillusioned and empty

she who played castanets and sang

she who had wind-chimes and wrinkles in

her vowels

she had so far to go

I do not

I am here at the fulcrum

waiting my turn at the scythe

it strikes me living doesn’t suit

those who feel everything

like a pretty shoe

isn’t practical for walking

you can admire its form

but it will not hold you up

I ache in ways I cannot give a color

or adverb

it is a disturbance of the soul

the card reader told

you have a dark shadow on your back

she has her hands around your throat

until she dies you will wish for your own death

or you could start drinking again

that might work

sitting at the kitchen table at night

rinsing grief from my palms

strange dark sounds comforting crushing hurt

I examine the bones of my face

they feel as if they should have come unglued

reformed into a mask of ache

outside neighbors children are awake

eager for day to start

a lone dog barks at the moon

because it disturbs the pattern of his knowing

it has been long since I dreamed

when I dream I have hope

hope which is always the most painful place to go

when returning to zero you see the futility

of setting sail just as storms are predicted

you were a hurricane I let whip me up

lent me hope

now I am a milkshake that does not

resemble real strawberries

I am sweet enough for take-out

but nobody knows the sadness behind

a glass that looks full and is not

just residue remains

sticking to the sides

I am holding on

trying not to cry

at the nature of things

some known

some found afterward in epitaph

my grandmother’s hand was

blotchy and purple

still I looked away believing her well

you see

I want to believe in fairy-tales

and ever after

but I confess

it is hard when we are surrounded

by lies in

illuminated

jars