Natural state of being

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They don’t want to hear about you

you’re not their kind

color, height, smell and gait

sets you apart, making you unpalatable

cast out from something you never belonged to

your back is curved before you hit the ground

sans parachute

cowing in utero to the inevitability of rejection

this is you, yellow girl, jaundiced before birth

you enter the world with a cigarette in one gnarled hand

the other high in protest

Gloria Steinem. could learn a thing or two about

your resolve

while she grew up in affluence and chose her metal

you were given nothing but inherited disease and

a penchant for purposing

all this in the time when women were

supposed to cross their legs in polite company

and open them for their husbands every whim

it disgusted you, the hypocrisy of hate

people at your Baptist church crowing gospel

calling you sinner when they caused more harm

than any so-called pervert

sent to camp to straighten out, you

fell for your coach and she for you

making out behind the outdoor toilets

confirmation of bias in the unhooking

of her clumsy sixties bra

feeling the first areola and you were lost

to any other kind of conversion

I wish I’d known you then, when eyes bright

despite the infernal din, you struck out against

the norm, trying daily not to let that

milk of magnesia asking that you straighten out

cause shame

it’s hard isn’t it? When even those pretending to

‘understand’ leave you out of invitations and the like

because you’re different, you’re not looking for a penis

not putting up posters of James Dean but Farrah Fawcett was okay, nor

waxing your legs for Friday nights

you didn’t like what every other girl in the changing rooms

coveted and so, they turned their tanned backs to you

and left you alone

to think of why you had more in common with

Billie Jean King and Radcliffe Hall

than cheerleaders with pom poms of scorn

and football players who would rape you to show

what you were missing

was it really such a sin to want to love

another woman? What was it about how you felt

scared them into loathing? And why when they knew

did it seem such a sport to exclude you?

Until you wrote pain on the insides of your wrists

a dowry of teenage repudiation

ending up in a mental hospital where the nurses

were all secret dykes and you fingered each other

at midnight, hiding your disappointment behind

seventies lino

this wasn’t love either, anymore than lying beneath

a grunting boy, at 14, hoping to fuck out the

feelings people said were evil, though

his use of you, seemed far more abhorrent

than the dreams you had of girls

not just any girl either, not just a writhing

creche of women parts, but one startling woman

you hoped to meet, among the girls who would be boys

and the girls who would be bi on dark and cheap drink weekends

gay bars were undoubtedly

some of the saddest places in the entire world

you neither excelled at pool or darts, you couldn’t

join in anymore there with cunnilingus against bathroom stalls

graffiti the tired penitent of fallen souls

with strangers who reminded you of boys in make up

you didn’t want to be with a girl who hated being a woman

dressing more like a man than your father

you wanted to love another woman with all

her madness and her fluxes, the rise of her lace covered breasts

how her thighs were not muscled but soft and her lips

pillows for your fevered whispers

no such woman seemed to exist back then

when gay venues were often raided by bored

knee-jerk religious police seeking to molest a girl in

baggy trousers and flattened chest on Friday night

shame after all, is a universal weapon and you

had tasted its liquored lash many times by then

watching your friends beaten with sticks by

heady boys in pick-ups waiting outside bars, high on local beer

and blood lust

you were too small to protect anyone, but witnessed

with grief so sharp it left marks in your eyes to think

of how the strongest girls rushed to defend the weakest

struck down by weapons wielded by the ‘righteous’ oh! Texas!

You were such a loathing state and things haven’t really

changed so very much

they still close their doors

they still tell their daughters

“don’t play with her, she’s queer that one”

and as grown up as you are, the pain is twice folded

for you wished by now things would be different

with laws and blood spilled surely paving a way forward

you forgot, for every step, there is one backwards

still just as you resolved to go without

you found me and still I found you

among the carnage, and our own wrecked self-destruction

still we laid in darkness sharing our stories

I tracing the scars on your arms and thighs

like Sanskrit of former muzzled lives

when I looked in your tired eyes I saw

how long you had been watching

this cruel world destroy her rainbow

heavy children

sometimes the greatest love comes

from broken people

too late in their August lives

to kick up chipped heals

they find solace in the depths

of their much labored, chambered heart

for as much as they punish us for existing

we keep returning, generation after generation

unbidden, unwanted, labeled abominations

or just silent dismay

carrying our quelled pain in beseechment

the whole world unsure of how to treat us

often resorting to ignoring

for who knows what to do

with something different? I still

don’t hold your ink stained hand in public very often

fearing I suppose our heads being bashed in

or someone cutting silence with ugly laughter

I think I could handle my own

abasing but never yours

you’ve worn the brand long enough my love

I now aim to remove it, defend you

as you saw the bloodshed longer than most

young men mowed down by AIDS sucking

their last breath through second-hand

straws, emaciated by the squander of

their worth, by a society intent on

blaming someone., anyone, in their aimless pointing

Reagan in the office doing nothing

beneath his hollow cross

even Obama had to ‘evolve’ his

opinion of gay-marriage like it was a

right that should be earned rather than

possessed naturally

but after all we are not

considered very natural

are we? Funny really …

as being with you

is the only natural

state of being I have ever

felt.

Take the high road

piedpiperI was a child once

perhaps we played together

were you the friend I helped climb the pear tree?

were you the friend who said jump over the puddle and we both missed and came home all muddy in time for trouble?

were you the one who got to the top of the hay bale first and said ‘I can see all the world’ from here and in that moment we really thought we could

or did you grow up in a nice apartment on the Upper East Side, sent to the best schools and expected to do well

which you did in that idle and coveted way of those who have purchase of a velvet lining

did you ever wonder what it was like for the rest?

did you ever wonder why so many famous people are the children of?

did you ever stop and question if ‘life is what you make it’ still stands true?

did you drink dirty water like the kids in Flint?

did you get poisoned by copper like the babies of El Paso?

if you went to a demonstration did you go so you could make change or to show off your $400 Free People outfit?

when you got your first job was it from hard-graft or the friends of your parents?

I went to university with you, I was the one who had a bicycle whilst you drove a Jeep

I wasn’t jealous except when I was hungry and that suited me because I couldn’t afford to grow

when you sat like King on your throne and your acolytes bowed, you crowned yourself head of our year and published the first zine

did it reflect truth or the diamond shanty of your ideals?

good for you that you had a pretty life and long vacations

many of us worked for a living and got up at 5am to empty kitchen tables

parents who stared through the rain at yet another long day

ground down by platitudes that didn’t apply

I’m not bitter it’s just that when we sit in the same room and you tell me

‘I’m sure you can understand Candy, as an owner of a small printing press I have to make ends meet’

I can’t help thinking how fake things that are meant to be real are becoming

we lost art to the debutante, we gave away our souls for front covers with dazzling lies

we have an election that denies the people and computers who act like surrogates

jobs if you’re in China and expensive degrees that promise nothing but loan re-payments

it is said there is no better time than now, and the past was harder when ancestors danced in death in ditches and were blown up

it is said there is no better time than now, we are the proverbial fatted calf, glutted on luxury, we don’t know how bad it used to be

for our grandparents who broke their backs and discolored their lungs in coal pits and the basements of rich homes

back in time we didn’t have flat screen TV and cell phones and fancy jeans but it’s swings-and-roundabouts

now we’re in time where not being online 24/7 can lose your job to someone who didn’t mind being beholden

we had vacations whilst now everyone’s too afraid to be out of the office and checks their cell phones at the dinner table on Sunday’s

where is our sense of self? Did we buy into the belief we are free and rich because we were told that by a meme or nodding head?

did we forget what George Orwell or Rachel Carson said?

Because when we’re young we think we have it all if we have sex and firm thighs and the right to protest

but what good is protest if nothing ever changes? ask the pipe lines who cut through our country if they have heard us yet?

or the profits garnered to keep the 99 percent out of the front lawn

but oh wasn’t it always that way?

sure I read Dickens too and the Little Matchstick Girl

poverty isn’t a modern-dilemma

however maybe apathy and delusion is

wasn’t Marx talking about that when he mentioned Opiates?

we don’t need to take our Big Pharma pills to know

cancer comes with a price tag and you’d better not be poor

the cost of ‘getting well’ is only one part, the other is the creation of the disease

ask the petrochemical industries, do they let their kids inhale or eat that?

does anyone think of the future? Or should we change what Marie Antoinette said to

let them eat lead

what does it say when you’re glad you don’t have kids to inherit these times?

I wanted to write poems and get published and you owned the rights like you always had

glutted and fat on your marble pyramid

you look at people like me, like the street cleaner regards bird shit

something it takes some elbow grease to clean and even then

the outline will mark the pretty pavement where you wanted to hold

your procession proclaiming the world is good and just

I suppose I didn’t fit in with that then and I don’t now

this world is made of dust and sweat, we toil even when we think we are not

against haters, against cruelty, against disregard, apathy and the unexpected

sometimes I think we got it very wrong when we called these Modern Times

Charlie Chaplin may have had a point there

as many who are gone now did, we’re in another incarnation of delusion

hurry up children take your medicine, sip, sip !

so …  I won’t win a trophy or even get my name recalled when I’m gone

and that’s okay with me God

I just want enough to live on and to be unmolested by those who seek to tear down

an honest heart or a man who prizes integrity above fitting in

lest we follow a prophet who says he’s the one, and all fall off the cliff

did we ever figure out if the Pied Piper was evil?

down we go

you cannot find truth looking into empty crystal

you find it by noticing the hypocrisy and stepping out of the casting coach

it will be a harder road they always said

but a high road is preferable to one paved in gold

Greater solace

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There you are

picture yourself

standing in a vacated room

the walls are nondescript

from the window comes a little wan sun

hardly enough for warmth

you pull yourself closer

recalling how as a child

sitting on old iron radiators in winter

they’d say you’d develop hemorrhoids

in those days

the sound of scuffed shoes running for class bell

figuring you had a few moments yet

to stare out at brick and cement

stretch out reverie

a voice inside your head

surely this isn’t all there is?

you made a pact with yourself

to get the hell out

whatever it took

gathering your books

mindful of their ticket

you forgot yourself in dream

walking past the classroom

after all

learning is better in the mind

than grind of chalk on board

some boy kicking you in the back

with sweaty socks

you knew even then

this was but a stepping stone

though if asked you couldn’t say

what of the grim facade urged you most

to escape

 

and now

all these years later

more alone than that day

when covered by childhoods vigor

and the smell of something better

just around the corner

hope has been sore in her visits

silence too often your friend

as we fall one by one out of the egg carton

we are without wings

without safety harnesses

all the others found places

in busy lives, babies, families, jobs

the weave and knot of life

whilst you stood watching out of the window

glimmering

expecting to fly

 

now in shallow rooms

artifice has left her scent

they tell you the last one has passed over

you feel it in the curve of your chest

no more hands to scoop you back

from your leaning motion to find

somewhere to breathe

where trees are ever green

sunlight full on face

obscuring all trace of bleak homes

terraced and hollow

where you can hear the flush of

neighbors loud toilet

piercing cry of another

born into fitful times

where you never understood

your own role

just the fallacy of drowning sorrows

sundays in the bar

knocking back glasses of regret

nothing could spur you faster

toward wide open space where

no trace of sorrowful city remained

 

and wherever you go

there you are

still back against the wall

still with the locked door

school girl tights bunched in your mouth

hearing muffled voices

discussing your inability to speak

how long can you hold your tongue girl?

before the need to scream

unfurled

and in one howl you swallow yourself

all the disappointment

all the lost chances

breaking through cloud

fast diminishing in oboe sky

open the storeroom of your mind

clear out those long stored hurts

preserved in obscura

 

you may feel you have nothing

but in the sundering fall of flight

we find again our urge

never to quite escape

perhaps more a reinterpretation

carrying on no more alone than before

for we are born crying in singular pitch

in each step grow further to our end

it is in the humility of knowing this

we find our greater

solace

Beyond the quarter hour

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The Indigo Girls did not know

who Joan Baez was

a loam cried out

as first frost silenced the land

likening dawn

etched empty branches

she sang with an old voice

much used

like firewood

is best when properly dried

her voice was a voice of a woman

who had walked many years unseen

for after a certain age they say

women become invisible

she decided this was a wonderful way

her wings could remain outstretched

and not hidden as before

when she was sculpted and honed

like a cold statue

men would seek to touch

now her magic felt like a velvet glove

able to touch the mist and curling into a fist

summon spirits to her world

beyond the quarter-hour

no more obliged to purse

for onlooker