Breathing

It’s just a story we tell ourselves

We will be well

And even Gods forged of longing, cannot always save our plea for preservation

And please, some peace

For the weary, are not the old

They are the ones who know the sear of unwanted pain

An ache rising like wave again, merciless in return

The loss of dreams comes softly as snow

We dream ourselves complete

Waking unable to breathe

This sheltering land sometimes permits tornadoes

When all around shakes, we are battered and bruised

And because we still stand, others never witness, the deep sink of our soul

Or indeed, that dark place we go

When night only burdens with unseen fear

A temperature, a loss of balance, this unknowing doctors touch, with gloved hand

As we find ourselves, subject to midnight

We, who have never been this person

Arising, as if we could separate and escape, inevitable places

Was it really me? Who gasped for breath and cried out to spirits never tested?

As has always been for each life line

Thinking invulnerable, tugged back to truth

All of us wear a harness, all of us hold an allotment

It is the wicked mirth of terror when first we gaze into our future and see the end

No amount of protest will stave

But maybe, maybe with light and courage

With nothing more than salved persistence

We can hold back that day and spend one more

Breathing

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

 

For Paul

016_imogen-cunningham_theredlistIn the other place of keeping

afterward when door is softly closed

and light extinguished

where flowers bloom without need of sun

perfuming air with unseen stamen

at last you are unburdened, free of torment

we sit at oiled wood table

eating buttered toast with fingertips

you tell me of  real things

that time you fell into a river as

you reached for tires swinging overhead

just one more inch and you’d have been saved

from submerging with oily fish

and yet you say, it taught you

the value of sinking and how quiet

beneath the world can be

where creatures with opaque eyes glide past

watching you try to breathe

they called it a near drowning

you claimed second-sight

we shuffle our checkers, mindful

it’s your turn to win tonight

 

for Paul

you were a brother of sorts

sprinting ahead of jostling crowd

lean and bronzed by effort

your heart a flutter of machination

once you said, now I am old

and I laughed and reminded you

there’s so much time left

except you knew

and I did not

time can collapse upon itself

just as it begins so it can end

all the days we spent waiting for the next

better to live now and climb

that tree to sling rope and dangle seat

children long after us

will come to the river and watch

each others fear and then wonder

jumping into the void

and as you are gone

I clear away the plates and ready for the next day

not sure it will be free of rain

I hear you outside among the trees

you are laughing at me

for my fear of things I cannot know

remember, you say, it’s not about control

it’s about having the courage to try

I watch you walk toward the river

you are straight and lean again

no scars, no pain cross your way

I want to go with you but you have told me

it is not yet time

we’ll play again, be patient

master this moment

live now in the warm rush of water

watching overhead

moving clouds turning from blue to white

and then to grey

 

For Paul. You counted, and you mattered.

 

Less

165549735_cd2d7777b5The future will not decide, I decide

if I find myself alone in possession of these feelings

at an age when the cliffs stand a little deeper in the water

the sea will recede and return the next day

less me

for it is my belief

we can make choices

based upon empty doorways

standing between the weft of things

knowing, our time

though it goes blurred into fathomless future

need not defy sense

and us born with less

we don’t want trinkets and rooms of wrinkled souls

talking about the caucus of the world

we want to live and burn

in that bright solitary

and when those we love

are no more

our place is not to wait for natural means

but take to surging waves

walk through a mirror of water

regaining in emptying out

those painful places we hold

dear and near to us

all these years we inhabit life

like a nervous electricity

will wait to strike

just once

and leave the deed

blackening the tree

long it stands marked

for future generations to remark

I wonder how

I wonder what

caused this burn

she lays her hands against her pulse

such a little flicker of life

and then

one blow

one determining

and it is snuffed out

to join the star dust of our might

you think me cowardly or without insight?

I hear nothing now

but the swell and call of shells

hypnotized by the whorl

of their ever decreasing

circle

returning to

sand

Briefly, before retort

432a1f78aa4dbe5f9a11bd1afea97dc6What if you were?

different

waking up putting your feet over the side of the bed

with the harsh unrelenting knowledge before you think of anything else

I am trapped inside myself

these are my feet cankered and worn with little parchment lines drawn

for every regret I possess

I can hide all day from seeing them but come night, climbing into bed, still they will remind

you are subject to yourself

what if you are a raging inferno within smoked glass?

and everyone buys the exterior version that comes with a label?

choose your own go on, you know you want to

write it in permanent pen on the underside of my third finger

it is human bondage

as ad-verb the moustached man picks ‘mysteriously’

the Irishman says a noun; ‘predictable’

the Hipster proclaims adjective; ‘too old’

the Gen-X femme fatale scolds; ‘not enough visible scars and I hate how she can wear a skirt that tight over her scales’

and you? You don’t speak because you traded in your words for a shot and then another

drunk neat and with your elbow at perfect ninety degree angle

reflecting the awkwardness of ritual in bar window smeared with tarot gravy dust

you do not tell me

stop wearing hose in 70 degrees and if you must, choose pastel hues or flesh

flesh is the color of us all and none at all, for wolves come in multi-color and neon

you do not tell me

cut your hair though it has begun to trail across the bar like ivy once won will entomb even the redolent doll faces who obey without query their whiskered diviner

let’s see how far it goes before the world implodes, then we can sell it by the ounce for bonfires or new clothes

you do not correct

my pronouncement of life or the syllabus of strife I work against my sulfur state with enriching purpose

you could knock me off my slide so easily, bring your trained fist to my cheek, salt the wound pour a little rum and black call me a new blend of this and that

here drink it down and turn into tarmac

you could run over me, keep me flat or press your iced lips to my heat and have me beg

but it’s been a long B side and it’s time for the rain to ease, where drivers, previously intent, lessen up, watching for a break of light through cloud formation

you know why I stand here, pressing my hips against your side, empty me, chamber my void

you take me by the throat, lay me down in my own match book to sleep, watch the children dream, how deeply they ride their velvet horses

you bought me rings without names and names without ownership

I own the fierce tail of my pursuit and not much else

when we lie beneath the city listening to her caw

you are still as cold water washing over me in rinse and roar

it’s not your way to feel

you love without desire

desire without love

the rub and the rub and the rub

no fire will come

it is my conjecture this will end when the rain starts again and cars slow down even more to peer in

tin-can blurred faces seeing nudes vaulting tables and a man holding a gun

gentle as a lover without fingerprint

you place it in my mouth

then yours

the taste and smell of fire

would you have time to bruise?

briefly

before

retort

And burn their house down

938185112_tp

Her legs were her best feature

so they told her

pinching her bum as she climbed shag carpeted stairs

hauling more baggage than they’d ever have

oh and your throat of course

chuckle, chuckle isn’t that funny?

deep throat, get it?

no … not really

too polite to declare (curtsy)

but what if you did? Respond as you would if

truth led you by the mouth, clip, clop

neigh brey shake your tail paw the ground with hoof

sore and gaping and verbose in mauve and yellow

like a gypsy sacked from her tent

runs like a red brand through black and white trees

will she end up raped by the side of the road?

eventually selling herself by the truck-load

with eyes glazed over from too many mouthfuls

there’s only so much you can take

a tipping point lives inside everyone

like a secret metronome

ticking away, ticking down, ticking sideways, an itch never relieved

until earth and sod and mud and weeds land heavy and wet

on wood (four coffin bearers, bow their heads)

she hears them making a fuss downstairs

(the sound track is The Moody Blues)

who will go first?

me! first is best! the little one says

he’s got a big mouth that one and a small …

well no surprise there (audience laugh)

yeah but you can warm her up for me!

the one who enjoys pain reveals

when do I get a turn? says the last one

who is always too fast too soon too distracted to …

see her staring at the ceiling counting down

tick toc tick toc goes her life blood

here the vein here the slice here the fall

blue is the marigold dipped in the ocean

why does she bled so? When did she stop being closed?

She was never really shut, she was open all hours

flung wide by the longing of the sky to see her enact a star

spread white and glowing she longed for black skies to swallow whole

every last molecule

there’s blood in the bathroom! they all cry (exit stage left)

where could she have gone?

how did she survive the loss of so much blood? The little one said

roll over roll over so they all rolled over and one fell out

there were two in the bed and the next one said …

you see her now

she’s that motion in the corner of your eye, a cataract in full bloom

dropping by the highway like a midnight flower

speeding cars track her fade but they cannot see for their faces are made

of metal and plastic and rubber and gasoline

and she is made of earth

and she is gone to earth

and she is in the earth

away from the three little pigs

who kindle themselves into a fury

and burn their house

down though it is made

of brick