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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Masochism

tumblr_mfrhau9jIq1s0qvy5o1_500I’m afraid again

A queer feeling

As we trace our gloves on dusty balcony

You forget you’ve told me the story before

And repeat yourself

I watch

Feeling I am a mind reader

Mouthing well-known words

But for the ball in my mouth

I want to ask

Do you think it will bounce?

If you lay me down as your eyes say they want

If you have me now

Under this awning in the frigid cold

You’ll spoil my dress and your coat

And feel later it was not worth

The dry cleaning bill

You’re a man who suits the world of before

And doesn’t know his lines after

If you could squeeze until I choked

Without consequence

You would unflinching

I see this as I see stain in drafted light

As I feel you spear me like tendered filet mignon

Right through the middle

Your eyes roll like cut glass within red flesh

The devil peers out at the culmination

Spent and angry you hurry me to pull myself back on

Leading me by the funny bone in my plastic arm

Charge through the crowd to view the art show

Impatient though you caused our double crease

Like a thief without fingers weeps for what he has not pinched

Standing by the first mounted painting you pause

With the skin of you and the drink of me

Drying irresolutely

Then I see it

So fast, a flash and burn FURY

Hot house light splintering in storm

I know

For all the love, all the cabinets of delusion

It’s a farce I lay myself before, opening my mouth

Birthing cavities for empty souls

Adoring walking pain, stilettos of disregard

Stabbing with familiar falling shards

Self-harm wrought by masochistic ardor

To break my puzzle

Like coming home

A known bewitchment

Tearing apart sound

Infinity

img_7094Life

don’t you think

should come with a disclaimer

do not read as literal

wash on gentle cycle no spin

use bleach sparingly or often

depending upon situation

leave to dry outdoors

don’t put in the tumbler on hot

iron gently or not

 

I like my coffee black and mornings silent

but for the licorice dogs bark at fleeing squirrel

or jackdaw hammering out his concert

and when the day draws to a close

I like my light diffused and close

leaving darkness to itself

and all the wanderings the mind shall make

haunting this house in repose

to read of worlds you’ll never go

for travel is not as it used to be

stripping shoes and facing x-ray’s indignity

nor indeed our imagined futures it seems

requiring new needles to play favorite song

 

they say as you age your circle reduces

with regret behind those words

I have no regret of this, life is like a purse

pulled together by string to keep it taut

once filled with coins of many colors

gradually emptying its burden

I find the reduction a balm

within less there is more

time to consider and become still

further into the briar and gallop

you’re never lost if you’re seeking

you’re never found if you don’t let

a hand pluck you from the notion

you’re alone

 

she turns her warmth across my own

we hold on tightly as we head toward our door

the last to open

the last to close

she is me I am her

we may not be here tomorrow

but still the silver lines of existence shine

like exclamations in claiming dew

drenching our run further

toward the echo of our beginning

Stillborn

thFrom Germany to Australia your parents fled

the brush of taint

your mother a beauty

your father with only enough room in his heart

for singular devotion

when she died, cut down by trolley car in front of you

aged six, catching the splatter of her broken skull

he took you into his bed to make up for her absence

you grew wan on divulgence of sin

til neighbors found out and your doors were broken

three men in uniform standing around the bed

get out they said

the smear of their inferred condemnation thick in your ears

like river mud swallowing you up among grubs and slugs

who blames a child for her abuse?

those who know nothing of truth, shining their finery with glass

you walked the line all the way to a foster home with metal teeth

thrown out at 17 for falling in love and shaming their Baptist ideals

as you and he prepared to marry he rode his bike in the night to pick up

his mother’s narrow ring

skidding on freak ice on the way back his head caved in like an exploding star

you stood at the altar alone waiting

impatient clock showing

he will not attend

afterward with nothing, there was no reason to stay

someone said like they do before you pass 20

let’s go to India

so you packed up your emptiness, put your leather sandals on

high in the Himalayas you caught the fever and nuns with tight wrapped mouths

whirled with lines and decay

nursed you as you slipped in and out of consciousness

liquid and sorrow pouring from you in bucket loads

a miracle! they announced when clawed your way back

what did you have to live for? being the whispered irony

and there, in the desolation of knowing nothing you walked

kept on walking until your feet blistered and your soul took flight

in the low hanging mangrove trees

where at night the shadows looked like an epiphany and you decided

I will return to my native land, the one of my ancestors

you wrote a distant aunt, she replied; come to the black forest we have

mud that will cleanse you of your sorrow and broad-shouldered men

Germany with its fairy tale castles and starched people rolling their own

you clambered over your wreckage, beginning again as only the young can

a flutist falling in love with your dark eyes and shiny thick Germanic hair

a marriage led to loneliness, he toured, you waited, touching his absence

with lightest fingertip

until it seemed being without him, would fill you more than staying put

traveling to Greece alone, you burned and burned and burned

turning yourself into oak

a waiter slept in your bed and kept you cool

against the battering murmur of sea tapping at french windows

life grew inside of you

when you took your first real job in London’s garish metropolis

heaving with anticipation and empty suitcases of hope

your daughter gave you the first peace you ever knew

a perfect child with a little mouth and large eyes

your Greek baby she lay in the curve of your hips smiling

and you breathed, deeply, and slow

like a long traveled bird finds purchase and easement

on empty shore

she, with her little tiny fingers and little feet

died of crib death just as

a match can be blown out never to

be re-lit

feeling like she hadn’t existed and she couldn’t be gone

here was your second decade of sorrow

etched between your fine eyes and deep clavicle

WHY? was not a word you used

absent of all

living only because your chest deemed it necessary to rise and fall

in time to your still-born ache framed

in reluctant silver requiring continual polish

you wanted to hurl yourself out of existence

yet you flourished as if life had said

we have taken and now we nourish

you grew successful, wealthy, every night you tucked yourself up

alone in a singletons bed

until the smell of the sea on the shores of Australia called you

it’s been eighteen years and it’s time

to come home

passing over Sydney Opera House you saw

the curve of sky and water meet

something within you released

he seemed to be waiting in the first corner you turned

as if always there, just ready to reveal

his promise to stay

with time they say pain subsides

which you know isn’t quite true

though love can keep together broken halves

by its stubborn hold on people who

would otherwise fracture and become

light on water skimming surface

it was not fair,  it was not right

now you are back in your homeland where

you began and will draw to a close

I hope

with the knowledge that even lives

built on pyres can hold

depths we release like night birds

flying unseen

overhead

Remember

The words that pass between them

pressing hot arms

Absolute

in funny angles

smell it on her wrist, a divinity of trivia and

rolled secrets, ready to inhale

death curling the corners

Approach

touch fevered forehead to clay floor womb

all the footsteps regressed

We are too late to undo

our indentation

it presses down

like dowel swinging thickly against undertow

will measure weight of air

and your truth

offered by word

Ask me

where is the mark?

repeated on inside wrist

past pulse, circling back upon itself

infinity you said

mine the arms wound around

soft value

memories taking form in brief coats of ice

a sorcerers palace

to divine

Remember

Forever

is no promise ever

kept

Consume my hope

If we leave the letter unwritten 
saying nothing

deer leaning in the window salvaging for morsel of night 
grimacing when we stir, wind chimes with pointed feet 
dancing awkwardly in ill-fitting clothes, vindicating a 
suspicion of absurdity

turn from me then, until you stop being and I sit alone
watching faceless walls communing with plaster
you shape my days and can as easily, burn me standing
waiting for a word, a finger-tip, a smudge 

for when you strike, you are a panther, encased in skin
charboiling my heart over wilting blossom 
it is not possible to deny you
the switch of myself shivering electric 
in that, we are alike, the one who loses her hair in bunches and you
who cook longing on high flame 

hang yourself up on the back of my hook, let me catch you wriggling 
in my wet fingers made into a cup
like rounding moons with promise will become fairy circles 

when you emerge, dry-eyed and hot-skinned, let me lick the burn 
ringing your throat like the words you will 
strike out again and again in every ink
catching river stones in your mouth 
under my tongue
stretch out, beckon me, consume my hope 

Being twenty

15541394_10202354632784646_1452891421884110148_nThinking back

being twenty wasn’t as shiny

as bronze coin swallowed by carp

when

I went to eat Chinese and made a wish

to be young again

 

at twenty

I thought my breasts already hung forlorn

much like the oak grandfather clock

my father lifted from a former nunnery

when the nuns were gone and buried with the rhododendrons

the building disarticulated stood empty

beseeching intruders

awaiting renovation into flats for rich city dwellers

whose coins were gold

my father said

it seems a shame to let these apple and plum trees

be torn up and shredded they are mature and have

earned a right

so by night we dug up their rosewood roots

hefting in my grandfather’s wheel barrow down cobbled street

planted them in the little weedy garden out back

where they endured without their crowns

 

much as I endured being twenty

thinking myself imperfect

because of the pressure

burning like a hot wire in my

fizzing young head

like tight roller skates leave indents

my father said the trees never

bore fruit after moving

because once you’re planted

you grow roots only once

 

maybe that’s like being young

you are a tumbleweed and whilst some

take to being a spirit composed of air

there is something reassuring

like a warm fire or

a steaming bath

when you know it doesn’t really matter

all the fanciful dreams you had intended to wear

the way you sucked your stomach in

when he touched you underneath your dress

that tugged uncomfortably at tight seams

because you wanted to be

as gamine as

Audrey Hepburn