Guilt


Guilt

Is a rare bird of shame

Its plumage

Breathtaking

For guilt

Captures the beholder, willing or not

Averting gaze from all else

Guilt will render paradise dowdy

Comparing freedom with the chains of its capture

Guilt is an old, fond bruise

Reminder of moments left torn to shreds

It will piece them carefully back

Twice as convincing, twice the weight

Strung round your neck like noose of sea pearls

Begging to be drowned

Guilt is a rose bush with bleeding thorns

A shudder as you catch yourself thinking of

Those pursed secrets you’ll never disclose, even to yourself

Snapshots you expunge, that still, listlessly, rise from the depths

Never speak of it, even to the merry faced doctors 

Plunging their needles as far as they’ll go

Guilt

Makes you sick

Wan faced, old before your time 

Aloof in the varnished secret

Guilt

Steals your liberty 

But like a lie

Guilt is not vanquished, even by truth

There are things better never admitted

Keep them so deep inside you start believing the deception

Until

Like a wide eyed bride

Guilt takes your hand 

And plunges you back where you’ve been all along

There’s no solution to shame when it’s too late to undo

The poison that you drink, the person you’ve turned into

Guarding yourself like a wreck against sharp rocks

With less and less by the day to salvage

If you spoke it out loud

Surely the very sky would catch fire

How many of us must carry a spark?

Burning in our secret hearts?

And maybe this is why

You never know another person by what they share

Instead

It is the unsaid

Electric in the air

We recognize in others

The tarnish of shame

As clear as promises once given

Cannot be refunded

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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

 

Third time lucky

006-alfred-eisenstaedt-theredlist

The proverb

“Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.”

Was in my mind when

I chose to forgive a third time

it was easy to say “if you hurt me again”

fill in the blank

but promises only matter if the person intends

to keep them

with your borderline posed to strike

it was impossible to calculate

if I would be cast again into fire

the only chance

how I chose to see the play

sacrifice the Pawn

save the Queen

it’s not that I’m especially important

but cruelty

cruelty is perhaps the last sin

unforgiving as karma

shows you the way out

you didn’t know it was only you I forgave

the other one who scratched I cast

far into the ocean

didn’t need their infernal clamor

they, just wreckage from a bad storm

I unfortunate to pass by at the wrong time

you were different

there was always something in the depth

of your eyes and quiet strength

yes I confess

I wanted not to lose you

but I could have said the same

when my mom closed the door quietly

packed her bags and went

see, you think you have me figured

maybe you do

aside one element I keep pretty tight

I’m stronger than even I know

it’s what happens when you get used to

let-downs

when you came and went third time and said

I don’t believe in you anymore

I don’t trust you

I think you’re shit basically

in the clear light of day I could see

this wasn’t about me

this wasn’t factual

sometimes others will believe

oh you must have something to do with it

just as the shallow person who told me

you’ve got a track record of being left

tried to leave her barb

what did she with her haikus know

of patterns? she needed rules to write

I had fucking wings

now she’s just

a taste in my throat I want to spit out

I grew up then when I learned

accusations may sting

but they’re not truth and those

who are weak enough to seize upon them

are just fools

with hypocrisy in their veins instead of blood

but you were different

you were my sister of the plains

we shared French blood

I admired you

it wasn’t enough

you cannot force someone to feel

or undo the damage wrought

in their mind before you met

it’s only necessary that you know

when it’s not because of you

which can be hard if you’re prone to guilt

that’s how we grow and develop armor

perhaps we won’t even trust

the next person who comes up

palms flat

asking for succor

or perhaps we will

because to shut the door

hurts only

the one who is left standing

when you tried to blow her down

erase her

when you hated yourself so much

you had to try to destroy

the mirror image

who refused

to shatter

stubbornly she still reflects

what you hate

about yourself and

what she loves

about you

On the other side of rebuke

freja-beha-erichsen-arizona-muse-by-terry-richardson-designscenenet-02I used to say

O talk to me

open your maraschino mouth

pull the glazed words out

until they come undone

now I say

keep quiet

stay absent

I have found what I didn’t yet know

standing on the other side of rebuke

we forsake our blazing joy

under the suffocation of those

who demand all of us

and none of us

I spent a life time waiting

to stop hating myself

when the girl with the sparrow in her limbs

took me by the hand and bid me dance with her

entreat I may rinse my history in her cupped smile

held under chin like buttercup tells fortune to

gilded child, with her smoothness and her beguile

latching emptiness and filling it with stars

bursting over us like white flames caution the acrobat

to walk steadier in the marsh of emotion

I didn’t think I could start over, my chapter was

dulled by the passage of hands holding me back

she knew I could

when I lost my footsteps on the other side of rebuke

she picked me up, held me still until my heartbeat

slowed and the music filled me anew