Monday, September 24, 2007

Field Trip

SERENELY sauntering
into the Worcester Art Museum
to expose a predominantly white, suburban
audience to the intricacies of
inner-city poetry,
toting a big black bag,
inconspicuously clad in everyday attire,
I, nonetheless, was singled out
by the security officer, rapidly
approaching from behind the safety
of his desk, as if to interrupt some
impending disaster on his
desperate journey toward me.

Hey you! What you got in that bag?

The air around me sputtered
in search of retort, while my
tongue lay hostage
against a confused palette.

As the approaching crowd smelled
the progression of fear,
to caution,
to his Robin-Hood rush to save
a museum in distress,
a thick, curious tension rushed in
on a whirlwind, besieging the small crowd,
now marveling at what might become an
adventure Worcester hadn’t seen in decades.

I said, what’s the bag for and what you got in it?

Now, empowered by the women around me,
I could stay silent no longer.

It’s my purse. Just like hers, hers, and hers.
And what’s in it is none of your business!

Well, that’s an awfully big purse!

And I’m an awfully big girl,
now back off!

What could his mind
have conjured?

Perchance he thought
I was going to swipe some
art museum treasure, more priceless
than a Van Gogh original,
fold it up in, say, sixteen sections,
secure it neatly in my bag,
from which I’d just retrieved by compact Uzi,
threatening to take out any man
who dared sopt me (subsequently
his wife and children),
and rush out past the front
desk into a welcoming
black night.

Or perchance he thought
my bag was loaded with
several poinds of coke,
a hundred vials of crack, and
all kinda dope I was eager to
deal to a museum crowd
desperate for a fix.

Or perchance he thought
I was just some loose-cannon vandal,
up to no good, armed with several cans of
metallic mauve spray paint,
or more likely,
a big old watermelon, which
I’d smash on the floor,
scooping out large chunks to
smear across the designs displayed
on the walls of his big white castle on the hill,
leaving behind my own art,
my mark,
a trail of little black seeds
following me out the back door.

As I moved past this
suspecting man,
the strap of the bag
biting into my shoulder,
its contents pulling me down
a bit closer to the earth
I walk on,
I realized the bag I carry around

is weighted
with memories, wishes, dreams & stories
yet untold;

is weighted
with city streets, country roads, highways & rivers to places
yet unseen;

is weighted
with groans, laughter, cries & screams
yet unheard.

And deep down,
somewhere near the bottom of that
big black bag,
my purse,
there’s a neighborhood,
a city,
a country,
a world,
where no person
carries the fear
to dare ask
what’s inside it.

Friday, September 14, 2007

The Resurrection Table

HE CAME BACK to us. He walked right into the kitchen where Mama, Gina, Job and I were eating a fried catfish dinner I’d thrown together at the end of long, hot, emotional day.

“Hazelle?” Mama was much calmer than I would have expected her to be.

“Daddy?” Gina was, too.

I thought he was an apparition. But when he smiled and said, “Where’s my plate?” I knew he was real. Apparitions don’t speak.

We cleared a spot for him at the table. But not before we all walked over to welcome him. He hugged me so tightly I thought I wouldn’t be able to breathe. That's why his friends called him Squeeze. I didn’t mind. Apparitions don’t hug.

“Craig, do me a favor and go downstairs and get me a beer, will ya, son?” Music to my ears.

It was as if he’d never left us. It had been about four months, long enough for his tombstone to have been erected at the Veterans Memorial Cemetery, long enough for Job and I to have driven all the way from Maine to Milwaukee to take Mama the 30 mile drive to see it. For both of us to put life in the barren soil he left behind in the backyard next to the garage. To pack up and bring his most valuable effects back to Maine.

We thought he’d be upset that we had turned his vegetable plot into a perennial flower garden where Mama could sit and meditate and feel his spirit. No way was she going to grow vegetables like he did. But she watered those flowers in the wilting summer heat and humidity as if her life depended on it. It was all she could talk about after we left.

Daddy was pleased. He loved it. Told us it was perfect. We’d break the news about his albums later.

As we enjoyed our meal around the resurrection table, the first time we'd all broken bread together since Easter weekend 2001, not one of us uttered a word of disbelief. Daddy came back from the dead and was now sitting in the kitchen eating fried catfish, drinking Pabst, and laughing.

And then I woke up.

Later that day, I peed on myself three times. I couldn’t control my bladder. In the middle of the night, my temperature rose, my legs couldn’t hold me up and I fell on the bedroom floor on the way back to bed from the bathroom.

Job took me to the doctor in the morning and sure enough, I had a bladder infection. As we both suspected. Never had a bladder infection before in my life. I’m taking antibiotics, which I hate, but they’re working.

Daddy is here. We brought back his collection of a thousand jazz albums, his 1950s turntable and amplifier, his huge modern speakers and CD player and set it all up in one of the front parlors. When I walk through the parlor to get to my office, I smell him. I smell the basement of my childhood and I get full.

At least once a week, usually on Sundays, I play a record or two on his turntable. Art Farmer, Kenny Burrell, Coleman Hawkins, Clifford Brown, Art Blakey. The sounds of my childhood.

We brought back his slide collection as well. Maybe a thousand, maybe more. All the pictures he took of his family when we went camping, dating back to August 1969, just a few months after they adopted me into their home. The sights of my childhood.

I overflow.

It’s been six months since he left us. I remain a wreck. A friend reminded me that the pain lessens a little over time but grief sets these little ambushes for you and leaps out at strange times.

Even makes you believe in the resurrection of the dead.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

September 11, 2001

Image Hosted by

May the dead rest in peace. May the living find justice. [Source]

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Notes On A Scandal

SENATOR LARRY CRAIG is a fool. Not for trying to have sex in a bathroom, but for trying to deny his intent to do so.

But as a man who has had public sex, the cops are the problem here, not the men who seek sex in public places.

There is no such thing as public sex - whether it be in a restroom, at a reststop, under a bridge, behind a building in the wee hours of the morning, in the dunes at the beach, on a tree-lined hill in a park - without consent. No. Such. Thing. Men who have no interest in it are neither harassed nor molested by anyone because they wouldn't pay any attention to the subtle mating call - a foot tap, a cough, the no-sound of liquid or solid excrement falling into a toilet after 15 minutes in the occupied stall next to you - of another man well-versed in the nuances of public sex.

Cops who entrap men have to do something within that unwritten code of conduct to get the "criminal" to make an advance. And an advance, in and of itself, isn't criminal behavior, people. There is no law anywhere against cruising an attractive person, no law against stepping back from a urinal to expose your entire cock at someone who's staring at it, no law against tapping your foot on the floor of a stall or gesturing your call-and-response with a wave of the hand under a stall divider.

But don't you know that all the police who operate these stings are also participants in public sex when off the clock? How else would they know the codes? They are no less hypocritical than Craig himself. You see, when the guilt and shame of last week's blow job in the park haunts them, they return to the scene the next week with handcuffs and badges, entrap and arrest another man as a way to lock up their own guilt and shame and put it where it belongs.

But in trying to rid their guilt and shame, they also ruin someone's life. I've seen men hang themselves after their names have been printed in the paper over a sting in a bathroom at a college campus. And make no mistake, I have no sympathy or respect for hypocrites like Craig who publicly hate queer people and who, like the cops, also have the power to ruin our lives. But the quiet and upstanding high school teacher who decides his wife and children are better left alone because he can't face himself after being exposed and decides to leave this world are the ones who pay the biggest price for this exercise in futility:

Homosexuality cannot be codified out of existence. Men will continue to seek and have sex with other men in public places all over the globe no matter how many hypocrites try to stop them. And they're not hurting anyone.

The cops need to be taken to task for their own bullshit in all of this.

You'd think they have bigger fish to fry.

But guilt and shame are whales.

Related Articles
America's Toe-Tapping Menace
In the Age of Terror, Isn't Busting Toe-Tappers an Insane Use of Our Law Enforcement Resources?