Archives for posts with tag: LGBT

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Wild Child (Slight Return)
by Jennifer Perrine

There’s nothing for it like coming back
seventeen years later
to the place you lived at seventeen—
the in-between when you left home
for unknown roads, miles of city
streets after the subway closed.

I say you, but of course I mean I,
that time meant to launch a life
instead spent starving, the bones of my hips
lifting from my jeans, reaching
from beneath the coat in which I smuggled
my body with its new, hard art—

art of walking face-first
into wind, into snow,
art of f**king only men
who had wives, girlfriends,
art of passing out on trains,
coming to with my shirt undone,

a stranger over me, art of learning
to tell women I loved them, art
of hitching a ride hours in the dark
to see the ocean, art of paring
the self down to one bright,
unrepentant, unadorned

thread, art of vomiting loudly
and alone, art of waking
early, art of longing, art
of wanting to be elsewhere,
art of knowing there is no
there there, art of dancing

until exhaustion, until failure,
until you, that is I—
not confessing, but unearthing—
unbolted, flew open
and had no fear, until I called
and the word was not help, but here.

SOURCE: “Wild Child (Slight Return)” was previously published in No Confession, No Mass (University of Nebraska Press, 2015).

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: In this photo from my seventeenth year, I’m arriving at the Washington, DC, airport, on my way to meet then-President Bill Clinton (long story…).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem was written in 2013 at the AWP conference in Boston. It was the first time I’d been back to Boston since the one terrible, wonderful year I spent there just after graduating from high school. I’m glad to say that I can now look back on my 17-year-old self with tenderness. I marvel at the strength and endurance she summoned to make it to adulthood.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jennifer Perrine is the author of No Confession, No Mass, winner of the 2016 Publishing Triangle Audre Lorde Award, the 2015 Bisexual Book Award for Poetry, and the 2014 Prairie Schooner Book Prize in Poetry. Previous books include In the Human Zoo, recipient of the 2010 Agha Shahid Ali Poetry Prize, and The Body Is No Machine, winner of the 2008 Devil’s Kitchen Reading Award in Poetry. Perrine lives in Portland, Oregon. For more information, visit jenniferperrine.org or Goodreads.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: The hair has changed, but I still wear my feminism front and center.

Author photo by Justin Huck.

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Latin Freestyle
by David-Matthew Barnes

I remember the rhythm at night:

Your hips wanting mine,
to grind our street-smart
lust into the crush of summer
heat. The beat of lives
never fulfilled. In the dark you say,
“Keep it on
the QT, down low. Slow, go slow.
Just like that, baby. Yeah.” I say,
“When you hit it,
I’m yours siempre, chulo.”

Our love is different during the day:

The tattooed thug boys
in the park with their sparks,
ankle holsters, packing. They pick
up on the bad girls with halter
tops, hair spray, razor tongues.
I get sliced with fear as you present
me to your neighborhood, your
surrogate familia. They suspect

the whole affair is a white
joke. I try to laugh off their eyes, claims
of their tongue and territory. I sip from
a stolen bottle of O.E., aware I’m out
of my element, zone. My intrusion
is forgotten when I share a common love

for the music bumpin’ from your sound
system. It makes us dance at Southside, makes us
forget about zip codes, colors, rivals. Makes us pound
and throb like the concrete threat of imagined guns
to our heads, knives to our throats. We know that
when the song is over, we will bleed

for each other. Slowly.

SOURCE: This poem previously appeared in the collection Souvenir Boys  (Pindelion Publishing, 2013), and in the 2012 anthology Image Out Write: A Celebration of GLBTQ Writing. The poem received third place in the 2008 Split This Rock Poetry Contest.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: In this photo I was 17 and about to start my senior year at Sacramento High School.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This was a tough poem for me to write because it required me to write from a simultaneous place of memory, honesty, and vulnerability. It was a poem that insisted on being written. I felt haunted by it for three years before I finally gave in, sat down, and wrote it. I feel the poem really captures my life at the age of 17, being a young gay man and growing up in Sacramento, falling in love with someone from a different culture than my own, discovering the joys of lust and danger.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: David-Matthew Barnes is the award-winning author of several novels and collections of stage plays, monologues, scenes, and poetry. His poetry has been featured in The Comstock Review, The Magnolia Review, Memoryhouse, Sonic Boom, The Southeast Review, and more. He was selected by Kent State University as the national winner of the Hart Crane Memorial Poetry Award. He has been an arts educator for more than a decade. For more information, visit davidmatthewbarnes.com.

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Untitled at Seventeen
by David Bennett

Mary and I were swaying
back and forth
on her front porch
being snarky
when I stopped the swing
and the laughs that came so easily to us
abruptly.
“Teach me how to kiss.”

The class of 1963’s graduation approached,
and we were headed to different colleges.
My chance to straighten out
a crucial experience I was missing out on
was disappearing fast.

We hadn’t really dated dated.
We’d just gone to events
and hung out.
But we’d never been

romantic.

Though I couldn’t articulate this
until years later,
it didn’t hurt
that her brother was a flat-out doll
who might occasionally parade around
in only his briefs.

“Johnny!” his mother said once.
“We have company.”
He came back with a chuckle.
“It’s only David.”
As though I was part of the family.

When I took a bathroom break
later that evening,
I examined his razor,
flecked with red hairs
that had recently adorned his face,
as if I’d found the elusive specimen
that would explain evolution.

“Stonewall,”
at that time,
meant only “obstruct,”
“obfuscate.”
Which I had mastered.

For the next few minutes
Mary and I discussed
what I’d just asked for.

“Learn how to kiss?
Are you serious?”

“I might need to know some day.”
A seventeen-year-old boy
and I’d never ridden the train.

She was game.

We took positions
— arms thus and hips just so —
and arranged our faces
with puckers
and low-lidded looks.

I took a deep breath,
closed my eyes completely,
ready to take the plunge
off the Acapulco cliff,
exhaled,

and backed off.

“I can’t do this.”

“Maybe you’re gay, David.”

I’d never heard the word,
but I knew its meaning
immediately.

I gave her idea
a three-second thought
and shook my head.
“No, I don’t think so.”

IMAGE: “The Kiss” by Man Ray (1922).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: As soon as I sat down to address the theme — something from my seventeenth  year — this poem flowed freely from my fingertips. It’s a vivid memory 54 well-traveled years later. The porch, the swing, Mary, Johnny, the razor, my sense of  being lost, my sense of the impending loss of a good friend. Many kisses later, I look  back on that confused, earnest, and wistful boy-man, whose temperate take on life was  still taking shape, and smile on him. Growing up gay in rural Texas in the 1950s was     not easy, I tell him, but it made him save room for charity and whimsy.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: David Bennett made it to 71, after all. He solved lots of riddles and decoded plenty of puzzles and ultimately learned how to be in the world. Now, having retired from careers as a Registered Nurse and Licensed Massage Therapist, he can say he made something of himself. He’s now in a death-match with bone marrow cancer, which is incurable. It will win, eventually, but David can point with pride to Pyrrhic victories over the last eleven years. He’s content in general but would rather have a different President.

AUTHOR PHOTO:  The author in a coffeehouse in Portland, Oregon, named Rain or Shine, in September 2016, at a showing of some tapestries he fashioned.

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Overcome
by James Penha

I turned seventeen during freshman year of college. My youth, apparent on my whisker-free face, provoked embarrassments: I couldn’t barhop with classmates. I had no driver’s license. When, at drama club dress rehearsal for Twelfth Night, the director ordered us men in tights to wear dancer’s belts, I asked, “What’s a dancer’s belt?”

“Don’t worry,” she said. “You don’t need one.”

But in many ways, this Catholic, middle-class, white, conservative school did fit me. This was ’64, and I was for Goldwater ‘cause LBJ bloated government but had no appetite to save Vietnam.

In November, ABC recruited students in our honors program for Election Night in Manhattan. Our job was to answer phones and enter received statistics on IBM cards for a computer that would project a winner.

I shared a phone with Hudson, one of few black students on campus. I recognized him from classes and from drama. He played Malvolio in Twelfth Night, and he did need a dancer’s belt. That night, we talked and laughed about the play and cast, sometimes missing the ringing of the phone. Luckily for ABC, the election wasn’t close. Hudson offered to buy us burgers at a diner because his man had won. “I don’t know how you can be Republican!” he said, as he grabbed one of the complimentary pickles potted at our table. “It’s no party for people like us.”

I placed my hand atop Hudson’s to contrast our hues. “Us?” I joked. “You mean actors?”

Hudson pushed the pickle into his mouth, looked around the restaurant as he chewed and swallowed and moved around to my side of the booth where he kissed me and repeated, “Us.”

It wasn’t long before I was marching against LBJ’s escalation in Vietnam, rooting for RFK to run in ’68, and singing “We Shall Overcome.”

PHOTO: The author at 16—going on 17—doing his Little Tramp on stage.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: A native New Yorker, James Penha has lived for the past quarter-century in Indonesia. He has been nominated for Pushcart Prizes in fiction and in poetry. His essay“It’s Been a Long Time Coming” was featured in The New York Times “Modern Love” column in April 2016. He edits TheNewVerse.News, an online journal of current-events poetry. Visit him on Twitter @JamesPenha.