Archives for posts with tag: LGBTQ

The Truth of Masks
by Clifton Snider

As I sit, eyes closed,
a woman called Titania
applies makeup base to my face,
chooses white & black paint,
transforms my face, hence me,
into a cat for Gay Pride Taos
Masquerade Ball,
to the white cat mask I had worn,
my new face protects me
from a multitude of invisible things.

Age, persona, marital status
become unconscious as I
shift into the character of a cat,
a night of Halloween, 1965,
& a coffee house of costumed
teen queens awaiting
the witching hour when
the bars close & their elders
come here, this very place,
more than an arrangement of tables,
bowling game, jukebox, bar,
smoke-filled atmosphere,
a veritable Satyricon
where I was born again
into this enchantment,
this very night.
                                — Halloween, 2010
                                    Taos, New Mexico

SOURCE: Moonman: New and Selected Poems (World Parade Books, 2012).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: With its title from Oscar Wilde, “The Truth of Masks” is a poem of direct experience, a survey of my life as a gay man.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Clifton Snider is the internationally celebrated author of eleven books of poetry, including Moonman: New and Selected Poems and, most recently, The Beatle Bump, and four novels: Loud Whisper, Bare Roots, Wrestling with Angels: A Tale of Two Brothers, and The Plymouth Papers.  An activist for LGBTQ rights, he pioneered LGBTQ literary studies at California State University, Long Beach. He created and taught the seminar on Oscar Wilde as well as a class on LGBTQ people in literature. A Jungian/Queer Literary critic, he has published hundreds of poems, short stories, reviews, and articles internationally, as well as the book, The Stuff That Dreams Are Made On: A Jungian Interpretation of Literature He holds a Ph.D. in English literature from the University of New Mexico, and retired from teaching at California State University, Long Beach, in 2009. He is the recipient of the Lorde-Whitman Award from OUT LOUD: A Cultural Evolution, 2018. His work has been translated into Arabic, French, Russian, and Spanish.

by James Penha

We were staying over in the living room
of our besties—she . . . and he whom I loved

obsessively to no physical avail but with
whom I remained colleague, editor, muse

philosopher, and madman poet partner—
anything to remain close. He held as well

as my heart the truth I steeled to share
with Mary my longtime girlfriend

as we finished off the cheese and sangria
sedative for the night on the living room

carpet. I have to tell you, I said, something
serious—You’re sick! she interrupted. No!

She’d felt my melancholia so often, she said,
she feared I was dying. And so she saw

a cloud lifting. But it was my mask needed
lifting before Mary. The phantom must

be faced tonight! I used to think, I said,
I could never love anyone until I found

him (sleeping now with his wife not me
in their bed) whom I loved more—veil

gone—than I could ever love Mary —I I I
cared for her even so! and therefore had

to be honest before we got carried away
into some some some thing apparently

normal because, I had to make crystalline
in this void of night and peculiar silence

that I was gay.
                        We had watched Monty
Python that night with our friends but
nothing flying in its circus matched
the absurdity as I turned for her reaction.

Mary? The solace secured in my survival
had cloaked her in a sound and soundless sleep.

PAINTING: “The Three Masks” by Juan Gris (1923).


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: A native New Yorker, James Penha has lived for the past quarter-century in Indonesia. Nominated for Pushcart Prizes in fiction and poetry, his verse appeared in 2019 in Headcase: LGBTQ Writers & Artists on Mental Health and Wellness (Oxford UP), Lovejets: queer male poets on 200 years of Walt Whitman (Squares and Rebels), and What Remains: The Many Ways We Say Goodbye (Gelles-Cole). His essays have appeared in The New York Daily News and The New York Times. Penha edits The New Verse News, an online journal of current-events poetry. Follow him on Twitter @JamesPenha.

With a Mask copy
i kind of like the masks
by MP Armstrong

a voice admits, blurred by distance
(likely more than the mandated six
feet) and veneer of technology that
floats, pervasive, in the air of current
events. i kind of like them, too; after
twenty years of shopping trips to my
internal joann fabric for scraps thick
enough, brightly patterned enough,
to hide, i am no longer the only one
tucked away in the darkness between
folds and forcing my falsified smiles
to reach my eyes. i kind of like the
sewing, the repetitive choreography
of the needle bobbing up and down
like a boat on a thin thread wave, the
boxes lined with stacks featuring the
logos of sports teams and characters
from cartoons, shipped to humanize
doctors in their sterile gowns, protect
grocery store clerks and customers in
equal measure. and i cannot say that
i like the masks, because this is no
kind of equality to enjoy; this is not a
sustainable disguise. i am supposed
to feel miserable like everyone else
baking their sourness into bread, not
icing a batch of pastries with a sweet
sugar glaze and a smile. my job is to
grimace, complain, not drown in my
own relief. but still, i like the masks.

Without a Mask copy

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I listen to a podcast called “Our Plague Year,” and certain episodes feature voicemails left by listeners describing their experiences. One man called to say that he actually kind of liked the masks that are now mandated by many states, and his sentiment really resonated with me; considering how long I’ve had to wear a mask for my own protection in other ways, as an afab person navigating patriarchal spaces, as a closeted queer person existing in a heteronormative world, and as a young person fighting for respect, it is almost a relief to know that others are living the uncomfortable experience of constantly wearing a mask and understanding the risk of removing it.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: MP Armstrong is a disabled queer poet from Ohio, studying English and history at Kent State University. Their work appears or is forthcoming in Luna Negra, Red Earth Review, and Social Distanzine, among others. They also serve as managing editor and reporter for Curtain Call and Fusion magazines. In their spare time, they enjoy traveling, board games, and brightly colored blazers. Find them online @mpawrites and at