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Sunspots

Poems by 
Louie Crew

© 1976 by Lotus Press; © 2004 by Louie Crew
LC 76-20917  ISBN 0-916418-06-5


For Ernest, my lover, spouse, and best friend

Contents



 
 

Community

Someday dark brown eyes will stare
At your carved banister,
Wondering whether it is
The Spirit That Controls the Cockroaches
that will hide behind your marble bath.
An old black man will sleep on a mat
    in the nursery.
Three families' children in the pantry
Will eat lead paint from shelves
That store your marmalade.
It won't be rich folks' house then,
And no one will care that
Your foyer matches one in Florence or that
One niche held a medieval madonna.

To Table of Contents

On Being Alive


Apple blossoms in October.

A shrill whistle in the distance,
but not from the dry lips
of the little boy
who crunches down the alley
with his shattered umbrella
against the sun.

Smells of dead tuna float violin-like
into apple blossom.

For a second I believe
that the leaves
violently swishing
just outside my door
are for me. But I am for them.

I have been apprehended.

Perhaps what the exhibitionist
feels, wanting to be caught.

Revelations of nakedness
in the gray off-light
of a blind-drawn rooms
on cold autumn sunny afternoons.

I have been apprehended.

To see an old shoe with wonder
at its creases.

To watch the water
at the drain, as Ulysses watched,
in the ninth year voyaging home.

To see up as down, and still
not lose your balance.

To learn your attitude
only from a mirror
(for you are in the face
only what others see):

Such is wonder,
the same that on Patmos
before John the Divine
plopped a horse-riding whore,
and she'll be coming round the mountain
as Shostakovitch a flute trill does.

Human skin is lovely, Gulliver,
even when it peels or when you feel
no hormone desire to touch, only wonder
at so strange a metamorphosis of dust.

I have been apprehended.

To Table of Contents

Confederate Celebrations

I

On the green lawn a crowd, a mob, a herd, a group,
Southerners, just some boys and girls with a smattering
of grownups (some not so grownup) gather to say
Vietnam's wrong, Kent State's wrong, Jackson State's
wrong, my Dad's wrong, my preacher's wrong, life's wrong,
the law's a whore, free our women, I'm hungry,
I want to sing, things gotta change, things gotta grow;
touch your liver, squeeze my toe.

II

A mound of red plastic flickers, nudges past.
Them's the ones. I told ya we'd be at it extra days.
Like George says, it's just the few what wants horse
sense who causes all the trouble. Christ! When I
was in school, Communism was jist a word,
but now they come in droves right her in Alabama.
Look at that long-haired little bitch carryin her banner!
Ha! I know what kinda freedom she wants!
There's a time I'da done it for her too.
Freedom's what we got, the bread on my plate,
niggers with they own place. Freedom's my promotion,
my shiny buttons and clean uniform. Lord, look!
Is it a him or a her? I better get a haircut.
And it a-touching that, that pole of smudged flesh.
Drive round the Quad agin, cause chief said to clear it.
This here's explosive. The govner's sceered he won't
look tough enough to beat George. Move in. That guy
there, he's the main one. He laughs, but I know
the smirk he has for me.

Lawd, Mary, I take it like a man, but it's hard to be
a campus cop. Kids say all kind crap about you.
Squeeze agin, real good like. I'm glad the city force
relieved us, but more overtime would help to fix us up.

III

A crowd gathers in a churchyard on Eighth Street
because two blocks away on campus it's illegal to assemble.
A dozen or more professors huddle, not really certain
what's going on, where this's going. Something of a panty
raid in it. The ACLU lawyer, an old schoolboy anxious
to play games with college presidents, announces he's here
to remind, only to remind, I don't speak of violence, no,
just to remind that young whippersnapper of a president
that sits in the slave-built house over yonder that he's
gotta think twice before he starts to tamper with rights
of some might fine chillun of Alabama!
Several hundred mighty find chillun move quietly
through the sweaty May heat, with just the promise of chill,
past a cemetery with no famous dead, past riots of azaleas
stifled by darkness, toward the schoolhouse door,
wondering about the talk of no exams, and won't
it hurt my grade more if they're canceled and how
did we get into all this? Why, my roommate,
an outspoken Republican, even he was arrested, just
for trying to walk to the dorm from his car. Weird, man.

IV

German canceled, to allow us to talk about the campus
situation, as President Mathews has requested.

Now what's your view, Miss. Belle? Miss. Belle says
It's silly, like a movie she'd seen in Chocolocco,
in which people smoked pot and had orgies, done
unchristian things, not like the parties at my sorority.
The riots just let poor white trash interfere.
they may even upset the exam schedules. I'd rather
get back to German Culture, which is more sophisticated.
What were they doing at Auschwitz? What's German for magnolia?

And Mr. Roberts, what's the hippie view?
Peter Roberts, doubting that his experiments measure
high in international hippiedom, replies, Sir,
It's all to try to get us closer together, I guess.
you and me, not roles shouting, `I teacher, you student,
meet only so close! Two poised fingertips about to touch.'
Yet they've brought in more cops than to the Selma march,
this time not to see that we make it safe, but that
we don't make it at all.

Black student listens, wondering whether Whitey
is really changin, whether only a little better
than a decade after Autherine Lucy this is just
Little Spoiled Peckerwood using luv for Black
as a whip for getting back at Daddy. Black student
then wonders what's in it for himself, staring out of Morgan Hall,
hoping this class will be over soon.

V

Outside a girl rides her bicycle home wondering why
her husband could want to be arrested, and crowds
of troopers weave around her 112 pounds of intellect
packaged by Cleopatra, but not by Jean d'Arc.

Harboring secret affection for the barbarians,
a man on the corner bites his cigar and wonders
how his department head took his clever allusion
to the student-faculty coalition as "marauding Goths."
Reading drugstore magazines in Indian incense with
the buzzy radio one boy dreams of Rosalind,
Playgirl of the Month, and looks forward to skiing
on Lake Martin. Revolution, yeah. We're changing Alabama.

VI

Stoned in the Quad. Woods Hall has mud splotches
as if yankee horsemen have just galloped off.
Half past eight. Dark. Even cold tonight. I,
a junior from Dadeville, tackle Voltaire, try
to beat the sucker on his own logic. Cheap grass.
The heat's on for the Narcs while the political
fat fries. I want to swim in this moonlight,
ladle it down my back with large gray spoons.
Going to a place of freedom, a place sunny every day,
a place with nothing in the way, a place, a place
in space. God, Mama, I love you. Daddy, I'm no
prodigal. I'll stay. I've always stayed at home.

VII

President Mathews kisses his children goodnight.
David is kissing his children goodnight in a room
where a Federal sentry once slept, just inside from
where a State Trooper now sleeps. David is only
slightly afraid, little fears that buzz like tires
down rainy streets. David is kissing his children
and deciding it best to call head cop Colonel Leigh.
I, an historian, have no more need to consult the faculty
than had Charles the First to call Parliament.
The Puritans aren't coming.

VIII

Summer came dragging a woolen shawl of fire to smoke out
everything, waking geriatric judges in the night.
Highways were built. Mayors were elected.
Some book clubs started using incense. slums were
torn down and rebuilt. Fly-fishing recruited 2304
novitiates in the decade. Some started to read
The New York Times that spring. Some went away
to teach in Georgia, or even Iowa.
It seems so long ago, like way down behind that
dazzling crabapple tree. I joined the Alumni
Association, just to represent the rebellious sort.
Last year I enjoyed my forty-fifth Homecoming.
Games aren't what they were when Bear was there.
No, he didn't get involved in the Revolution, was off
doing real things. The times haven't changed.
I keep hearing children in my dreams saying,
Touch your liver, squeeze my toe,
Things gotta change, things gotta grow.

To Table of Contents

Third World

A woman fills her cup above our male
stench. I'd sooner die of thirst!.....

Then the man next to me finishes,
shakes, reaches his fingers
to that same trough, brings drops
to the crown, wipes it dry, as quick
as a snake's tongue, drops his djelleba,
and carries his rinse into a clean Arab sun.

Mine goes home all American.
 

To Table of Contents

Church of the Epiphany

Mama, all that glitter!
Did white folks god really be
    born in a barn?

To Table of Contents

Four National Lyrics

1

Mom, I'm only playing with my beads
of Quaker-popped sperm shot from worms
on an Asian bank of pubic reeds,
a double-dog Moses who never feeds
his mind on ultra-aggressive needs:
for I am dying this year.

2

Why are you staring at me?
Reality is more than what you see.
I'll fuck your mind mortally
before you charge an ugly fee
for scratching my eye with your knee.
How do you expect to be free, Mister?

3

Celia has a cunt
with a sticky squeeze.
Billy has a rump
with a greasy breeze.
I have a pump
that aims to please.
Ain't life beautiful?

4

(To "Mammy's Little Baby Love. . . .")

Jerry's in the White House,
Mao's on a farm,
you and I're here
doing no harm.

I'm scared of people
who're scared of me;
everybody's scared
of being truly free.

Now as evermore
the blind lead the blind,
while you're sitting here
blowing my mind.

If I could jump in you
could jump in me
just for five seconds,
what'ya think we'd see?

I know the brain's squeaking
like a ship on the sea;
it's the wave-high silence
that scares the hell outa me.
 

To Table of Contents

Paulene Revere

The sissies are coming! The sissies are coming! The
        sissies are coming!

We gonna swerve, sisters,
    Right down the church aisle to  communion
    Right past the altar for our marriages
Yes, Lord, fishing after men!

The sissies are coming! The sissies are coming! The
        sissies are coming!

We're coming form every family, momma,
    At least down to first cousins,
    Not to mention aunts, uncles,
        brothers, sisters
    Even our mothers and our fathers.
And we're coming from families we have
    made for ourselves!

The sissies are coming! The sissies are coming! The
        sissies are coming!

We've been passing for generations,
    Defining stud and femme for the entire
        culture,
    Painting, writing, singing, and dancing
        straits' love stories,
    And now we're coming as we are, all on
            our own!

The sissies are coming! The sissies are coming! The
        sissies are coming!

Reading, wrecking, swerving, and perching,
    All of us sissies are really coming,
        Lord,
    We're gonna trickle right over;
Watch out for us sissies, cause we will
        be grand!
 

To Table of Contents

Be Still

I met myself last night when suddenly
I saw my hand cup the moon like a lemon drop
in the warm palm of a stranger's hand.
It was my hand: but I saw
the gesture as an outsider.

I met myself last night as a voice
ventriloquizing itself to this stranger,
and what I heard myself saying I heard
not as my voice at all, the voice
of a public me to whom
a more substantial me replied.

It was like praying while aware of angels
treading water in a mire about my head.

Mainly I told me to hush for a while,
and when I did not obey,
at least I saw the lies
in what I had been saying, but....

Hush! I said.
And I heard the quietness of the moon,
the beady quietness,
like a radio turned on to no station
and no static: like that,
but quieter still.

 

To Table of Contents

Debutante Blues

It was the silence that
turned my morning voice
to the vagueness of one
who wants to forget.

Had I been insincere merely
because a disturbing desire
to touch you had possessed me
since first I saw. . . .

Eyes, which had always,
even when you were my student,
mandated honesty like those of
mother asking for the "real" reason,
even now when no mother could understand
the loneliness that was mine to confess.

lips, wetly reminiscent of childhood
afternoons, when I liked to play
with my tongue on spoons of peanut
butter in a warm parlor, alone.
 

Not that I touched,
But that I touched in silence
--without warning, drunk?
awakened suddenly?--

It was the silence that
turned my morning voice
to the vagueness of one
who wants to forget.

 

To Table of Contents

Rough Trade


Your hand so casually limp, your free
Arm flexing, your blackness creases moist light
Into warm folds. You smile. Sensing the rite,
I reach to touch your strong thighs furtively.
You jerk back. I stop. Into plastic balled,
Your eyes queer me. I want before back, not
Your fear. Cancel reach. Take as reason what
Was not part of why; exchange "It all
Began when Mother pushed me off the pot"
For your surprise.
It seems he readjusts
With ease to intellectualize my lusts,
Indulges himself as victim. I plot
Safely only a case history now;
Then I fondly dared to touch him, somehow.

 

To Table of Contents

White Like Me

Either you look away or you stare through me
when you say that I cannot possibly know
what it means to be black. I cannot.

To me it's being more sexual or an eternal martyr
or my opposite, an aesthetic contrast.....

Still you look away or stare through me
when you say that I cannot possibly know.

Likewise, I must look away or stare through you
when you say that you can know what it means
to be white, that whiteness is being
all-powerful, or being a chalky non-color
to set off richly honest black......

and we are a little less
because we could know each other.

[1966]

To Table of Contents

What's It to You?

I give you five almonds on which to make a
        wish,
Four of which will come true.
I give you a tune to whistle in the dark
on your way home alone.
I give you two-penny-worth of bubblegum,
like an argument.
I give you seven pineapple sandwiches
with sour mayonnaise.
I give you S2.69 to see a sad western movie
in the deepfreeze.
I give you a leaf to crumble and sniff
in all its liquid greenness.
I give you a cloud to watch as it
darts behind a cathedral.
I give you eighteen aspirin for the eighti-
        eth
Madonna of the Shrine of the Blue Moon.
I give you glass tinkling as a peasant goes
        to market.
I give you a dry fountain, moss-covered,
I give you hammers to bang down doors.

I give you gold to steal.
I give you eyes that will dilate while staring.
I give you a chin to tickle.
I give you this much: for all this
Won't you love me just an itsy, bitsy bit,
Please?
BANG.

And we stood naked, alone in the same room:
father and daughter, husband and wife,
man and woman, boy and girl,
afraid, measuring our pants,
lungs like minced meat.
I would stop this noise if I could.
I would fly to soar down,
to perform for you so as to perform with you.
To celebrate us.
 

To Table of Contents

Lord, Last Spring!

That's when I stopped liking my body,
Wished I hadn't put all that time
Making it so male, so butch;
That's when, baby,
I first started peeping out,
Before my debut

            Read him honey!

            Yes, Lord; chill us brother!

Now I am a woman trapped
In a cage of male muscle,

Wreck us, sister!

A gorgeous quean strapped in boy bulges.
 

To Table of Contents

Frozen Possibilities

Voices locked in promises,
who dares disturb the future
or to wrinkle now with words,
even if to say I love you,
have loved you, will love you?

Did Mrs. Browning mean as much
to Robert as she has meant to troops
of women wanting to swap theirs
for a Robert?)
 

To Table of Contents

With Morning Glories


Our fighting lacks maturity; stark rage
consumes our entire energy once our
feeble egos threaten to despoil. Grim, caged
adults, we chase familial phantoms hour
on hour around a den of lurid fears:
I, your mean daddy, marshal through your brain
Napoleonic orders which with tears
you disobey, enjoying them just the same.
You, my rejecting mama, with cold teat
bared, mocking me for wanting to be warm.
Like lonely wrinkled Rembrandt children fit
for geriatrics, ancients taking forms
from nurseries. This is love? This temple
stalks
Venus and her blue-eyed boy lost in talk?

To Table of Contents

Spring Loneliness

Tired of my work, I walked in narrow lanes
this afternoon to watch March make its way
in England. Fields were smothered more with grey
than green. A jogger sloshed through the mud drains
of recent snow. Unseen birds piped quaint strains
of busyness from every hedge. Stray
small flowers brittled in the cold. Delay
loomed with a dull numbness nothing explains.

At twilight I entered a small church, vast
with dark corners and prayers on short cold breath.
I thought I heard the eerie sound of death
in creaking pews and pat of feet that passed.
The noise, the room, the day: appropriate
for one like me, who misses you a bit.

To Table of Contents

Haircut


Yes, clip a little off the sides, just so
And did you mean to leave the door ajar,
Though I suppose no student's wildest guess
could see this gesture one of love? And why
Are you so stern, intense, as not to smile
At this perfunctory chore?

                                    The mirror? Yes,
I grow bald, true. Those spots? From chicken pox,
Because I scratched, as you your warts have cut
And left a sore.

Suppose the patter down
The hall comes here: the drama would be rich,
I think, to see me old again, assume
My professorial pose and grandly sit
White robed with academic levity
In student's barber sheet. I'm known to jest;
It's here that lies our calm security.

They've gone downstairs this time. Oh, just
            as well;
I get enough of acting through the week.

Surely the cow-lick must be cut: you're wrong
To think that therein lies my character.
I'm not all jest, not all tears either. But
You know: for jest, my picture on your wall,
Hanging among the many others there,
My stance a comical, frank mockery
Of all that coaching is. And yet for tears,
Your poem newly written, seeing me
The oversized mosquito that you caught
But did not squash in our canoe.

At any rate, I'm tears and jests, and not
Just one, if either.

                            Still? I squirm too much?
I know. Forgive. Your skills are more advanced
Than I had hoped. I thought to get a nick,
A slight one just behind the ear, a badge
Of boyhood, a silly souvenir from you
To me, a sometime Humbert Humbert lost
In love here in a nice boys' boarding school.

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The Grief Rehearsed


Suppose our words that sound so fake once said
are really all we have to say, that these
our bodies as they are just now, can tease
no more seduction, charge is ever wed
to unreality, that mystery's dead
and nothing is ineffable, that trees
are wood with winds not spirits in the leaves,
our sole neighbors the dolts who nextdoor bed.

The rich insomniac sees the yellow light
under the doorframe crawl to edge a cell,
confine grimmer than that of snoring thief
in county jail. For you and me the grief
rehearsed becomes its own destructive hell,
kaleidoscopic turning in the night.

To Table of Contents

Reflections of Mister Antolini

Oh, I knew I had desires;
That has rooted too often for me
To hide them from myself: The voyeur
In me had his place in lonely bus stops
And other disinfected spots where
I planned to contain him, like a germ.

I had in mind another kind of ferment
When first I took professorial forceps
To your brain. You were but one of many
Cherubim for whom I meant this service,
As dispassionately as a surgeon with his
Sterile tools stimulates growth.

Even when I dreamed you my suitor,
I awoke to chuckle in a morning stupor,
Prepared to fantasize without alarm.

When you talked of girls, I listened
To train your articulation,
Silencing my innocuous pruriency.

But you have awakened before the recovery
            room.
You would not remain etherized,
And I am frightened by the gentleness
Of your beautiful, knowing glances.
 

[">Mister Antolini is the teacher of Holden
Caulfield in The Catcher in the Rye.]

To Table of Contents

Getting In and Out of Relation

When you have been burping
Academic talk for five or six hours,
worrying to phrase it,
polish it, make Keats seem
the logical consequence
of a queen's court entertainer
of two centuries before,
the art is to reject every vision,
even the one you have now
that your present space exists
only unimportantly in time,
and to float between flute streams
hearing the train bruise blackly
the dark moonlight night.
Bruckner is slow
Elvis is fast;
Strong is the snow
daring to last.
Survive the visions, the revisions,
walk like a movie actor undaunted, unambivalent,
confident that her vision is it.

I am caught. You saw me

picking my nose,
scratching my crotch,
looking at the photograph longingly
and the god you wanted is dead.
I steal bubblegum by the penny:
I want you to know;
Yet I'm still afraid the stranger,
the casual guest, will steal a sppon
   a wedding plate, $5, like those
         who would rather not have their reality
         stirred, would rather believe moonwalks
         and Watergates hoaxes,
         that Shakespeare never loved a boy,
         that Jesus did not have wet dreams.

God is........

Please send by a bag of vigoro for my tomatoes;
it's already time to start staking them.

Love me!  Don't leave!  Hold me.
But look, I'm walking alone.  I can do it,
fighting getting in and out of relation.
 

To Table of Contents

An Incident


Walking alone to beat the heat
of the humid night, I chanced
into a spider's web, set at
eye level between two low trees.

Making the sound of a thousand harp strings,
off key and turned down low,
the maze broke in a crazed pattern
across my forehead, down my hair,
in curious, myriad channels from
nose to ear, and back to eye
and down to lips.
 

With an instant arc, my finger tips
clawed the threads--more from discomfort
than from dread--until I felt
they touched the monster
(for he seemed at least the size
of shrunken head or bloated thumb).

Then they couldn't find him again,
and I had to walk the mile back home
without a comb to assure that my
constant scratching was in vain.

Clearly my confusion there
obscured my seeing that
it is rare to be caught
in someone else's trap at the time
it has so little power to do me harm.

To Table of Contents

Wedlocked


My first glad songs prized you for what you made
me feel respected, needed, stroked, desired.
All new to me was everything you said.

My flesh, tired of itself, flushed, shivered, fired

by your lust. "I like myself," I thought; "I'm strong,
appropriate your beauty as my own."
As an only child I hoarded, and long
I tabulated how my wealth had grown
I celebrated not your beauty but
my own. Your eyes saw all and told me so.
My singing stopped. You left. New, cold wedlock
loneliness settled unrehearsed. Yet go
where I will, still I smell you, want you here,
want to kiss you, speak, touch your yellow hair.

To Table of Contents

Bent

Their typing pecks in titillations there,
over the lilac and the apple blossoms.
This giddy, strange dirge heralds your abrupt
departure. Little can sweaty, fate-like
amanuenses, stuck for a hot day's
work in the country, guess their horrible
perverse, bleak service, tapping you away
as black ink striking white, official sheets,
mingling their cheap perfume with monastic
    stench
to suffocate the spring! "Funereal!
It's not right! You are crazy!" I would
     shout
at them; but they would only fart or wink,
startled by my accusing madness. Hence,
I stand a master peering at the page
recorded, hiding my malevolence
with actor's smile.

Their private word is queer;
their public euphemism, "Acts against
nature. But what can they in wisdom know
of Nature? "Your behavior's queer--no,
      damned
unnatural!" I almost shout; but stop,
because I cannot be their teacher. No!
How like the spring you've come to free me
to know a summer's secret joy while you,
uprooted thus, must go condemned away.
They would not understand. Their dirge
     resumes.
I walk away. Love, Bill

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Fishing


You're growing worms? To feed on death?
Oh, just to bait a breathless hook
to fetch slippery mead sanded mealy
in a plate that will feed
your mouth no questions?

Do you augur as you wet the rich dirt
crumbs in the dark long box you've made,
how the smooth lake will rip with the cord
which a moment before whipped your worm
across the moss-scented air?

No, I'm not loco. Lots of people have
grown worms, and I just want to find out
why you do, and so soon. Lao Tse, Buddha,
the Caesars, and millennia of peasants
all grew worms, although perhaps they didn't
intend to. Only Jesus and the Pharaohs didn't:
Christ starved them in the dank cell where
the rock had been (The Great Fisherman was
later a Fish himself, eaten by "worms"
at holy hours to the ringing of bells);
the Pharaohs choked them with giddying shellac
and a solid stare decaying slower than wood
or even rock decays.

Obscure? Ask Prince Hamlet. He studied
this ecology. Your own great, great grandfather
too; he trembled at the thought of The Worm.
What I want to know is, why don't you and I?
There's an art to the study of one's bait.

Twelve loaves and five fishes.

To Table of Contents

Seance Gifts


When Julius Caesar was born I
got to wash the pans the midwife used.
I picked him up, once
when the nurse wasn't looking.
He was an ugly baby
and would never wink back.

Ain't you tired of important queers?
Hey, Caiaphas, slip me a joint;
this kid's a real crank.

O.K. No, man.
I liked it too much to take money for it.

And Mrs. Lincoln, you won't tell will you?

Damn. Eat it and shut up.
You ain't so special.

I have a room where everybody can sit
and all be one person.
Inside all are snug, but
I keep losing the key or farting.

To Table of Contents

"Pansies, That's for Thoughts" (Ophelia)


Bring the pail of warm water, Molly.
Tomorrow is Victory Day.
Don't remember, but there's no work.
Let's go to mud creek. You buy the worms.
There are lots of people there.

Dark light on a blue wall.
Cavities wadded with paper and glue.
Who scrapes at the window?
Let the stranger in. Yes, let him in.
Shoes covered with dried mud.
A bony hand on an ivory cane.
A beaver gnaws at an elephant's tusk.

Wild green onions sprout on a red clay mountain.
Waterbugs hatch in a skyscraper's basement.
Grandfather's watch! Be careful.
We've got to re-paper the room.
Yes, it must be chartreuse.
Purple blood from a pregnant womb.

Did you ever watch wind blow fuzz from a
dandelion?

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Mouths


I sing of mouths.....

Big ones, dried in the Sahara,
sucking teeth at a camel.

Little ones, pursed against the trumpet
blasting Jericho.

Round lifesaver ones on whistlers
at the beach or on murderers on their
nights off as they stalk just alley cats.

Mouths. Passages huge, red, veined,
dripping in slick globules
through tunneled ruts of strawberry,
watermelon skin, bouncing brilliance
off a Socratic tongue with a snake's
fierce flicker.

Cleopatra's saying 'yes," then "no," then
"yes" again.

Nero's dripping vomit or sperm.

Jesus's burping wine at Cana or smiling
knowingly at the women in his life,
and at the men.

Tiny prayer makers. Eating machines.

Chewers of lies and of truths. Storerooms
of enamel and a colorless tasteless liquid.

Suppose you didn't have one for just one hour
out of each day, an hour unannounced,
struck wherever you happened to be, not
speechless, but mouthless, at the butcher's,
or hunting spiders, or at heaven's gate
banging on the tiny brass knocker, anywhere,
mouthless.
No twitch at the corner that isn't there.
No sigh; at best a snort.
It'd be nice for some people, just at the point
of the lie we'd rather not hear, just at the
point of the truth we'd prefer not think.

But mouthless we're not.

A mouth open in tropical heat.

A mouth oozing, drooling ice cream.

A mouth juicy with desire, freshly red with
magic below a 60-watt bulb in a tiny broken
mirror where a girl sets her expression as
she would rather be but feels only part of
the time.

Mouths biting peanuts. Mouths biting people.

Fierce bites. Playful nibbles.

Barkers. Suckers. Bubblers. Coughers.
Frowners.

Breath passage. Room of stereophonic slush
interrupted in peasant dialects of the
eighth century in England, asking for mead.

Suction tubes for children's cries
muffled by airconditioning.

Fathers' salesman-like mouths.

Mouths that say all. That say nothing.

Sing, tell, bring forth, speak, shout it,
break forth, "It's good enough for me!"

Spink. Splat. Take that.

Mouth it, mumble moundingly.

Marvel mit mein mind.

To Table of Contents

Near Plato's Cave


We were groping up the pebbled slope
To find again our place in the moon
Out of the nightshade though which
We'd scrambled. You had only mild contempt
For all my jokes and playful bugs placed
Down your back, and I was about to say
that joy is often tricks, that your doubts
Have a more common origin, when,
Standing to judge our progress,
Suddenly you slipped upon your back
And feet first darted towards
The four-poster house my limbs had made,
And I, to stop you, fell to catch you,
And then we knew
As surely as the unzipperer knows the unzipped.

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Practical Joke


Johnny Weismuller, the perfect clerk,
has found rubbers in his box of rubber
        bands.

Who's the cat who an explain to him why
        or

how his sex, so nicely concealed even from
        himself
by a pair of silk skivvies, could become
a matter of public concern? And who cares

or knows the regret he feels in finding it
        thus?

To Table of Contents

To Coleridge

I too am worried about perception, Mr. C.,
not whether the candle before me is real,
but why at one moment it is a light
yellowing my book and taking my gaze
to the floor where Christabel lies entranced,
and yet, why one moment hence, the candle
is only a Walmart special
and I am no closer to Christabel
than its new flame to those they lighted,
having stolen through the silent halls.

There are a thousand thousand candles
before me in this one, or a thousand
thousand me's before this candle.
The only unity I can get
is by denying most of it.
It's not really a question of my soul,
but of by which soul I am told
to see into the heart of it.

My friend Octavio knows behind
which chimney--and at just what angle--
Orion hides each night: I often
forget Orion exists, and wouldn't
know him by sight winking his way
around any roof. Yet I sometimes
see Endymion there or feel
the sea bosoming proudly here,
as our friends Keats and Wordsworth
taught me to do.
Hence, we together walking see
different sorts of identity,

and I am afraid.

To Table of Contents

To Canterbury in March

We beat Chaucerian pilgrims by two months,
traveling past sheep in snow, yet crisped in Jags
and Fords. Forsythian flashes, like bright flags
along the road, performed some yellow stunts
through our steamed glass. There, we had a hot lunch,
then stood beneath the weathered, nuded crags
where once had stood stone saints in glory. Nags
ushered dull husbands inside, where one bunch
of U.S.C.s, rapt by a Cockney guide,
saw Becket murdered fresh beneath the Queen
of Spades and pondered skimpy thighs and hide
medieval under a marble maxi. Lean
and watching, a tired English matron said,
"Well, one cathedral's like another, dead."

To Table of Contents

">

                  Out   on    the 
                  desert        a 
                  cradle     rocks 
                  to      incanta-
                  tion.

     Deep   in  the  city's  shadows   a   sparrow 
    darts   trustingly   to   receive   the    bread 
       crumbs offered it by a crying vagrant girl.

                  Out   on    the
                  farm,    having
                  stored      the
                  heavy       ma-
                  chines,       a
                  silent   tenant
                  jerks with  his
                  soft,     white
                  hand   a   tiny
                  weed       from
                  beneath     the
                  concrete       
                  steps  to   the
                     veranda.    

             I have overcome the world!
 

To Table of Contents


 
 

Spiritus Mundi

Red worms crawl through ice cream cone
tunnels
in a space spiraling just outside your mind.
Why? God is I, You, She, bringing incense
even to forbidden altars.

Suppose you want to touch the back of flowers
and feel guilty in a world where men fear
not at all to blow one another to bits,
away from home.

How much soul can we tabulate?
The smile of one no longer a virgin;
patterns of weakness as holiness;
learning that dead Christmas trees
are still pretty.

To Table of Contents

Hymn to the Gay Brotherhood


We were in the primal forest waiting
for hairy men under orange moons
below the menstrual lionesses; and
we cleared the wilderness.

We built villages where we were stable boys
And where we were traveling men teasing them,
Ancient mariners with a vision of purity
enmeshed with visions of our snakes.

We were inside Plato's cave;
Along the cool riverbank walking with Socrates;
In a hot Hebrew tent with David and Jonathan
before Eros turn to power,
before our Uriah, lover of fighting men,
            was betrayed.
We were with Portia Caesar many autumn nights
after radishes and our men had made our
            rumps sore.
We chased boys across continents and built
cities named for them,
hired artists to perpetuate their beauty,
sponsored the flowering of Roman art with
            a revival of Grecian grace.
We walked in Galilee, suffering little children,
calling after fishermen, teaching new
            bait.

We walked in marble halls, stood at small win-
dows to guard the harems, sang castrati to
the glory of life, of love, or men; climbed
the banks of Oriental rivers, plunged through
African jungles, built temples to celebrate
our joy.

Frustrated, we often started new religions,
turned our thorns in the flesh to mission-
ary zeal, wrote "dearly beloved, Brother"
            for all the faiths.

We preserved European intellect through a
thousand years of darkness, copied manu-
scripts carefully in damp monastic libraries,
and wrote salacious lyrics to cute novices
clomping down dark cloisters.

We came out in glory when the West burst,
And we defined the New Man,
Drew his finger touching God's in the Sistine
                Chapel,
Entertained royalty and commonalty on the banks
of the Thames with transvested tales of
luscious lads as maidens fair; and main-
tained the strait illusion while at home
we poured out our heart to a rejecting
tease, or rushed with our doublet open to
madden a maid.

We brought the idea of elegance to fashion,
Designed rococo and a trillion wigs and well-
painted warts; laced our plush and romped
in pansies and hedgerows.

We have discovered chemicals, medical operations,
civil rights; written symphonies, revived
classical studies, built libraries and filled
them, chaired departments, led revolutions
and reactions, been presidents, kings, team-
sters, stewards, bishops.....all waiting
in closets, in silence for the approach of him
            we love.

We have had to drink hemlock with our sperm.

We are outlaws almost everywhere.
Our brothers have had to drag chains,
they have had goods, manuscripts, idea,
            style, stolen;
We have peopled every jail, and every hospital
            for the plague;
We have been called cheap, superficial, unfor-
givable sinners, half-persons, unnatural,
corrupting, criminal, sick, punk, bent,
            queer.....

And we ourselves have sometimes believed it.

Believed it, and yet defied our own belief
To preserve for the world an alternate sexu-
ality, personhood, achievement, beauty,
            grace, spirit.

And we will go on to build a new world,
We will be the peaceful solution to the popu-
lation explosion.
We will bless midnights with fulfilled desire
And mornings with a renewal of man's humanity
                to man,
Because we are Gay, because we believe in life,
                in Brothers.

To Table of Contents


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