Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Green Man Project 2

green man gold
autumn rest
till spring

winter sleep
long snow spell
under leaves

dream cast
coat of prayers
across a sea

a sigh, a slumber
inside green crucible
life is remade

of flesh

from brown
to awakening
teeth of mother nature

Green Man Project

Early November, warm day, clear skies.

Gathered up a lot of maple leaves from the beautiful golden tree out back, shedding its leaves in a yellow circle on the green lawn. Spirit of autumn. Put the leaves in a basket to bring indoors. Then, with the assistance of my artist friend Alex, made several self-portraits, some shamanic, others purely erotic, of myself as the Green Man emerging from the bed of leaves.

This feels like a photo shoot that becomes the raw material for a new series of digital artworks. Move the images into Photoshop, work with them to create mythopoetic, shamanic art, full of layers and complexities, all of it about life, death, the cycle, the turn of the Wheel of the Year.

Death and rebirth, the Horned One, the Green Man, the Great God Pan, dying in autumn to be reborn in spring. My own quasi-death and rebirth this past year, coming back to life now after brushing close to the other worlds.

Other photos we made are more explicitly erotic than these. I need to work those ideas some more before I present them. Images of my erect phallus emerging from a bed of leaves, like new growth emerging from the forest floor.

Symbol of the phallic archetype of fertility. More purely connected to the archetype of the fertility deity, the Green Man, the Greening itself the source and circle of life. Life and love and sex and death all intertwined. The celebration of return of life.

Leaves covering the skin and revealing the surgical scar. Return to life, victory over death, rebirth. This is all tied together for me now: even my sexual expression lately has been about affirming life over death, each sexual experience, each orgasm, a celebration of survival, of life, of overcoming the impossible.

At the end of this photo shoot, a last-minute discovery that putting the leaves up to the light of the setting sun, and photographing them with the macro lens, backlit, yields some fascinating abstract colors and forms. I made enough of these latter images to start work on assembling a stock photo set of abstract patterns from natural forms. I'll probably go leaf-hunting and do some more of these later.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

It's Time

This is one the best pro-gay-marriage items I've yet run across.

I'm not entirely pro-gay-marriage, as I have problems with the institution of marriage itself. But I am very much anti-discrimination, and I am very much for people having the right to choose.

it's time. End marriage discrimination now.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Body Knowing

from The Surgery Diaries

Struggling as I have the past few days with the realization that I am living inside a post-surgery depression episode, I am also struggling from time to time with impatience and annoyance at the ostomy appliance. This morning, it’s coming loose, in a welter of itching and smells. I have been straining at its limits. Yesterday I tool the longest walk yet since the surgery, probably a mile total, in the hot afternoon. Between taking a shower, my own sweating, and my increased physical activity, of bending and walking and being more physical, I stress the adhesive to its limits, and this morning the appliance is coming off. Today is a scheduled day for changing it anyway, but it’s impatient.

So am I. I’m supposed to wait for the nursing staff to call me and show up to supervise, as I have decided to change it myself this morning, and in my impatience I’m only going to wait so long before I dive in. I’m also hungry, having slept deeply by not as long as usual, and waking up early before this dawn’s dramatic thunderstorm line rolled through. It’s been hours since I awoke, and I want to eat. But I want to change the appliance first, so that I am not excreting while trying to make the change. I’m hungry, and I’m also thinking about food, because I haven’t eaten yet, and also because today is Saturday, and I want to go down to the local farmer’s market, to buy some fresh vegetables and other goods. The best food I can make for myself, in my recovery, is made from good fresh organic produce. And I have to make an effort to go find it, on market days. So I don’t want to miss out of visiting the market, if the nurse takes too long to get here.

This morning I am reading another book about the theology of the body. That’s a recurring pattern in what I am interested to read, ever since last year’s near death experience of almost dying from anemia, the emergency blood transfusions, and the several close calls I have had since then. Five transfusions over the past year or so means that I feel gratitude to ten strangers, one stranger per bag of red blood cells that I was given, for saving my life. Literally. Some of those near approaches to dying I am still unsure how I fell about. My emotions are sometimes still numb, still uncertain, even while at other times I am flooded with emotions, grief, anger, rage, frustration, impatience, and the like, far in excess of the strength of the trigger. When I am triggered lately I overreact to an excessive degree. Another sign of depression. How I tend to manifest depression is these emotional mood swings, coupled with feelings of utility, hopelessness, despair, helplessness, and isolation. All of which have been strongly with me lately.

The book I am reading this morning is Melanie May’s A Body Knows: A Theopoetics of Death and Resurrection. The writing style, which the author herself admits comes from living too long in her head while an academic, even as her body put her through illnesses and near death experiences, to wake her up to the body’s attentive and aware reality, is discursive, and occasionally distracting. I like what May is saying throughout this book, but she is a little too fond of poetic alliteration, even in her prose sections. She does include her poems that reflect on her experience, which is wise, although they too are a bit too alliterative. Maybe that’s an unconscious Anglo-Saxon influence rising to the surface. Maybe it’s too many years being an academic wordsmith. Regardless, I overlook my small annoyance at her writing style to get at the meat of her argument, which is profound and good.

I am reading books like this because they reflect on my own ongoing experience of death and resurrection. I have died, been killed, been gutted, been stuffed, been changed, and brought back to life. Brought back to life in the full knowledge that I am going to be killed, regutted, restrung, knitted back together, and will face an even worse, more painful, more enduring recovery process. The second surgery is going to be worse than the first, I am promised. So I will die again, with no guarantee of being reborn that time. I sowed together my affairs as best I could before this first surgery, in case I did literally die; I will need to go through all that again.

Okay, the nurse is here. Pause for a change of bags, pause for chatting, pause for a meal, and for going to the farmer’s market.

In her book, Melanie May cites some other writers who have been through the forge of death and rebirth, and weaves some of their stories through the threads of her own.

I have to learn to love myself before I can love you or accept your loving. You have to learn to love yourself before you can love me or accept my loving. Know we are worthy of touch before we can reach out for each other.
—Audre Lorde

Worthy of touch. My own body often feels touch-deprived. When I receive a massage, or a backrub, or a loving touch, it is near ecstasy for me. There are reasons I feel touch-starved; chief among them is the dynamic balance between being a very sensual, physically erotic person, and being raised in a birth tribe that was touch-withholding.

I was five years old, in India, when during nap time, I snuck out of the house and across the yard to the concrete washing area, where the servants would wash and beat wet clothing against the concrete, rinse clothes in the vat, and later hang them to dry on lines in the hot tropical sun, where they would dry quickly. I would sneak out during after nap time, and go out to the washing area, and take off all my clothes, so that I could feel the sunlight and air on my skin. I vividly remember how the hot sun felt on my skin, the smell of soap and water lingering on the concrete tubs, the quiet afternoon sounds coming from other parts of the compound off in the distance. That was the beginning of a lifetime of preferring to be naked rather than clothed. I still prefer to be nude, whenever possible. I make allowances for social niceties, of course, but most of my friends know that my home is clothing-optional, and nobody worries if they’re startled in the middle of the night by someone else up and going to the bathroom, naked.

Worthy of touch. That’s also about self-esteem: you have to feel that you’re worthy of being loved, that you deserve to be loved. That was a hard one for me to learn. My Norwegian immigrant relatives, emotionally reserved and touch-withholding, were never good about expressing true feelings. I was a sissy boy who cried easily, and that wasn’t always approved of. On those rare occasions when I decided it was worth it to put my foot down, and refuse to budge about something, no one could move me, or get past the infinite reserves of determination I could summon. I have memories from my teen years of occasionally refusing to do some form of expected participation during family gatherings, and the ripples of unrest that caused in the clan. But I would not be moved, once I set myself down. That was an early lesson in genuine self-esteem that I didn’t myself understand till much later in life, when I realized that my self-esteem was rock-solid when it really mattered, even though I felt tattered and wind-blown a lot of the rest of the time.

Worthy of touch. Another, more private aspect of that is the problematic fact that I was born with most of those psychic powers you hear about from folktales from my Celtic ancestry already switched on. Touching people meant reading their minds, and so touch was often unpleasant and uncomfortable for me. Touching objects often meant picking up impressions from them, which some people call psychometry, but which I called in my youth losing my mind to the influences of others. My sense of self was often a tattered flag blowing this way and that in every gust of external wind. Touching people caused me pain, even though I was a sensual person, and craved touch. Touching objects sometimes was just as bad. I learned to keep my hands to myself.

So there was a lot of opportunities for love that were lost in my youth. I really wanted to cuddle in my grandfather’s lap, but I didn’t always feel like I could. I really wanted to hug everybody I loved all the time, but I often held back. Few people were safe to touch.

Revealing one’s nakedness . . . is, really, our only human hope.
—James Baldwin

If you think this is some sort of repressed memory or fictionalized abuse scenario, you’re an idiot, and you can fuck off. I was never abused, never molested, I remember my childhood in amazing detail, and it was mostly a very good childhood. The difficulties I had were mostly internal, trying to reconcile my emotions and experiences against what other people told me could and could not be true. Grow up psychically sensitive in a materialistic culture and family that denies the mere existence of anything spiritual, except on an mostly intellectual level, and you’ll know what I mean. Even my parents’ church, which was a very rational brand of Lutheranism, believed that miracles did happen back in Biblical times, but such things couldn’t possibly happen now, in the rational, materially scientific, post-Enlightenment present day. One advantage my Catholic friends had growing up, despite the many dysfunctions of the Catholic church, is that Catholicism still recognized the possibility of mysticism and Mystery. That’s is Catholicism’s most positive example amongst the many sects of modern Christianity.

It is far easier, even now, for me, in the context of this culture I live in, to “come out” as gay, as sexually Other, as an androgynous male who can both lecture you about Italian opera, music history, and music theory, and also run a chainsaw, then it is to “come out” spiritually, psychically, energetically. It was only in my thirties that I began to meet other people who did not try to commit me to a mental institution when I talked about any of this stuff. At the present time, one of my most important spiritual directors and guides is a professional teacher and medical intuitive, and the other one is a professional counselor and clairvoyant. You cannot understand the meaning of the word “validation” until your deepest, most private, most innermost secret is accepted as nothing extraordinary by someone you respect and even love. Reveal your nakedness: it is the most frightening thing that you will ever do, to reveal your soul’s nakedness. Walking around the house nude is nothing by comparison. Because of my current medical situation, this death and rebirth and death and rebirth, most of my medical team, nurses, doctors, support family and friends, have seen parts of my body most people don’t who aren’t my lovers, out of medical necessity, out of medical need. But even most of them have never seen my this naked, the kind of nakedness that is revealed when I drop the inner veils.

In the beginning was definitely not the Word. . . . It is flesh that makes the words.
—Naomi Goldenberg

Melanie May includes her poetry in her book on what the body knows, because poetry was her first response to her medical and spiritual crises. The poetry came first, the academic thinking and theory and analysis came later. Flesh comes first, the body-knowing I’ve experienced myself, the wisdom of the flesh to tell you to stop and rest when in your mind you could keep going a little bit further, the intelligence of pain that warns you have gone too far already. First comes the body-knowing, and the body-prayer. The body prays in its own way; to the chattering mind, that usually looks like stillness, or emptiness. All too often we mislabel body-prayers as laziness. What the body is doing is stopping to breathe, to rest, to contemplate, to recharge. If we are wise, we listen, and go along with the body. Most people these days live in their heads, though, and don’t listen to body-wisdom or body-prayers.

Before my own first surgery, I was illuminated within to see the body-wisdom of a gay man who I know via the Internet pose nude while hiking, with a walking stick, his beautiful eyes looking out of the frame into you, his beautiful, sensual body resting while hiking outdoors—and an old, incredibly powerful scar running down his midline. Seeing his scar, which he lives with so well, nude, outdoors, loving and happy, gave me the courage to face acquiring surgical incision scars of my own. I feel a body-deep gratitude whenever I think of my friend and this portrait of his revealed and scarred beautiful nakedness.

Now, one thing the surgery has taught me is a deepening of my already-existing practice of listening to my body and its need and desires. Some days my body wants to run, is born to run, or these days at least walk fast. Other days all we want to do is lie in the sun, and let the lizard-brain achieve conscious dominance. And that’s enough.

After body-prayer comes, in order, poetry. The body precedes the words. The body exists before the words, and creates the Word. I am just enough of a classic Bard to know how the word must be rooted in the soul, and cloaked in music. You touch people through the music you drape the words in. Even the music comes before the words, and takes precedence. I feel sad for those writers so word-oriented they never experience the precedence of wordlessness and body-prayer; such folk live so thoroughly in their heads, I have noticed, that they don’t even realize they live in a gilded cage.

[Poetry is] . . . the way we help give name to the nameless so it can be thought.
—Audre Lorde

We make poems so we can think things we never thought before. That’s certainly been true of the writing of some of my own poems, in particular those which were attempts to put into words visionary, sensual, and bodily experiences I have had. Some poems are nothing but reports of visionary experiences, shamanic, mystical, whatever label you wish to apply. We constantly have to make poems to make new words to understand the new ways of thinking and experiencing that evolve throughout our lives, if we are open to body-prayer and the poetics of existence.

Old words do not reach across the new gulfs.
—Amos Wilder

Language is fossil poetry.
—Ralph Waldo Emerson

The first body of knowing is silent, is silence itself. The next body of knowing is the poetry that emerges from silence, and from hearing the wind within the walls of the world. The next body of knowing that emerges is the fossil poetry that becomes the language we use to describe, to explain, and to explain away and rationalize, what we have learned from the preceding and pre-verbal knowings.

[Note: I'm not posting all of these essays in order of composition, but in order of my momentary interest. This essays was written 8.20.2011.]

Thursday, August 11, 2011

All I Really Wanted

from The Surgery Diaries

This was originally written a month or two before my surgery, when I was thinking about matters. The surgery has had and will have an impact on my sexuality, as well as on my spirit, body, emotions, and other aspects of self. Last week I had several days of what can only be called, in retrospect, post-surgery depression. The surgical staff tells me that's normal, and so was everything else I was feeling last week, and asked them about. Lots of internal sensations that I questioned, all of which they were familiar with. It's actually good to know that I'm not unique, that I'm feeling things other people have felt. That gives me hope that I'll recover as well those other people have.

April/May 2011

I've enjoyed chatting with a gay friend on his blog thread about three-way sexual experiences, and the questions and issues surrounding them. As I said there, I've been involved with good three-ways a couple of times. But I was lucky to be involved with mature, stable people, who were willing to talk openly about what they wanted and expected, and were all respectful of each others' feelings. Communication being the most essential thing, as always. My experience may be the exception to the rule, I don't know, but I do feel lucky. A great discussion of the topic, regardless.

And it got me thinking.

I've posted a few personal ads in recent months, although nothing has happened. I've spent a fair bit of time thinking, therefore, about what I really want, sexually, right now—which doesn't mean forever, just right now—and I've spent a fair bit of time talking these things over with one or two of my closest gay male friends. Thinking it through out loud. Working it out by talking it through.

I cannot find it in me to judge anyone for undertaking any sexual experience that brings more love and joy into the world. Shared joy is always increased, just as shared pain is always diminished. Even those sexual practices that don't interest me, or downright turn me off, if they bring more joy and love into someone's world, I don't have it in me to judge them.

I cannot find it in me to want to spend the energy it takes to meet the expectations of others, especially their unspoken and hidden expectations, when those expectations require me to be less than I am, or to change myself to meet their neuroses halfway. I ,i>will spend the effort to meet someone halfway who is being as honest and open with me as I am being with them. I will do my best to make sure that he has the best, most satisfying, most pleasurable playtime that I can give him: his joy is my joy, and I'm other-directed enough to want to be sure that anyone I am making love with gets off, too, even if I got off first.

So, what sort of sex play am I talking about here?

Honestly, most of my sex lately has been self-pleasure. I actually really enjoy a good wank, and I get very good orgasms. Sometimes I just ooze, some other times I spurt all the way to the ceiling. It depends on how turned on I am (and my physical energy level that day, which is dictated by my medical situation's effect on my daily energy budget). Sometimes I jerk off to pics I find online—I'm not into video porn very much, I prefer to linger over erotic still photographs, and besides most porn soundtracks are awful. I really don't own any porn. Almost as often, I just pleasure myself while using my imagination to conjure from memory or fantasy who I want to be with today. Solo sex can be very fulfilling sex. It's not a "substitute" for intercourse, nor is it "second best." In some ways, masturbation is the best sex I get, because, hey, I love who I'm with, and I know exactly how to please him. Seriously, there's no better way to learn about how a partner can give you pleasure (of course you have to tell them how) then by learning how to give pleasure to yourself.

With guys, I find myself these days mostly into cock and touch and play, rather than fucking. I find myself enjoying keeping it light, horny, even just mutual oral or sitting on the couch jerking off together while we both watch each other. I also like just hanging out nude, before and after, talking, having a cup of tea nude. Showering together after. I suppose for some this is all vanilla, but for now it suits me to keep it light and fun and mostly cock-oriented and with lots of rubbing. I really like frottage, for example. Pleasure rather than pain.

I've discovered real pleasure in something that isn't exactly a fetish, but is a little kinky: Masturbating his cock with my foot. (And vice versa.) I discovered how much pleasure that could give by accident, when I was playing around with a cute guy some years ago in San Francisco. He had a partial physical handicap, a twisted arm, a limp, a couple of other things; we were lying naked on his bed, facing each other, and I just sort of spontaneously moved my foot into his crotch, and he did reciprocated, and we both liked the sensations a lot.

I'm a very sensual person, anyway. I love lots of touch. I love being naked, hanging out nude at home, or out camping and hiking when far out in the wilds where no one can see us. I like nude hiking. I like being naked even when it isn't sexual! So this foot-play thing was a pretty cool discovery.

What do I want, right now?

Well, if anyone ever responded to one my personal ads, I would love to get naked together and play. I would say yes to a three-way, probably, if one materialized, if I felt the other guys were okay to both be with, and if we talked through our parameters beforehand. (The last triad I had was a cold winter night just over a year ago, and it was good. I was staying over at a friend's place to avoid having to drive home in a blizzard, between two consecutive concert nights. He and his old lover were both nudists, and the fireplace was warm. So it was very natural to move from mutual nakedness in the living room to mutual lovemaking in the bedroom, all three of us.)

My medical situation and my music-writing work right now make it unlikely I'll get into a long-term romantic relationship. So casual but loving sex is all I need. I don't need a 'relationship" just now (although I always keep that door open), but friends with benefits, getting together for mutual release and pleasure every so often, would be great.

I have to be at least a little bit in love with every man I have sex with. The emotional connection has to be there for me. In fact, casual sex only works for me if we connect on the energetic level, too. And casual sex with repeat sex would cement that, I think.

Otherwise, I'm perfectly content, just now, with everything else that's going on, to just have sex with myself. Once a day, on average lately; sometimes again before bedtime. Depending on the medical moment, and how it affects my day. Some days I ache, and am too tired.

You see, the thing is—and I know this will sound weird to some people—I like my cock. I always have. I like its size, I like shape, I know how to play it like a piano, and it gives me great pleasure. What more could a (gay) man ask for?

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Affirming Previous Changes

(from The Surgery Diaries)

In talking about changes going on with my body, with my self, through this extended surgery and recovery cyclic process, I find myself impatient at times. I'm on that threshold where I feel better, sometimes very well, but it's at least partly an illusion. I'm not really ready to do the things I almost feel ready to do. There is a common wisdom in athletic injuries (in sports medicine) that when your previously ankle feels like it's fully healed, you still have several weeks to go. Because something newly-healed is still brittle, still weaker than it was. It might feel all right, but it still needs more time.

And that's exactly where I am right now. I need more time. I still need to take it easy. Impatience can be a whip.

My surgical incision is healing well, but it was a deep cut, a deep interior wound, and so I am still restricted in how I can strain the incision. I am not allowed to bend over too much, or to lift too much weight. I can feel the inner wound when I lie on my side in bed, in just a slightly bad position: shooting lines of sensation, not quite pain but not quite neutral, travel from my belly through to the root of my groin. One side is easier to lie on than the other. After awhile, the discomfort becomes too much, and I have to shift. I'm trying to not take any more pain pills, except at absolute worst need, but I've been glad one or two recent nights that I still had some left. Sometimes falling asleep is really difficult, because of the body's discomfort.

People tell me they're impressed with my positive attitude, but I don't feel very positive very often on the inside: I feel necessity, perhaps desire, most definitely determination. Some days this is mostly grim determination; and not at all some clichéd sports-biography inspirational-movie overcoming-obstacles-and-setbacks sort of guff. My attitude only seems positive sometimes. I can and do make grim jokes, gross jokes, at times, to help stay sane: the well-known black humor or gallows humor that existential hospital humor. I can make jokes about things that I find too disgusting to contemplate, those mornings when I'm tired from not sleeping well.

Some days it's really challenging to find any sense of humor at all. Even grim hospital humor.

Some mornings I would give almost anything for all this to be over and done with already. It's really hard to endure.

And I must give the negative feelings their due; it's important to get them out of your system, so they don't fester or linger or become toxic. But when you do get them out of your system, indeed they don't get stuck and toxic, they don't fester, and that's all to the good.

What I find myself increasingly impatient with, perhaps to the point of offending some folks, is those milestones I've already reached, when I bump into someone who has not.

First let me say that I do know that I'm not the most patient person in the world. Impatience has always been a vice, for me. I use the word "vice" deliberately, because it can become like an addiction, a psychology-altering habit: skewing your perception of reality in ways not dissimilar from those addicted to gambling or similar "vices."

I try to be polite, when the impatience is up, but I admit a few times I've snapped. And needed to apologize. Being my mother's son, I also sometimes have a bad habit of apologizing too often, even for things I don't need to apologize for; so I have to watch out for that, too. I know that both of these tendencies—impatience, and the compulsion to over-apologize—are rooted in my birth tribe's expectations of perfect behavior. I know that both of these tendencies are part of being a recovering perfectionist. I know I mostly slip into them when I'm vulnerable, tired out emotionally and/or physically, and my resistance is down. Mostly they're manageable, and sometimes they're not.

I think you can say "Sorry" too often. But I don't think you can ever say "Thank you" often enough.

Saying "Thank you" serves us well, on so many levels, from the social to the medical to the spiritual. I'm grateful to be alive. I'm grateful to have the energy, this otherwise blah morning, to be able to write down my whining complaints. I'm grateful to have come through this first surgery alive and relatively intact. I'm grateful to still be here. Period.

On a fundamental, daily, ordinary as well as extraordinary level, I feel that saying "Thank you" is the core of anything I might call spiritual. One of my favorite sayings (on the level of a slogan for contemplation or meditation) is a saying from the great Medieval mystic Meister Eckhart: If the only prayer you ever said was "Thank You," that would suffice. I believe that on every level, and I have done my best to practice that. (Which is why every year I write Gratitudes instead of New Year's Resolutions.)

As I write, my surgery was happening exactly three weeks ago this hour. The doctors and nurses, and everyone else, keep saying to me that I doing very well, that I'm ahead of the curve. For example, the surgical staples came out a week ago, which is considered a week early, for most cases. I've been healing more rapidly then expected. I have to take their word for all this, because it's all new to me. This is my body, not some theoretical story, and there are times when I listen and absorb what they're saying to me about how well I'm doing, but I don't feel it. I still feel like crap. This is my body, and it's a new experience, and I have nothing in my past experience to compare it to. I do listen to the tales of other patients that I am told, and some of those are comforting, even affirming. They remind me that there is still healing to be done, and miles to go before I sleep. They also validate that the goal of being able to go back to a regular life is possible, and going to happen, sooner or later. This period I'm in right now, which breeds impatience, is turbulent in part because I want to be there already, and I'm not.

To return to the point, finally, I find myself impatient with those same things I have already let go of, that others have not, when I encounter them. Some milestones are ones you need to learn more than once, till they sink in. Others are not.

What I want to do is affirm that some of the changes I had already made, before surgery, before the current changes in my life, I would do all over again. They were the right choices.

The choice to strike off on my own artistically, and not give much time to workshop situations anymore, where many of the same beginner-level lessons continuously cycle and recycle, and where the personal drama can often sink any interest in the arts.

The realization, which became a conscious choice, that making art is the best way to cope with whatever it is that is bothering me. Whether that is medical, personal, or psychological, making art is the best way I know to stay with it, and stay sane,

The decision to cease second-guessing the creative process. I can't direct it or guide it, and I choose not to. I follow the intuition and imagination wherever they want to go. I make art by listening to those inner intuitive voices, not by pre-planning an engineering scaffold.

The dietary changes I made some time ago, including the decision to go gluten free, that have affected my health positively, and supported my health through the worst of recent times. Some of these dietary needs might no longer be necessary, now that I no longer have an ailing colon; but some will be permanent changes.

The list could go on, but that's enough to make the point. I'm still searching, still exploring, still figuring what my body is like, now, still looking for the "new normal," whatever it turns out to be.

My impatient may indeed be a vice. I try not to let it dominate my discourse, but I do confess that when I am suffering, sometimes the impatience leaks into my discourse as a sharp-edged tone that suffers fools poorly. I suppose I've offended some folks lately. I make no apologies, though, whenever it becomes clear that their choice to take offense had nothing really to do with me, and everything to do with their own neuroses.

And that's another change: To not spend any of my energy accommodating the neuroses of others. It's not my problem if your life sucks. It's also not my fault. I have more than enough to deal with, just managing my own life, for now. I have no time for personal drama generated by people who have the luxury of wasting their time and energy on such things. I have enough real drama, of late, in my own life, that I have neither need nor desire to take on any more, be it yours or mine. It's nice that you have the spare life-force to burn, it's great that you have the luxury of burning your life-force in personal drama; I don't. And even if I did have the energy to burn, what I have learned from chronic illness, major surgery, and recovery, is that I would never choose to waste my life-force, ever again, on that kind of meaningless waste of time and energy. Life is too short to spend it on such inconsequential matters.

I make no judgments when I say that. I am speaking purely tactically and logistically, with no blaming or shaming involved. This is the big lesson from when you are forced to confront your own mortality: Life is precious. Life is short. Life is limited. Don't waste a moment of your life on anything that doesn't really matter.

I've given up blaming, and I've given up victimology; I've given up both of these in favor of a radical acceptance. First and always, to move forward, you have to simply accept things as being the way they are. You can't do anything to change them if you live in denial that anything might need changing. Acceptance precedes action. Just as self-esteem is the fundamental power of selfhood, far more important any other; because self-esteem is what makes all the rest possible. including genuine love. Toxic love, you will observe, always goes hand in hand with poor self-esteem; genuine love always is comfortable in its own skin, and need not possess the other, nor control.

Peace. Be still. Thank you.

Previous entry: Changes

Monday, August 1, 2011

Open Up the Windows

Because of recent powerful, life-changing events—my illness, first surgery, and recovery, principally—I've been thinking over again what I want to do here. I've decided that I'm going to continue to publish my LGBT related materials here, for the most part, although with a few other goodies, but I'm going to drop my reticence. I'm going to open up the windows and doors and let in all the fresh air and sunlight that I can.

I'm going to be more explicit here, and more personal. I need a place to organize some more personal writings, even some sexually explicit ones, both old and new. More precisely, some personal writings that do not censor themselves with regard to sexual and psychological and spiritual matters. I have a need, at this time, to write through my present life, with nothing held back.

For me sexuality and spirituality are deeply intertwined, and always have been. I want to write more openly and publicly about these, now. I have things to say, some of it no doubt radical and controversial, especially the spiritual materials, which are always more controversial than the sexual, but they need to be said, if only for my own benefit. This process of illness, surgery and recovery has profoundly (and predictably) affected me on many levels, and is in the midst of permanently transforming my life. That process is still ongoing, although I've already sorted out a few things that are really important to me from those that no longer seem so important. Modesty and self-censorship don't nearly as important as they used to; I don't believe I've suddenly become more courageous as a writer, rather I've become less willing to spend any effort on editing myself so as to not offend family and friends.

I need to keep writing the poems, notes, essays, and other pieces that fall under the umbrella of what I am now calling The Surgery Diaries. Last year I began with The Anemia Diaries, but these writings about my medical journey have now become a much deeper, more engaging project. i intend to include here writings and artworks all pertaining to my medical journey, the long chronic illness, the surgery process which I am not done with, and my recovery. I need to write these things for my self first. Not all of it will be pretty, but all of it will be honest. I know I don't have many followers here, yet I do want feedback on this, of whatever kind becomes manifest. I will be posting here more frequently than I have before, no doubt.

As for honesty and explicitness, it really comes from having lost any sense of privacy or personal modesty already. I've previously been a very private person, although I've never been that personally modest.

Consider this scenario: You're in your hospital room the days after surgery, wearing one of those gowns that open in the back. The surgeons and nurses all left up your hem to look at your wound, to change your dressing, occasionally to give you a sponge bath, or check your epidural. You're not wearing anything under the gown. Lots of people see you naked, scarred, vulnerable, and exposed. And you're far from the only patient the nurses and doctors see naked and wounded every hour of every day. There's no point in even trying to be body-shy. You need all your energy for your healing, so wasting energy on inconsequentials drops right off the radar.

I've never been that body-shy anyway, though. As an adult man, I've always had more of a "Body by Buddha" than "Body by Charles Atlas" thing going for me; I'm nothing special, so I don't worry about it. But even as a small boy, I'd never been all that modest about nudity, full or partial. There were summers in my early teens when the only item of clothing I wore for days on end, for as long as I could get away with it, was gym shorts and sneakers. I rarely wear clothes around the house, especially when on my own. With some of my closest friends, my apartments and homes have been a clothing-optional zone for years, anyway.

When I was first home from the hospital, and the home-visit nurses were first getting to know me, one asked me if I wanted privacy for showering, which I do during the process of changing the ostomy bag, which I couldn't do by myself at first. I laughed and said, Look, this is a process in which privacy and body modesty have already gone by the wayside, and as for dignity, well that was pretty much a lost cause right now, too. We all laughed, I dropped my shorts, took a shower, dried off, put my shorts back on, and we proceeded with changing the ostomy bag. At this point, they've all seen me nearly of fully naked anyway, so there's no point in pretending to be shy.

The process of illness and healing has re-sorted my attitudes and priorities. I'm far more likely to answer the door nude than I ever have before, although I do keep clothes on hand. I'm nothing special to look at, as I know only too well, especially now that I have to wear an ostomy bag all the time, and I don't inflict myself on the unprepared. But in truth I don't care anymore: I'm just being polite. If it were an urgent medical matter, I wouldn't bother putting the shorts on first, I'd just answer the door. It's all about priorities.

One major life-lesson that has come out of this process is that what really matters in life is who you love, how you love them, and how you live your life. Everything else is pretty much unimportant by contrast, and not worth spending much energy on.

So I plan to go back through the random notes and jottings I've been writing here and there, from last year's near-death experience from anemia, from the time right before my surgery, up to the present. A lot of these are going to be more like diary or journal entries than I've ever posted before; but I want to organize and edit and present them in an organized manner, mostly so I can keep a log of the changes I am going through. I want to collect and compile what I'm going through, for no other reason than to gather it all in one place.

I used to use my long-standing Road Journal and Road Journal podcast archives for this purpose, but I realize now that the way I write and present this material has changed. My approach has changed. I don't feel like I've abandoned the Road Journal, although I'm way behind on updating it. That's an ongoing memoir project that still has value to me. At some point I still intend to bring it up to the present date. But even the Road Journal left some things out. I was always aware that it was a public forum, with a fairly large following, so I didn't talk too personally about some topics. That's all changed now. I don't feel the need to avoid any topic, for the duration of my illness and recovery.

Still, I find myself regarding The Surgery Diaries as a separate writing project, like a chapbook of poems on one theme, separated out from the general run of writing. That's my approach, here and now. And I intend to be more honest and explicit than ever before, regarding both the good and the bad in my life. I need to do this, as I said, as a way of tracking my own progress as I go through this extended healing process. I want to be able to sort things out in my own mind, and writing about them, and making art about them, remains one of the best tools I have for that.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Three Homoerotic Poems

Here are three homoerotic poems, including two haibun, all originally written in 2006. (One or two have been published elsewhere.) I still like these poems, rereading them some years later, and am contemplating working this vein more intensively again.

I've been writing haibun and prose-poems for a long time, and occasionally playing with ghazal. Haibun, haiku, and their related forms, originating in classical Japanese poetry, are a few of the only forms I regularly work in. I don't write a lot of poems in fixed forms, usually preferring to allow the poem to evolve its own form organically. When I do write in an existing form, I tend to be drawn to forms from non-Western cultures; I also tend to modify the form as needed, rather than strictly observing the traditional expectations.

Haibun is one of my favorite poetic forms: essentially it's dense poetic prose, like a prose-poem, interspersed with haiku. The haiku are parallel but not repetitious takes on the same moment or theme, from a different angle; the haiku should not simply repeat the contents of the prose section, but deepen it, add resonance to it.

I've written two large collections of homoerotic haiku, tanka, and renga, publishing a chapbook of selected poems in the mid-1990s. I regularly return to homoerotic poetry, many of which begin life in my journals. This writing goes in and out of my central focus.

At this moment, having recently been through major surgery, I find myself experiencing renewed interest in writing homoerotic poems and essays, in part as a way of restoring and affirming eros as pure sustaining life-force in my flesh and spirit. I have another major surgery to get through, sometime in the next year, when I'm ready for it, and in many ways my erotic feelings at this time are a pure affirmation of life, of survival: I'm still here. I'm not done yet. I will survive. And I genuinely hope to come through the end of this medical process with a restored life-force, vitality, and sex life.

his parchment skin, his voice

Dawn sun bronzes his flanks, moves across the bed in slow waves. He's breathing deep and quiet, lying on his side, long black hair tangled in pillows, blankets shoved below his thighs by restless dreams. I found him in the bookstore last night and brought him home. He chattered about literature as he disrobed. His arched back as he bent to remove his boots. Eros of flesh and mind: dropping his pants, grinning, he quoted Whitman and Foucault. He made animal sounds in his throat while we made love in the bath, till we were pruned and sweaty. Ribs, arms, nipples rubbed together, the kiss of bodies merging. My hands cupping his buttocks as I kissed his navel. He sighed, and asked me if I loved to read, too.

his silent breathing,
after long nights of poetry:
moon-craters rise and fall


Heady fragrance of citrus, grape, and blood
fills our nostrils as we sup this passionate wine.

That night, cool and wet, when you arrived at my door
disheveled, your passionate kisses tasted of new wine.

Olives touched by sun, a lemon sliced and warming,
fresh garlic, your fingers on my neck an impassioned wine.

He made breakfast in the morning, passionate with a knife
and carving block, an omelette, an orange, a drop of wine.

It's night: somewhere, you're sitting awake, as I am here,
your passion making you restless, calmed by this light wine.

Red with secret passions, our fingers covered with spent seeds
and the blood of stamped grapes, pants rolled up, we dance in this year's wine.

ancient eyes

His eyes black with shadows in the late afternoon amber light. His arms rounded and firm, perfect collarbones. His breath the scent of loam just after a summer rain shower. Musk of his sweat as he strips off his shirt and wipes his chest with it. He never looks at you till it's too late, and, then his gaze locks on yours with an audible click. Caught, an insect in hardening resin, your heart skips a beat, thuds, kicks in your breast. Just the hint of a smile breaks through his angelic indifference. Caravaggio knew this curly-haired, dark angel. He's even in the paintings no one has seen.

sultry look, a kiss,
move together skin to skin—
water through a reed

You knew, the first time he came up the stairs to your narrow, sun-warmed flat, that you would one day love him. The perfect curves of his thighs, the translucent shirt he wore, the web of muscle across his back and hips. His lips barely parted, as he silently panted from the heat and the climb. He stayed to listen to records on the scratchy phonograph, smiling without speaking, then grinned for the first time as he left. You knew he would be back. He'd find some excuse to visit, some reason to knock. His ancient eyes, as he looks at you from under his brow, calmly waiting.

fading autumn sun
casts shadows on your body—
how soon we grow old

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Advice for Pride Festival Season

Stop worrying about whether or not there is a "gay community" and create the community you want.

No community ever creates itself; it has to be forged and developed with conscious intention. That's as true for the gay (pseudo-)community as for any other.

Very often there seems to be no gay community whatsoever: we are too diverse, we are often very different from each other, come from different places, have differing values, differing political opinions, and have little respect for each other. An obvious lack of respect is the root of most interpersonal problems within the community, indeed is the root of why there often seems to be no community.

Most gay men and lesbians (etc.) have gotten this far only by speaking back to the majority that doesn't respect them, that even hates and fears them. It's understandable. Self-assertion is necessary. You have to stand up to oppression and speak back to power, and assert your own legitimate right to exist as who you are, just as you are. It is common for many LGBTs to experience a period of personal militancy, especially towards family and friends that would like us to just shut up about it and go back to being invisible and closeted. So a declaration of self-respect and self-fulfillment and self-actualization is a necessary part of the coming-out process. Far more so far LGBTs than for other minorities who otherwise have parallel tracks about gaining civil rights. And that's because of the possibility of invisibility, of hiding, of avoiding being an open target because it's not obvious and you can pretend, while still in the closet.

But a declaration of self-purpose needn't therefore be a declaration of permanent war. A lot of gays experience a period of militancy, as I said, but that period needn't be a perpetual battle. We don't have to hate back. We are not required to hate those who once hated us. And we don't have to hate each other.

Those are choices.

In other words: Many of us do go through a period of militancy when we're coming out: Accept me for who I am, or be damned if you don't. Eventually, the edge can come off the need for self-assertion, and it can become: Accept me for what I am. Period.

Your own life doesn't have to be a constant state of war, or even a battle-ground. Although some people do make militancy into a habit. Militancy is right and necessary—as long as it doesn't become habitual.

So, you might want to think about how you present yourself. That can make a huge difference in the discourse that follows. How you present yourself will make a difference for when you're trying to build a community, and doing so with conscious intent will mitigate the sometimes unconscious urge towards self-sabotage, which can be rooted in unconscious poor self-esteem.

If you put out a hostile warlike front all the time, that's definitely what you'll get back from others. And that will prevent you from building a community. A lot of guys, when they first come out, are very combative—again, this is understandable, because we've had to fight all their lives just to get this far. And yet there comes a point where the combative attitude can become counterproductive. And that is when it's time to let go of the more extreme forms of militancy—but without also letting go of the reasons why the militancy was there in the first place. Abandoning militancy does not require one to therefore abandon one's self-respect.

Toning down militancy does not mean one must therefore become dominated by the ideology of assimilation rather than that of diversity. It doesn't have to be and either/or decision. Find the middle ground.

Stop worrying about assimilating into the mainstream culture so that they "won't hate us anymore," and start embracing our diversity.

In your struggle to obtain, find, and create some sense of normalcy, don't abandon that which makes you unique.

If you can't stand to have your opinions be challenged, then you're not ready for this yet. If you're grounded and centered enough in your own being, your own self-esteem and self-confidence intact, that you can allow someone to disagree with you without trying to shout them down, then you're ready to start genuinely embracing genuine diversity. Most people who can't stand to be contradicted are fundamentally insecure about their own opinions: their fear is that they might be humiliated if proven wrong, or even worse that they might in fact be wrong, is what drives most shouting matches.

Get over yourself: you're only one voice in the vast chorus. The Universe is a vast place, and no matter what you believe about it, it doesn't spend much time thinking about you in return.

The only group I've ever encountered who is more insecure than gay men—more unwilling to embrace diversity for the sake of finding universality, more willing to kill and destroy anyone who might make them look or be wrong—is poets. For whatever reason, poets have even more self-esteem and poor-ego problems than do gays. Go figure. it's at least partially that in our commodity commercial culture, the arts are looked down on in general, and among the arts it's even harder to make a living as a poet.

Stop telling other people how to live. Especially if the way they live or act, or simply are, is an embarrassment to you. Stop telling other gays to be "less flamboyant," and learn to love your own inner aesthete. We all have an inner Oscar Wilde, unashamed and flamboyant. You only want to suppress in others what you hate in yourself.

Stop telling other people to shut up. You can tell them they're wrong, and correct them on the facts, and point out why their prejudices are asinine, irrational, and offensive. But don't tell them to shut up. If you really can't stand it, just ignore them.

As for Pride celebrations themselves, if they embarrass you, stay home. Nobody cares either way.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Dream Sutra I (Vajrayana)

I dream of awakening in a bright new green day
in the third world, in tropical summer, visiting with friends;
I dream I go exploring through the market,
the swarm and riot and crowding of all the senses,
exploring with my brother/lover,
and both of us wear native dress,
only a wrap-around sarong and sandals,
loose and comfortable in the heat and light
as we walk through the bustling village and nearby jungle,
and I dream that even though our lighter skin and taller frames
mark us as londos and cheles and aliens from the north,
the people ignore us or treat us as friends
because we try to fit into their way of life,
and because we wear their kind of clothes,
and because they all know and like my brother/lover,
who has been here longer and is more deeply tanned than I;

and I dream of the touch of the equatorial sunlight
falling on my bare shoulders and back,
so strong it’s an actual weight,
and I dream of a common language,
new tongues that spread fire on my mouth,
hot like the taste of fermented red pepper paste
spread thick on rice and greens and a little meat;

I dream of being in love in a land I love,
of being loved in ways I’ve never let myself be loved,
relaxed and easy, the heat unfreezing my body, my soul;
and everything is permitted here, and we lounge
in a kind of tropical indolence, taking our own moon
and palm trees wherever we go;

and I dream of music,
structured like a force of nature,
something you bathe in more than merely listen to,
washing over us in all-night concerts in the village hall;

I dream of walking in the light, in clear mountain air,
ocean spread blue below us, miles away and still
close enough to imagine diving into;

and suddenly we’re naked and flying high into the sun,
and we arch our beautifully-muscled sun-warmed backs
like dolphins at the apogee of leaping,
then plunge like seabirds
into the blueness of the sea,
diving from the highest cliffs in the light,
leaving our sweat-strewn sarongs behind to bathe
in the salt of the waters, the world’s sweat,

and I dream the ocean water tastes just like you

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Erotic Journal

WARNING: This essay is an explicit personal memoir about my teenage awakening to sexuality as a person and a writer. I've never written any of this down before, to share with others. I've told some of these stories to some of my Radical Faerie and other gay friends. But if it's not your cup of tea, or if such memoirs offend your sensibilities, don't read this!

I started my first erotic journal when I was fifteen. It contained mostly homoerotic poems that I was writing at the time. Some poems took more than one sitting to write, because while I was writing them, I would often become aroused, and pause in my writing to masturbate. I had already been seriously masturbating to orgasm for over a year by then.

I rediscovered this erotic journal amongst my other journals when I was organizing papers after moving house the last time. I also found some typewritten sex stories I wrote as a teen. I have scanned or photographed these papers, to preserve them digitally for myself, before putting them away again, with my other journals.

There was one long erotic poem, "naked boys," that I began writing when I was 15, that first appears in this journal, that I took out over time and added to, edited, rewrote, and changed, that took approximately 12 years to complete. It's a very long poem. The three or four longest poems I have ever written have been homoerotic poems. "naked boys" was a poem I would take out, write a section of, masturbate, orgasm, then put away for awhile. Honestly, it was impossible to write this poem without ending up masturbating; proof that words alone, and a good imagination, are enough to turn you on! I guess I've always been able to turn myself on by writing erotica. Sometimes I put the poem away for six months to a year, then got it out again to add to and edit; I might work on it, always erotically charged during the writing, for a few weeks, then set it aside again for awhile. This is the only poem that has ever taken me that long to rewrite, revise, or finish. I've written many other homoerotic poems over the years, especially since coming out, but none of them like this one.

"naked boys" was the poem in which I discovered, as a writer, about writing at white heat, about writing passionately, about making the writing itself as ecstatic and highly-charged with passion and energy as possible. Most of the revisions I made over the years were to heighten and refine the poem's energetic, passionate charge. This single poem taught me a great deal about ecstasy, about ecstasy in art and literature. It was only later, when I discovered ecstatic sacred poetry—from Sufi poets such as Rumi, from contemporary poets such as Harold Norse, Allen Ginsberg, and Antler, or from ancient Sanskrit love and devotional (bhakti) poetry—that I realized that "naked boys" was a poem about sacred sex. It wasn't really a pornographic poem, although it is very explicit at times, and very homoerotic, although I did masturbate during and after the writing. The poem can still inspire orgasms upon re-reading. It was a poem in which—without knowing yet that I was doing it, in my teenage questing, without having a conscious plan or words to describe my intentions—I was trying to celebrate sacred sexuality, the exquisite union of body-mind and soul. I had rediscovered for myself some of the core teachings about sexual energy from Tantric yogic practices, which I only later had names for. I published 'naked boys" as a very limited-edition chapbook poem some years later, a few copies of which I still have; I gave away a few copies to Radical Faerie friends who I knew would appreciate the poem, but I haven't ever before discussed this poem publicly. It is for me a personal sacred text, full of memories, full of my own sexual yearnings as a young man—not just teenage yearnings, since I was almost in my 30s before finishing the poem at last—and still a record of dreams, fantasies, actual sexual memories, and more.

A couple of years previously, probably the Christmas I was age 13, my parents had given my sister and myself identical Smith-Corona SCM portable typewriters. (My mother also received one, so I think this was a joint parental present in origin.) This was my first typewriter—like buying my first computer, this was an important milestone in my creative life. (I still have this typewriter; it became the foundation of my small collection of vintage and antique typewriters.) The SCM typewriter was in a large plastic and metal shell case. I got in the habit of typing sitting crosslegged on my bed in my bedroom. When you took the typewriter out of the case, set the case on the bed, closed it, and put the typewriter on top, it was a perfect height for me. On my typewriter I sometimes wrote erotic poems, and experimented with writing homoerotic stories, basically teenage porn about the neighbor boys, fantasies, etc. On hot, humid summer afternoons, with no one around, the door to my room closed, I sat on the bed crosslegged, naked, while typing. Naturally I became aroused; the only question was whether I sat down with an erection already, or developed an erection while typing. Needless to say, most of these writings took more than one session to complete, as I would masturbate, have an orgasm, clean up, and be finished with the writing for awhile. In some ways, I was just typing out my masturbation fantasies—but being an artist and writer already, I typed out my fantasies as poems, trying to make something other than simple porn.

During my coming-out period, both to myself and to the world, from my mid-20s to my mid-30s—I was in some ways a late bloomer, shy at core—I wrote in my regular journal as well, a journal which I have kept since I was in my 20s in college, some other entries detailing my thoughts about my own sexuality, about sex in general, about eros, the life-force, about mysticism, ecstasy, making love and making art. These are all tied together in my soul and mind. I still don't make distinctions between them: masturbation, sacred sex, mystical experiences, making love and telepathically achieving Tantric ecstatic union with my lover, etc. All of these are normative experiences for me, even in my teens. What I wrote in my journals was attempts to put these things into words. It was in my regular journal that I first admitted to myself that I was gay, that I liked boys more than girls, and always had.

When I was 14, I spent many weeks during the summer playing naked sexual games with the boy who lived across the street from me. Mike was between 2 and 3 years younger than me, smaller than me but already very grown up in some ways. When we first stripped our pants off to explore each others' naked bodies, it was his idea. He was the more aggressive player; I was still very shy at that age, a geeky awkward teen with glasses who wasn't athletic or popular, although I had already discovered my love of the outdoors. My love of the outdoors, in fact, was the root of our first encounter; we saw each other out in the fields behind our subdivision at the edge of town, on a hot sweaty afternoon, both of us already wearing nothing but the short gym-shorts boys wore in the 70s. We talked for awhile, walking through the fields. When we both became aroused, it was Mike who first took his pants down, then wanted to take mine down, too. We spent many afternoons naked together after that, always erect, no matter whether we were just walking in the woods or fields behind the neighborhood, which was on the northeast edge of town, or more engaging in sex play. (I had also played similar naked games with a neighbor when I was 11, and so was he; but that boy moved away.) The first time I ever had an ejaculation, Mike was lying on top of me, my penis between his thighs, one night out lying in the fields, while I rubbed his chest and groin as he lay on me, and together we looked up at the stars. (One of the long homoerotic poems I began, later in life, was about this summer of sex play with Mike; another long erotic poem, in this case still unfinished, as I haven't looked at the poem in years.)

Anyone who has read Kinsey or the reports of other sex researchers knows that what we did together that summer was very common, even typical, for teenage boys; if anything, our sex play was more innocent, even sweet, than many other stories in the research literature.

So a year later when I was 15, when I began writing these erotic poems in my erotic journal, and typing naked at my typewriter, I had already been masturbating to messy orgasms for a year or more. In fact, no doubt driven by teenage hormones, I think one reason I began to write homoerotic poems was to relieve the overwhelming sexual tension. The hormones needed to be expressed. So I began writing poems, doing my teenage best to turn sex into art. Looking back through the journal now, not all of these poems strike me as awful, or typically bad teenage poems. Even though I am bisexual enough that I was dating girls well into my 30s, including having two successful loving sexual relationships with women, one of whom is still among my best friends, all of these erotic poems in this journal were about boys. My erotic journal was entirely homoerotic. I didn't even try to make the poems androgynous, the way Walt Whitman attempted in some of his poems to at least pretend to be interested sexually in women. (Scholars have noted that these are among Whitman's least convincing poems.) I hadn't seriously read Whitman yet; that reading came later in life; but I was trying, as I said above, to evoke in poems that almost mystical sexual energy I was experiencing, not only in my body but in my heart and mind as well. Certainly, at that age, it was more lust than love, although I did love Mike, I believe. I certainly thought about him a lot, even after our summer of games had ended. I wonder if he too came out as openly gay later in life; looking back now, I think one reason we found each other that summer was an inarticulate understanding of what we shared in common.

I kept my erotic journal secret, from anybody and everybody, for a very long time. Not out of shame, not out of internalized homophobia—writing in this journal after all was one way I came out to myself, and it helped me with coming out to others, too—but rather, I felt the poems, like "naked boys," in this journal were too charged, too erotic, too powerful. I wasn't sure who I could ever safely share them with. The fear I still have about sharing any parts of this journal with anyone is fear of rejection: the poems were so personal to me, to my life and experience, that I could not be objective about them, as poems, for many, many years. I have since learned to get past several poetic-critical theoretical clichés about craft quality, objectivity vs. subjectivity, etc.: now I just appreciate these poems for what they were.

Keep in mind that I was a boy in my teens writing about having sex with other boys in their teens, my age or slightly younger. I was attracted to some men of my acquaintance, and some girls I knew, but writing in the journal was about boys my own age. This alone is highly-charged subject matter, in our culture of homophobia and sexual repression, our schizophrenic culture in which we sexualize underage children in pre-teen beauty pageants while simultaneously denying that such children are capable of expressing their sexuality, and punishing them if they do. None of that adult weirdness surrounding sexuality ever made sense to me when I was a boy—I was, after all, enjoying consensual, guilt-free pleasure with boys my own age—but I did already know how highly-charged the topic could be, and how hysterical adults could become about it. (Although I must give my mother a lot of credit: One time when I got caught playing naked games with a neighborhood boy, and was sent home in disgrace, when I was talking to Mom about why I had been sent home and finally blushingly admitted that we had been playing together naked, Mom's only comment was that maybe I should keep such games to my own bedroom in future. My parents were very progressive in some ways!) So I kept my erotic journal hidden and private. Keep in mind, once again, that I was a teenager writing about his sexual experiences and fantasies, as a teenager, with other teenage boys. It was a way to both privately express my thoughts to myself in art, and a way of recording some experiences, and also—perhaps dominantly, and most importantly—a way of relieving my own sexual tension via fantasy, self-pleasure, and eroticism. These days, with available new media technologies, teenage boys are taking nude photos of themselves with their cellphones and sending them to each other—how times have changed!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Reading "Howl" in the Men's Room

Evan J. Peterson reads Howl in the men's room of a Seattle gay bar. What better place for a poetry reading?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Writing Eros 2

whichever way the wooden lathe
turns from roller to printer
the emergent wave of light
returning text to line
image of love in words and paean
torso and sigh and simple passion

in word and sigh the end of love
beginning of forever

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

New Music 2012

I'm overdue to announce that I have been commissioned to write a new piece of music: for Perfect Harmony Men's Chorus, of Madison, WI. Perfect Harmony is celebrating its 15th year next season, and the commission is both a celebration of that anniversary, and to be presented at the next GALA Festival in 2012.

I've been involved with PHMC now since 2007, when I joined after my Dad died, to find some social contact with other gay men, and to get back into choral music. I needed both musical and social reconnections, at that time. I am an alumnus of two other GALA choruses, the Twin Cities Gay Men's Chorus, and the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus. Perfect Harmony is a much smaller chorus than either of those, but it is full of men deeply committed to making music together, and to supporting each other. I knew from my previous experience with other choruses that I would find what I needed, in singing together with other gay men.

TTBB male chorus repertoire (tenor, tenor, baritone, bass) is my preferred choral configuration purely for matters of personal taste. I just like the sound of massed male voices. I sang in the Michigan Men's Glee Club when I was in college, a male chorus of some distinction at that time, and found many rewards there. I fell in love with male choral music, both the social and musical aspects, and for me, that changed my life. I'm a lifelong musician, singer, composer, etc. I've sung in every kind of chorus configuration that there is, and male chorus is still my favorite.

San Francisco is the flagship gay men's chorus. it was formed in the late 1970s and early 1980s, during the first phase of the gay rights movement. They did a concert tour of the USA in 1981, spending a long time on the road, giving concerts in city after city, town after town, after which LGBT choruses sprang up all over the place in their wake. Now the GALA movement has become international, with several hundred choruses around the USA and the world. Every four years there is a GALA conference held in a large city, where several thousand singers gather with their choruses to perform for each other, to share their stories, to enjoy life, to party, to gather together in music that binds us all together. I attended the last GALA conference, in Miami in 2008, with PHMC, and it was for me, as it is for many other people, a life-changing and life-affirming experience.

GALA is one of the most positive faces of the national and international LGBT communities in our time, in our culture—which remain oppressed communities: politically, socially, financially, in terms of civil rights, and in many other ways. Singing together, we function as ambassadors of culture to the world, spreading positive messages of acceptance, diversity and inclusion.

Before some cynic points out how my last statement here sounds like the "politically correct party line," let me state for the record that I genuinely know all of the above to be true. It is based on my experience, and on years of observation.

I have been singing in choruses, first in church, then in high school and college, since I was 7 or 8 years old. I've been playing piano since I was 6. I've played every instrument in the symphony orchestra except the brass instruments, which I have no ability for. I'm a composer, a lifelong musician, a performer, a creative. Music is central to my life.

I have seen the same story time and time again: Making music together, in LGBT choruses, singing together, has changed peoples' lives for the better. It's given people a reason to go on living when life has become hard and difficult for them. Lesbian and gay people often have to fight for their lives, for their very right to exist; the GALA choral movement has given many a sense of community, of life, of affirmation and validation, beyond anything they'd ever had before. I've seen people choose to live, rather than give into the pressure to remove themselves from daily life, go off into a corner, and die.

And that is source and purpose of the new music commission I am undertaking.

The nature of this 15th anniversary commission for PHMC is to tell the stories of the members of the Chorus. Through interviews, writings, and other means, I have been gathering their stories, to turn into a suite of songs that will be premiered in Madison in spring of 2012, then performed at GALA 2012 in Denver, CO. The nature of the commission is to tell the stories of the men of Perfect Harmony: what it is like to live gay in the Midwest; what it was like to group up gay in the Midwest; and how we, as Midwesterners, with our own unique culture, are different from the usual gay stereotypes, which are based on the urban gay ghettoes of New York City, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and the other big cities of the two coasts. Our culture here in the heartlands, what some of the urbanities of the coast call the "flyover zone," is indeed from that of the coasts. Calling the Midwest the heartlands is accurate on so many levels. The music will in the end reflect its sources, and reflect, I hope, some aspects of what living gay in the heartlands is like.

As for my personal feelings about this new music commission:

I am gratified, grateful, and pleased beyond what words can say to have won this commission. I was not the only candidate for doing this commission, and it was not a sure thing that I'd be offered the work. My gratitude extends to the point where I want to do the very best job that I can do. I will go far beyond the usual requirements to make this new work be the best that it can be.

I am doubly, triply pleased to be working as a composer, actually being paid to write music. It's what I've always wanted to do, ever since music school. And I hope this is only the first commission of many, in the future. This is how I want to spend the rest of my career: earning my living from my creativity. Writing music. Writing choral music, for that matter. If this commission leads to other GALA choral commissions, well, nothing would make me happier.

More on this project at it develops. I'll keep you posted. I've already started writing, but it's still early in the process.

There is a challenge in that I still have a major chronic illness I am dealing with. That will be resolved by some pretty big surgery this summer, which I am doing my best to prepare for without letting it freak me out. (Don't ever let some asshole tell you to "Think positive" when they don't know what the fuck they're talking about it.) I have a lot of work to do. I will be writing music and preparing for surgery at the same time. I plan to get as much done as I can beforehand, because the recovery time will be at least a couple of months.

So I'm working hard on the lyrics and music already. I'm writing the lyrics as well as the music. I recently picked up Stephen Sondheim's marvelous book of collected lyrics, Finishing the Hat, not because I want to be influenced by Sondheim's lyrics but because this is a graduate school level textbook on how to do it. His commentaries are what I'm focusing on, and his principles, all of which are being very useful to me so far.

I have a lot of work to do. This is a really great opportunity for me, personally and in terms of my creative career. I am going to do my very best with it. And then we'll see what happens next.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

That Loneliness Thing

So, in this small town I live in now, pretty much nobody really knows me, or wants to. You get to feel so lonely at times. I do have friends here, but most of them were friends of my parents first, and only became my friends when I moved back here to be my parents' live-in caregiver for their last years of life. Only one or two of those is really someone I can count on as a real friend. Most of the rest have grown casually distant. People are generally friendly here, but not very intimate.

In moments of crisis, I'm almost always in the role of caregiver. When I'm having a crisis, it's almost always impossible to find anyone to turn to. It's like they all evaporate. Some are no doubt uncomfortable with seeing moments of vulnerability, weakness, and doubt in someone who they have turned to, who they rely on: the illusion of invulnerable competence is what they cannot bear to see disproved.

That has been a lifelong pattern: People turn to me for support, but don't usually reciprocate. I have one friend I can turn to, when I need a shoulder, but it's almost always on the phone, not face to face. Those late night things, from across a few state lines.

How do you define success? Is it happiness? Wealth? Having fun? Love relationships? Surviving one more day? Being married for decades with your partner? I define success in very small terms: I survived one more day. Most of the time that's all I can manage. The truth is, there are lots of times when I get so alone that I don't feel like there's any reason to go on living. Some nights you don't care if you live or die. Yet I've always been stubborn. Even if it hurts, which it can, a lot, I'm too stubborn to give in. It's not that I have any hope that "things will improve." I have no faith in that at all. I just go on enduring. Most of the time it's not much fun, just to go on enduring.

Lots of people think that their love relationships, or their religions, or their work, are the solutions to all their problems, all their difficulties, unhappinesses, and sorrows. They flush themselves with pride in their connections. They rely on their partner for all things emotional, mental, spiritual, and physical. Many such relationships crack under the strain of trying to carry too much in one container. Marriage is a container, but not necessarily a good container for all things.

Whenever I post a personal ad looking for some physical contact, sex, jerking off, massage, with another man, in this small rural area I invariably get a majority of responses from married men. Guys who want boys on the side. It gets annoying, after the first few rounds. You end up not wanting to post a personal ad, because of the predictable responses, which tend to make you feel even more alone. Some of them are recognizably from the same men, time after time. That can get boring, which can also add to the loneliness.

I'm not a sentimental person, not even slightly. I don't drown by choice in the romantic fantasies of blissful married life (no matter who you're married to) that seem to be the stock fantasies of most. I'm romantic, actually very romantic, but it takes awhile to get there, so if you were to come digging for it, you'd have to dig awhile before you struck gold. Mainly I don't like clichés of romantic love, etc.

That's one more thing that sets me up to be alone: Not conforming to the mass fantasy of romantic love. Not caring much about the painstaking reaction in real life of such fantasies. Caring even less for reenacting fantasy scenes from novels and poems and movies.

Although I can be swayed with flowers. Or a kiss on the back of the knee. We all have our erogenous zones.

I don't confuse loneliness and solitude. Most people are afraid of solitude because they're afraid they'll feel lonely. Frankly, most people are pack animals. I'm not afraid of solitude. I seek it out. I do enjoy sharing my favorite places of solitary sojourn with one other, on occasion. You like to share the places you love, hoping that your lovers will love them, too. But as an artist I'm used to be alone a lot of the time. Alone and in silence is how best I hear those voices that lead me to poetry, to music, to visual art.

Loneliness is yearning in a way that solitude is not. Being solitary is complete of itself. Being in solitude is recharging, for people like me. When I'm alone, I usually don't yearn. I yearn more for company when I've had a recent fight with someone I care about, perhaps; and I yearn more for comfort when I'm suffering; and I yearn sometimes when I want to engage in something other than solo sex.

Loneliness is part of the spectrum of life, though. If it comes over you, savor it, experience it to the hilt, don't hold back. It's one of the bitter, more alkaline emotional flavors. Savor it. Don't try to mask it, or cover it over, with sweeter flavors. That does neither justice, and makes both hollow, in the long run. People who pretend to be happy all the time when clearly they're not do not serve themselves.

If I need to weep, for my own sake I must let it rain. And sometimes you get so filled with unspeakable joy, so full of feelings, that you can't say anything, words fail you. Don't hold anything back. It's only in letting it all happen, clean and honest like rainstorms and summer winds, that you cleanse yourself, and keep yourself from becoming mired.

I have to relearn what I once knew: Let it all out. Get it out of the body. Don't stifle it, and don't let it fester. Let it flow, in the moment, of the moment, and then when it's done, it's done. Harbor nothing. Save nothing. Just spend it all.

I know that lots of people in the rural culture I live in view that as impossible for themselves, that emotional flow, and they spend most of their lives suppressing their deepest feelings, especially in public. Not too much salt, never too much pepper. I know that I'm a heretic of deep feeling and intense living, here where I live. I've learned that I can't be any other way, and survive. For my own sake, I have to let it rain. And even when I'm feeling lonely, I have to feel lonely with every fiber of my being, knowing full well that I'll feel differently later, tomorrow, or some other day soon arriving.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Are you a Gay Poet or a Poet who happens to by Gay?

And why does it matter?

These questions keep coming up. They are questions asked both by LGBT poets about each other, and themselves of course, and also asked by heterosexual readers, writers, and critics. The question is, perhaps, an attempt to define the nature of identity in art.

My reflections here were prompted by something poet Stephen Mills wrote recently: He had recently received a packet of poems and critiques from his last year of MFA in Poetry studies in Florida:

As I was ending my MFA, I was being nudged to write poems that didn't focus so much on gay identity and the domestic life of a gay couple, which was a lot of what I wrote during those three years. In the moment, I often took a bit of a offense to these comments and I partly chalked it up to the "heterosexual male factor."

Among the packet was a last comment by his workshop teacher, commenting that, yes, he did write a lot of gay-themed domestic poems at the time, and people would indeed get tired of it—but mostly because any one theme that ones writes about over and over and over is going to loose some readers, simply from monotony. To be clear, Mr. Mills adds that he did not feel any homophobia was in these critiques, nor does he feel any homophobia was in effect during or after the workshop period. Mr. Mills continues:

I still write mostly about sex and identity, but more of the outside world has entered those poems. The biggest difference between [his mentor] and me is that I don't see sex and identity as a narrow topic. It is a topic filled with things to explore and I could write poetry about sex and identity for the rest of my life and still have things to write about. There is always that notion that if you write about issues related to your minority that somehow you are being narrow. This may never change, but I hope to continue to push people to think beyond that notion.

It's an interesting issue, this opening out of subject matter, beyond a "narrow" topic, which is a topic tangled up with sexuality and identity. I've found that the line between "personal" and "universal" content in my own poetry moves around a lot. I write about everything; I write a lot of poetry that isn't "personal" or "confessional" but which can be considered impossible to separate from my self and my sexual identity. I began to write explicitly gay poems beginning in my mid-teens—and some of them were very explicit indeed—but I hid them from everyone till years later. I wasn't open about this poetry till much later in life. I've never done an MFA degree or workshop process, although I've been involved in poetry groups and private writers' workshops for several years; some other poems that do not hide the homoerotic nature of the relationships of the people in the poem have been through those workshops, but not those early, gay poems.

I feel that when my sexuality appears in my poems, it's most often in celebration, rather than overtly about issues political or psychological. Most of the gay-themed poems I've ever written have been celebrations of one kind or another. Not really political or issue-based—except of course that any gay-themed poem is still a political act in the current cultural climate of only partial acceptance of LGBT people and the art they make. Robert Mapplethrope and David Wojnarowicz and james Broughton are all still controversial, and not only because they were explicit in their art.

The three or four longest poems I've ever written are of this gay/erotic type: very sexual, very sensual, full of celebratory, life-affirming eros and ekstasis, written on a sustained level of white heat, and explicit about the acts involved in making love. Maybe it's the Midwestern reserve in me still, and it still seems daring to be explicit about who I love in a poem. These poems were explicitly, ecstatically sexual—that is, homosexual, pansexual, polysexual, panentheistic: erotic in the sense of life-force not just sexuality. Emphasis on the ecstasy. I have since published two or three of these poems as limited-edition chapbooks, for private distribution to friends and a few interested others. That's mostly because I just didn't think anyone else would be interested in such poems.

One thing I've never expected is that anyone would ever accept or like my poems; they've always been too outside the current poetic fashions. To non-poets and poets alike they break all the "rules," and not only in terms of content. To this day I mostly share these more explicitly homoerotic poems with my gay friends, rather than the general public. There are two reasons for this: They're very personal poems, not confessional but personal, and I didn't necessarily write them for anyone but myself. (In two cases that I can think of, in which the long poems accumulated lines over a few years, a bit added at a time, the poem set aside for a time then returned to later, the writing was also interrupted by self-induced orgasms: is it masturbation when your own sexual writing turns you on? I don't care. One difference between eroticism and pornography is that pornography turns into a job, and like any job, isn't a turn-on after awhile.)

The idea of what is universal in poetry is at the heart of the matter.

Does every poem have to be universal, or have universal appeal? No, not at all. But just because you write in a poem about gay relationships, sex, and community, does not mean you're not touching on universal human themes—quite the contrary, as can be seen in poems by Thom Gunn, Constantine Cavafy, james Broughton (a celebratory poet if ever there was one!) Dennis Cooper, Federico Garcia Lorca, Kenneth Pitchford, and many others, to name only a few.

Mr. Mills also writes: There is also a notion that if you write about gay issues you are automatically writing "confessional" poetry. Confessional has many other issues and is really grounded in a particular period and moment in poetry. I don't personally consider my work to be confessional.

The post-confessional lyric has become one of the dominant genres of contemporary poetry, in competition with Language Poetry and neo-formalism—in part because of the lyric poem's dominant place in poetry workshop teaching. Yet writing about the personal need not be "confessional" poetry. I tend to view confessional poetry as that which puts one's own personal biography of wounds on display, publicly revealing personal and private issues, be they psychological or sexual or whatever. There is always a feeling of the poet airing his or her dirty laundry in public in "confessional" poetry:—public "confession" always contains a hint of private "shame."

The usual argument heard from poets on the "poet who happens to be gay" side of the question is that they don't want their poetry to ghettoized, or limited in any way. They write about more than just being gay, they write about universal human concerns. Even gay poets who don't want to be identified solely as gay poets carry the assumption, it seems, that sex and identity are narrow topics: There is always that notion that if you write about issues related to your minority that somehow you are being narrow.

That I’m gay and a poet (and composer, etc.) is not hidden. It’s self-revealing in my writing (and even more so in my photographic work). This also opens the question of "gay sensibility," the idea in identity politics that no matter what you write about, your essential self as a gay person affects all the art you make, even the art not overtly about gay themes. There is some truth to this gay sensibility concept, although it is contested terrain.

I tend to agree with those artists who admit that no matter what there art is about, it is infused with their life's experience of being different, of being Other, of being gay. When you're a cultural outsider, you learn at a younger age than most how to step back and observe your own culture objectively. When you're bullied for being different, you learn to "read" people and situations very quickly, and you develop a survival instinct. Those instincts go deep, even if they don't rule you in later life.

Thinking all these questions through again, at the moment, I find myself on the side of “gay poet” rather than the "poet who happens to by gay." Yes, that's an explicitly political statement—although it's not necessarily myself who politicizes that statement. The presumption that a “poet who happens to be gay” might write more universally-appealing or universally-ranging-in-topic poems is based on the assumption that gay-themed poetry is somehow inherently less “universal” in scope than non-gay-themed poetry. I object to that strongly, now, because it feels like just another form of ghettoization, even of internalized homophobia—even when it comes from openly gay poets who want to present themselves (perhaps to win wider acceptance among the more conservative masses?) as “poets who happen to be gay.”

What makes a poetry universal is the shared human experience involved. We all love, we all suffer, we all live and die. The universal experience of falling in love, and living with someone, and dying, well, it doesn’t matter who that is. So a gay-themed love poem doesn’t have to be less “universal” somehow than either a heterosexual love poem or a love poem in which the genders are all indeterminate.

And why would readers want to know if I’m a gay poet anyway? I mean, I am, and it’s no secret. But if a straight person wanted to know, I would want to know why they wanted to know. To just put the poet into another categorical box?

Yes, this is personal/political, definitely, for me to declare myself a "gay poet" in many circumstances. The "poets who happen to be gay" have a different politics than mine—bluntly, a seemingly more conservative, assimilationist politics. I think of writers who have explicitly stated that they prefer to be thought of as "poets who happen to be gay"—Michael Cunningham, Mark Doty, John Ashbery, etc. Others come to mind as well, some of whom are still in the closet, perhaps because they fear loosing work opportunities if they come out. Well, that remains a valid fear, even decades after Stonewall. Many of these writers are people I respect as artists, if not for their stances on this question.

Maybe there's something generational to this, as well; one thinks of the generation of avant-garde composers of the mid-20th C., many of whom were gay, but never publicly said so. An earlier generation, even after Stonewall, never felt comfortable about publicly coming out.

Therefore I sometimes feel that this question can be used as a marker for figuring out an artist's political leanings, since in several examples I can think of, “poets who happen to be gay” also have taken more conservative and assimilationist stances on other LGBT issues. A lot of their political stances are "don't rock the boat" stances, or otherwise anti-radical stances. For example, the fight for gay marriage rights is an assimilationist program, because most of the rhetoric breaks down into "we want to be just like you, only different." I am all for equal rights, but gay marriage is not now our most important issue, and never has been, except to the more assimilationist gays among us. DADT was more important. Far more pressing and important is the prevention of gay teen bullying and suicide. What causes we choose to give our time to is a political choice itself. Just to be clear, I'm glad that LGBT activists are working for all of these various civil rights, including gay marriage—I want everyone who wants to get married to have the choice available to them—and make no mistake, these are civil rights issues. My problem with gay marriage is primarily that the entire institution of marriage itself is problematic and anachronistic.

I can also see some situational aspects to the question of "gay poet." I could foresee myself not objecting to being announced, in certain venues, as a "poet who happens to be gay" rather than a "gay poet." I can foresee public performance and/or reading situations where that would be appropriate; not because of fear, but because sometimes you have to pick your battles. And because in other performance ventures, my sexual identity just isn't necessary to the performance—say, when I'm playing a jazz gig. I do feel that my gay sensibility does permeate everything I do, including my jazz gigs, but that's partly because my muse is a male, not a female. I play even jazz more intensely, more personally, if my muse is present in the listening audience.

Then there is the related issue of opportunism. Perhaps, to get an artist's award or grant, or to be even considered, you have to not "advertise" your LGBT status. Perhaps on some occasions you end up not talking about it because it torpedo your chances of getting recognition, or reward, or an award, or something similar. I sincerely feel that some "pots who happen to be gay," like some artists of earlier generations, have chosen their stance because being more "militantly" gay would deny them opportunities, or lose them gigs. This is an understandable fear. We all need to make a living.

But how far dare we go to (mis)represent ourselves in order to get something? How far does having an open identity go towards living and integrated and authentic life, and where would we sell that in order to gain some kind of advantage? In other words, this is at root about prostituting oneself in order to get ahead in one’s artistic career.

For my part, I'm perfectly willing to prostitute my art: I like getting paid for my creativity. I've had grunt jobs where I was an interchangeable cog in the corporate machine. And I prefer to be paid to exercise my mind, my creativity, and my sense of humor—because it's more fun and interesting for me. (I'd say that's pretty "universal" a sentiment.) But while I am willing to prostitute my art, I'm not willing to prostitute myself, my identity, my essential nature, just to get a gig. If they can't deal with me being gay, I probably don't want to work with them anyway. It's a big ocean, and there are always more fish to be caught. So I might not make a grand announcement that I'm a gay artist; but if it comes up, I'll quietly and proudly affirm that I am gay.

Honestly, in artistic situations that has mostly come up when my coming out in that artistic venue was a matter of setting the record, ahem, straight. Of being true to myself, and not being hidden. I recall one poetry discussion panel where I came out because the discussion was about an Allen Ginsberg poem, and to make a point, I needed to let people know my take on the poem. (Which was "A Supermarket in California.") I already thought everyone knew I was gay, who was there, so I didn't even think I was coming out to anybody there; although it turned out I was.

So I affirm that I'm a "gay poet." I may not broadcast it all the time. I make plenty of poems, and photographs, and music, that is not explicitly about being gay, or has openly gay content. And I do feel that my gay sensibility is never absent in anything I do, because it's an essential part of whom I am. My muses are other men. My inspiration in my art, the life-force energy that is the power under life, that supports and enables life, that life-force, which I often explicitly discuss in my art, is eros, is life-force itself. Or call it prajna, ki, ch'i, the Tao. There are many names. What I do know is that it is always in my art, whether or not my art is about it or not. And because my eros is directed towards same-sex affiliation, I am a "gay poet."

Not that it matters. And not that anybody should care.