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 clich├ęs 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!