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.