You said your lines, took a bow —
your part, you thought, finished,
the play, you figured, done.
Such a blessing, the ramp to Freedom.
Such a blessing, California Dreamin’.
That’s when he tells you:
“Stay. Here. Please.”
You love him. He loves Miami.
So…you sway on Santis strings
as neighbors dance before der King;
whisper nothing, take your cake
(strudel, like the children say);
booze your man in darkened car,
hide deine fury, hide deine scar —
ban your books
take your wage
choke your heart
burn your page —
Are you listening, Brother?
It's not metaphor.
They want you dead.
That’s the plan.
Forgotten ash in gottes cleansed sky.
It’s time to leave the SunShineStaat.
Take your love and run now.
It’s not going to get any better.
“If it means ‘erasing a community’ because [they] have to target children – then, damn right, we ought to do it!”
— Florida Republican Representative Randy Fine
“Our terrorist enemies hate homosexuals more than we do.”
— Florida Republican Representative Jeff Holcomb
“Many people – many nations – can find themselves holding, more or less wittingly, that ‘every stranger is an enemy.’ For the most part this conviction lies deep down like some latent infection; it betrays itself only in random, disconnected acts, and does not lie at the base of a system of reason. But when this does come about, when the unspoken dogma becomes the major premise in a syllogism, then, at the end of the chain, there is the Lager. Here is the product of a conception of the world carried rigorously to its logical conclusion; so long as the conception subsists, the conclusion remains to threaten us. The story of the death camps should be understood by everyone as a sinister alarm-signal.”
The air smelled all Georgio and ocean in LA and my body worked so well I felt nothing, nothing, which is what health and vitality are, feeling nothing but heat on the bed, body on the sheets, the summer smell of my body in that not-new crusty motorhome parked outside Aunt’s house at the top of a street on a hill on a curve. It shouldn’t have worked parking on the ridge between Torrance and, over there, Redondo. The street was too small but she loved that RV and parked it in front of her house after she picked me up at Beck’s, my other grandpa, the one I hadn’t seen in so long. He didn’t know where I’d been or why, how I hitchhiked across the Utah desert and Nevada and slept with a truck driver in a cheap motel with shitty beds because I was fourteen and my step-dad threw me out of the car in Salt Lake.
He didn’t ask and I didn’t say. She knew but didn’t say anything. We had that in common.
I sometimes go back to that hill but nothing’s there anymore except I am in that bed over the cab, my own little place because there was no room in Aunt’s house. She acted embarrassed but to me it was heaven and I told her I couldn’t think of a more-fun thing to do. I ran to it that first night to fuck around because I was only fourteen and didn’t know how to pick up sex then and the whole thing was mine so I jammed myself thinking about the missionaries that used to come knocking on the door and the new nylon shorts I was wearing, the blue running shorts she bought me with the slit up the leg so high, and I couldn’t be stopped and nobody was around and they probably couldn’t see even though the little cab-light was on and they probably saw, or saw the camper moving, but I didn’t think about that too long because it felt so good. Nobody said anything the next morning, not even her son, even though he looked at me weird and they’d have to be blind not to see.
I was a nice boy everyone pitied because I was not strong and who my step-dad married. Someone once said at his church “For what he’s been through…Heavenly Father sure made him smart.” Skinny arms and twig legs and desire for those missionaries, desire so wild I yelled the first time I came and then it became a contest to see how far it could go until I knew I was gay and not just friends with guys and my first thought was “Cool.” Then all hell broke loose again and I’m almost fifteen in an RV parked on a curve at the top of a hill. I want so many guys I feel like a whore back when being a whore was dangerous because AIDS was out so I’m fucking around above the cab amazed at how I smell and happy. Aunt drives me to Universal Studios the next day and says she thought she washed the sheets but evidently not and opens the windows as she drives up the 405 freeway. This is the first time I feel like a man. Everything changes. I didn’t think it would — I wanted time to kiss Bryce and use my body with him and have someone beautiful take me away. But she smelled the sheets and I was proud and didn’t need Bryce or mom or a dad because I was sure.
It’s all good now. There’s no need to go back to my glorious skin or dream other whores out there waiting to be touched and taken and left so they can go to work the next day and then home to kids and husbands who know nothing. I go back to that bed over the cab that smelled of sweat and cum because I love how the story began and I watch everything that’s happened and say:
“Fuck you were a skinny whore.”
I feel good. I feel fifty while I sit at the table, stay up for the words because they are strong and true and because this is who I want to be, where I want to be, writing under a crap light while people wonder what the fuck I’m doing parked on this goddamn hill.
Sacred Space — Arrival
The wrinkled woman
resting in the doorway
her bones twitching hard:
“I'm sorry, Sir,”
as I pull my bag into
the Inn on Folsom Street1.
Exposed brick walls try hard
in my suddenly empty room.
I don’t...feel anything.
I thought I’d feel something.
No ghosts. Nothing.
I know the old fairies flew south
years ago. No place for the
Auden-faced. And the demons?
Those super-charged leather
dangers stalking prey in red steam?
Now they cam2 from rented rooms
in Sacramento and San Diego,
their hunting names changed
from Steve to Chase, TwinkChase3,
I don't know what to pray for
or to, not in this abandoned church.
Walking While Thinking — SoMa4
What if the usurpers,
the influencers paying $1.9 million
for a pissed piece of SoMa,
are just waiting for us
What if these squatters,
are the Old City’s fevered urge,
lusting after land and
trading-in sweaty stories
for a kid in an UPPAbaby5,
the ultimate accessories?
Makes sense as senses
now scent safety,
porning lean clean high-pitched
action-figures in Lower Castro6.
Everyone’s lost their balls.
Pause — Phone Call Home
“Mike called,” says the man on the phone.
Back in LA.
“What’d he want?”
“Know where you were.”
“What’d you say?”
“Up in San Francisco. Probably getting disillusioned.”
That’s why we’re at 20 years. More or less.
Exhibit — Dolores Park7 Cafe. Conversation, overheard
while eating expensive steel-cut oatmeal.
“And so he's interested in you
finding a tenant for your property.”
“Yeah, and we have so much
Outside, those who can only afford
the sidewalk are no-shows to the
convention of web-developers and
Mommy-n-Me in Lululemon8.
I’m a haunted old spirit:
“The best never survive.”
Walking Richmond9, after searching
GG Park10 for Signs of Life.
They all have money, or They have all the money.
Houses high atop garage doors painted
in expected candy-shop pastels.
Millions couldn't buy in. But it's also an
attitude; they fit. This kaleidoscopic
nursery is their world.
I like the sidewalk now; it’s original,
the hard-marked past, bones of my city,
cast when these houses were just houses,
you could hear shouting because people
shouted back before dot.coms and Grindr11,
when bandanas12 spoke not conclusively,
you had to look a guy in the eyes
and the park was full of risk and joy.
My world: on that older hill,
the one covered in open-faced beauty
and daring, weathered desire.
Processing — SFO13
A cocoon of security. We pay
You can’t pretend in
But here, I wonder with
beating breathing heart:
What would I do
if I was asked for spare change
at the United ticket counter?
If I wanted a cigarette?
If someone stood up and said
preferred pronouns are simply
an expansion of binary imprisonment?
If an out-loud not-texted internet-free
political need happened?
Their aggrieved-teenager answer:
“Is it so wrong to live unencumbered?
Does everything real
have to be uncomfortable?”
It’s easy to get turned around
Now I miss their sandcastles,
the peaceful playset neighborhood.
Nobody who doesn’t belong wanders by.
It’s nice. Just like an airport.
It’s all that’s left.
Reflection — Flying, looking back
San Francisco: where dreams
Only ruins survive;
fate has fashioned them weapons
hope can’t overcome:
marriage bourgeois magazines health
money a future an attitude
I look back as the plane banks
for SoCal, for LA and my
old boyfriend who will greet me
outside third-world LAX14 and drive
the stained and broken 40515 home,
where books and vacuuming
wait; and I see my once-home fading
into a sunsetted Ocean that touches
every time I’ve cared about, waiting,
and I find myself praying:
Maybe you will be broken again,
so like me when you led
my strange and halting body
through cracked unwanted lovely
streets to flowers and eucalyptus,
pro-offered grass in sheltered
shadow and men became yours,
cool-touching breeze, wounded
naked-love in pine-fragranced
gasping way-too-crowded dirty
I miss you.
Shake off this juvenile dream.
Please, God, let us be in love again.
1 past and (somewhat) current location
of San Francisco’s gay leather community
2 interactive filming of oneself engaged in
sexual/intimate acts, either alone or with
others, for a live internet audience, in
exchange for money and/or tokens
3 unblemished young adult male, typically
between the ages of 18-20, who utilizes his
perceived innocence or actual lack of
sexual experience in the pursuit of (generally)
older adult males/“daddies”
4 South of Market; historically, the economically
disadvantaged/“seedy” section of San Francisco
5 high-end baby stroller; average cost: $850
6 once known as GayMecca, the center of San
Francisco’s Gay Liberation Movement of the
7 somewhat successful example of urban
revitalization/renewal; once known as DrugPatch
8 high-end workout wear favored by teen girls
and their mothers
9 neighborhood/district in the northwest corner
of San Francisco, just north of Golden Gate Park
10 Golden Gate Park; known for its Victorian-styled
Conservatory of Flowers and lengthy wooded
trails; iconic location for public sexual activity
11 dating application designed to identify and
communicate with potential gay male sex
partners; lists inclinations and availability, as
well as possible locations for sexual activity
(host, travel, public, etc.)
12 heavy handkerchief positioned in the back
pocket of gay males to communicate sexual
inclination; historically, the color and side of
placement indicated sexual appetite (eg:
hunter-green in right-hand pocket = looking
for a “daddy”). No conclusive guide existed/
exists for the placement/meaning of the bandana.
13 San Francisco International Airport
14 Los Angeles International Airport
15 also known as the San Diego Freeway; largest
connector between the West Side of Los Angeles-
proper and the populous San Fernando Valley
Just in case this wasn’t enough poetry for you, click here.
And yeah, there are books. (Click there, on “Books”)
Beginning Middle Man. Its poetry is surprisingly straightforward, honest and strong, adult without apology. All gay-eros, all the time, a way of remaining true to what I’ve known since I was 17: if we’re not talking about sex, then we’re not talking about ourselves.
These poems are like most men I know and love, rough around the edges and awkward in the extreme. But still beautiful.
“Did you ever notice,”
Tate asks as he pulls down his shorts,
“that when they ask,
‘What’s your dream?’
like they do in that stupid movie —”
he turns around to face the tall white letters —
“about the prostitute with a heart of gold —
what was it? Oh, yeah, Pretty Woman —
that they never —
I say yes, the camera is ready.
Tate opens wide his arms to The Sign,
hefted cheeks glistening, reflecting the sun,
flexing newfound freedom, a bounce…
“ — really let you choose
The phone makes the sound cameras make,
a sharp click, as if something real just happened.
“Know what I mean?”
he asks as he pulls up his lucky shorts.
Go do it, then, whatever it is that you do — sex someone, buy that ring — film it, even, make a record of your elementary courage and then social your accomplishment to your kind. After all, you have the keys — (Secret gesture. Secret gesture. Secret gesture!) — and I should want to be just like you.
But, no. If you’re going to do it, hijo, choose a field where you will get caught and shot and then I’ll know you’re real. Let your body stand erect as rifles are raised by priests and soldiers; stand before their righteous hate, alone, knowing you die for your desire. Then I’ll follow.
In your childlike voice: “It was just a little fun!” “Why do you have to be so serious?”
Mi pequeñito, you have a thousand ways to explain your survival — as his blood sings from Spain, intones a truth known only to me:
Divinity is a dead body, sinking and stinking, unliked and unfriended, shot by justice, abhorred by Church, buried nowhere but my heart.
Everyone tells stories in high school, about what they do and who they get with. The baseball team at Van Nuys High School, 13000 Oxnard Street, Van Nuys, California, was a great source of these stories. Whether they were true or not — that didn’t matter. They kept our minds from imploding under the weight of Curricular Standards of Achievement.
It was 1985, and we were all just waiting to get out into the world, any world. And when that seemed impossible, or would take too long, we took matters into our own hands. It’s called in Educational Literature “The Creative Relationship to Boredom.”
Where would we be without boredom? Probably still eating raw meat.
There was Toby “the Bat” Bauer, slugger, blond, a man-child who would eventually go bald and who, it seemed, could inspire quite a few of the teachers.