We have invented the faggot.
I did not invent him.
Straight people invented him.
I have always known, have known since I was seventeen
years old, what you were describing was not me, and
what you were afraid of was not me. It had to be
something else. You had invented it.
So it had to be something you were afraid of
you invested me with. I learned this
because I had to learn it.
But you still think, I gather, that the faggot is necessary.
Well, it is not necessary to me.
So it must be necessary to you.
So I give you your problem back.
You are the faggot, baby.
It isn’t me.
Note: All words spoken by James Baldwin.
After bitter conservatives decry
every fact gratuitously
—How in juridical knots
lazy minds neverendingly opine!—prolix
questions raise suspicions, then,
unflaggingly vociferous wranglings,
xenogamous yawns, zeteticism.
There lies Peter Clutterbuck now
still fourteen, on Phillip Island
where he was sent, and where he died
in 1935 parentless and poor
to the Newhaven Homes for Problem Boys.
His sister could not move him from this grave
since with him is another child
named Victor Hardy, still eleven.
Years ago, when I was reading the philosophical works of Schopenhauer
I heard a sudden eruption of laughter on the street.
I looked up to see what the cause of this laughter was.
Across the road, an old man
extraordinarily obese, was heaving his immense body
along the footpath. He used a cane to help balance himself as he walked
and to relieve the strain on his back
caused by the great bag of fat hanging from his stomach.
It required considerable effort for him to walk only a short distance.
I felt revulsion at the sight of this man.
There were feelings of pity, too.
I knew immediately
there are no counter-motives to humiliation.
We live by climbing over each other
struggle to keep our heads
and try not to think of harm that’s done.
I lowered the book and listened to the sounds of birds
a howling dog, a small child in the street
asking something of her parents —
every voice repeating the inner nature of the world
and I knew what trouble and pain was
still to come.
Published in Pink Cover Zine, No. 3, November 2018.
Of course, in times of crisis I do not write
poetry—a consequence of having escaped
pretenses about pain and metaphysics.
Last night, though, my head was full
of dreams—most particularly
that my friend (a euphemism)
had decided it was time to leave—
bringing us to the long struggle (an embrace,
perhaps, but it may have been a death-clutch).
And when I woke
everything in my world was ruined
and in fog.
So, it has been impossible to speak
a word that makes sense
and there is no pleasure in a pun.
After all the excitement
I am just another child sleeping
face-down at the edge of the abyss.
Come over some day—
I can offer refuge
in tired abstractions.
I will put on my red dress,
make tea, and then
ignoring Life, we will walk or write.