Firsts stick in memory. My first kiss, Cynthia Sims, sitting on the piano bench in the house of my upbringing with all the adults in another room; the first mountain I climbed, Granite mountain, with my lover and about-to-be second wife, at the outset of 28 years filled first with love and companionship, only much later with terror, anguish, scars, recriminations; my first ever fish, caught at age 9, my first sex with Sharon at 18; and, on September 1st, 2020, in the middle night, within the bud of a soul-shattering year, while the long-late Townes sings in my ear 'If you needed me' at age almost 61, the first ever time someone, no, not just someone, my someone, lying in her bed a few miles away, me lying here in mine, said to me, in text on a dim phone screen, I adore you.
You have a difficult time looking at me; your past made certain of that, eye to eye too close to danger. I have to find signs in other places: your hand on mine in the night; the way you tremble when your desire rises; a text after hours inquiring about my day. Only at pillow distance do I get your eyes. Only when our skin connects do I get your heart. Only is enough.
I heard a song that wasn’t yet written,
tinkering in my head with harmonies
adjusting the rhythm of one spot
the thread of it wound through midair
smoke on a bright sunny day;
it would have gone on forever
but I couldn’t contain more
I saw it slide into your hearing
your face turning into a smile
I read a book that hadn’t yet been written
full of surprises and joy and sorrow;
somehow the author had, without my knowing,
taken the last few years of my life
and written them out in excruciating detail;
I had to close it, stop reading,
then I realized you had been reading it to me
your gentle voice turning each page, each day
I wrote a poem that hadn’t yet been written,
this poem, echoing me in ways I can’t follow;
even here, you are, as you are everywhere I look
or listen or read, as you are most completely
hidden away, a summer wildflower, in the inner pocket
of my heart that is always yours
Decades spent longing for another life
anything but the one I inhabited
wondering where the border could lie
how I could possibly cross
if and when I discovered it
one day I suddenly stood there, at the line
the signposts were her eyes and hands
at the last, all it took was to walk across
each new crossing comes
just as unexpectedly as the first
a tiny spiderweb between two blades
of grass as we sit talking
the twitching of the bluejay’s tail
perched in a branch overhead
the look in your eyes
when I tell you I love you
I remember how it felt to stand
on the other side, certain
change was impossible
now I make forays back
retrieving parts of me I left
Almost no one, even those I thought close
has followed my out of my old life.
For a while, that made me sad
so I stopped thinking about it
Then the people I missed became dead seedpods
floating away on the wind
when I brushed against the dandelion
I turn and a whole field of flowers
is stretched out
gold and blue
And you come behind me
your arms circling
your head against my shoulderblades
in the old country I had no love
now I have the love of three women
and friends more than that
I am bigger than I can understand;
each time, each time you touch me,
I finally recognize myself
You stand at the sink.
I’ve dropped off fresh bread;
I come up behind, close,
my arms around you,
one hand cupping your pussy
through your shorts;
you take my hands
move them to your nipples
your shirt is thin and soft
we have an afternoon date,
not soon enough
Your head is on my shoulder
you are deep in sleep breath rhythm
hair against my face.
Wind is whipping the branches
of the pecan tree outside my room,
dead pecans showering the patio slab.
My arm might be asleep,
or I might be walking, awake,
into an unknown room,
fear dropping away, your hand resting
on my chest; in my awake dream
the room is paneled in oiled pecan wood,
you sit at a table in the center
eyes shining, the dinner I cooked last night
still in front of you; everything an amalgamation
of what has been, what will be;
I stroke your hair and you murmur
sleep-words of care and freedom.
How I got here from where I was
how I was able to walk free of abuse
how I found you and her and her and him
is a mystery, a blessing, a grace.
I no longer find the Divine in everyday
except in the touch of your hands
the embrace of his arms
the feel of her lips on mine.
John Prine died today
and that was the last straw for me;
I’m watching videos of him
and crying: come on home, he sings
no you don’t have to be alone;
but I am alone, we go through days thinking
there’s always tomorrow, sliding into
the ease of open arms;
it’s all a lie we tell ourselves
because the truth of unknowing
is too terrifying to face daily
Tonight is a supermoon, silver fuzzed by clouds;
the world goes on, humans
are mostly inconsequential to the orbits of moons;
one lover at her home watching Moonstruck,
another outside looking at the moon
with me, but not with me;
the sweet sad songs run through
tears clean my eyes
an owl’s cry pins me into this moment
I want never again, though I know I will,
to displace now for tomorrow,
never again to dissociate
when a lover repeats a story,
never again to dismiss
the precious distinctness of each moment.
Supposedly a sword, my tongue
but really not even a dagger
it is best dipping into you
leaking pleasure, spiraling, twisting
so many places intersect:
my benchmark for a taco house
their lengua, soft and rich
gravy on my tongue;
my inability to persevere
in learning another tongue,
the one she desires to hear
soft, romantic, boleros in the air;
my tongue gliding along skin,
intent on tasting arousal;
my tongue tied, abashed
unable to express expansion;
too many tongues, not enough;
words plastering my ears back
and finally, silence, savoring
the end of all speech and sound,
as your tongue meets mine
hearts electrically connected
I can wait to get back to normal
normal was destroying the earth
normal was destroying my soul
in unnoticeable tiny bites
maybe what matters is now
the now of seeing you on screen
the now of knowing I am not alone,
that many beautiful humans care
outside my window in the morning
birds sing on, the same songs
they have had as long as memory
memory being so fickle anyway
soon enough we will again directly
see each other’s eyes and smile
I only hope we remember
the gift of quiet, the sound of breezes
When I was a pastor and sat with people
who were actively dying, like Anna,
by her hospital bed, holding her hand,
sometimes they, or their children,
usually a little timidly, as if it was something
they should know and had forgotten,
would ask me, what is heaven really like?
Now, I don’t personally think
heaven is a place, but a condition of existence
but that’s not the time or place for metaphysics,
so I would tell them, I don’t know,
but I can imagine, because if what I imagine
isn’t true, then it’s not really heaven
and I wouldn’t want to be there;
and I would tell them, you can also imagine
because your heaven will not be the same
as mine, but they will have in common
that all the goodness of our lives
will be distilled into one continuous infinite joy:
everyone I have ever loved will be there
close by, even the ones with whom
it ended badly, or who died before
I could ever tell them I loved them;
I’ll get to now. My parents will be there,
arms open, and we won’t ever have another fight
and they won’t ever again irritate the holy fuck out of me.
My brother will be there reminding me
to joke them if they can’t take a fuck.
Every cat I’ve ever known will be rubbing against my legs
my Dittocat climbing my leg as a little kitten
Cringy the stray dog licking my hand,
all my lovers surrounding me in their arms,
somehow all at once.
I don’t see any reason that we would see God
any more than we do now and it doesn’t matter
whether there even is a God or not
if I have all my feline and human loves again:
my heart will have no limit to how big it can be.
I will cry freely every time I see someone I have missed,
it will be a continual rediscovery
of everyone who ever passed through my life
and love will go on and on without end.
I realized, as I was sitting there,
holding Anna’s hand, that sometime
while I had been talking, she had stopped breathing
a beautiful smile on her face,
I want us all to hold closely,
in easy times and in difficult ones,
whatever we think about a divine or not,
that there is always a point to love,
always a reason to be profligate with it;
the promise, independent of any doctrine
but rooted in our bones and flesh,
in the knowledge we have
that we don’t know exactly how we acquired,
is that no love is ever lost or wasted.
I’ve said a lot of things that weren’t true.
It’s not that I was lying,
although there has been that at times.
It’s mostly that I didn’t know myself
so I said things that weren’t me.
I wanted someone to like me
so I spoke only the parts of me
that I thought would catch their fancy.
I wanted to feel like I mattered
so I left out the trivial
forgetting that life is lived in tiny bits:
the fluff left from brushing my lover’s hair,
the things in the kitchen drawer
that there aren’t quite enough of to categorize;
the feelings that pass through seeing a blue heron fly,
and how my energy surges when you touch my arm.
I desire to arrive at the end of my days;
no, wait, forget grand gestures, I desire
to arrive at the end of this day
a little richer from the tiny things:
sunlight coming through the spaces in my blinds,
remembering your lips on mine last night
and anticipating that again when next;
the pleasure of slowly, over the course of a day
preparing for dinner, for tomorrow’s work,
tiredness in my muscles, sweat and effort.
I want to finally be able, at the end of this day
to know my own truth fully enough to speak it.
You come over for our date, supper,
conversation, then you study,
about 10 I crept into the bed next to you,
your books on your lap, and I lay there
and watched you surreptitiously, the concentration
on your face not unlike how you look
when your arms are around me, and your legs.
My heart is overflowing looking at you
remembering a couple of days before that same look
but not from you studying, and I drift off to sleep,
about 11:45 you are putting your books away
and I wake up and remember we never had dessert
with supper, and although I would like a different dessert,
my favorite thing to eat, I thought once
that if there was pussy-flavored ice cream, or maybe
seasoned salt someone could make a fortune on that
but of course it’s not just the taste,
it’s also the scent of arousal, it’s the softness,
sounds and movements, my beard getting soaked,
well, I digress, this night you are as exhausted as me,
so I cut two pieces of the lemon-rosemary birthday cake
you brought me from your weekend in Austin,
where you had a second date with the man
you had been chatting with, which was fun and also
a little awkward, cause there were those first-time-sex things
and he was perhaps embarrassed because he hasn’t contacted you again,
and part of me was sad for you about that
and part of me was, like, fuck yes I’m your Daddy
don’t forget who takes care of you, Princess.
So we sit at my little white pine dining table that I need to build
a new top for, but I am loathe to because I have had it literally
for 42 years and even though my ex-wife tried to ruin it
by leaving it outside for months after I had left,
before I could come get the rest of my things,
the joints between boards in the top have opened up a little
and it’s not exactly flat, well, when I was 42
I was getting a little looser and less flat myself,
she thought she was getting back at me with this,
like, I’m not a woodworker who made it in the first place?
Still, this table is meaningful to me in ways a new one wouldn’t be.
I remember all the women and a few men who have sat with me,
eating love made visible in food I cooked, drinking wine, 42 years ago
Simi Rose’ of Cabernet Sauvignon, I thought I was so sophisticated
for having a “real” rose’, then later on German wines, Ausleses mostly,
because, let’s face it, I grew up Jewish on Mogen David
and sweet wines are where it’s at, even though now
I am more likely to get a good Madiera
when I go to Maverick Grill with my other partner,
or like last night dinner, an oloroso sherry, deep brown and intense,
and now lately I am finally getting back into reds,
Rhones and Riojas, so I keep putting off remaking this table,
with all the memories that are embedded in the top
like the few remaining tiny pieces of glass that are also,
from where my ex threw my favorite deep cobalt blue
citrus reamer at me and it shattered on the table;
tiny fragments of blue glass still sometimes cut me slightly
when I clean, which is fitting, I am still cutting myself
against memories of the relationships that did not end well,
wishing that I had been a more compassionate person then,
but fuck, I had to live through hell to get to the beginnings of compassion.
We sit at that table, not really talking, there’s no need
your love is so obvious and I am enveloped in it
and all the little bits of glass embedded
in my skin are slowly being pulled out of me,
iron filings drawn to a magnet,
by the warmth you exude when you look at me,
tears welling up in my eyes;
my gratitude even more in that moment
that you did not know me in my asshole years,
when I was so self-unaware; all the others who have sat at this table,
the memories, mostly good, of who they were
and how I felt about them, cannot in this moment
even begin to approach what I have with you,
eating cake at midnight in our underwear.
Life routinely turns itself upside down:
You come into my bed, your head on my shoulder
opens long-unrehearsed paths, each time new,
my Princess and lover and heart’s delight:
I meet someone unexpectedly and they fit me
in ways I never could have imagined two days ago,
my power flares and spreads out my extremities
sparking from my fingers into her palm,
tigers and lilies and the unknown becoming real,
my thoughts cannot keep up with sensations;
the certainty I had 42 years ago
has given way to only a willingness to let go
of what might be and live in what actually is;
I know less and less each year;
but I do know some things:
on the other side of despair is clarity;
on the other side of heartbreak is joy.
I had my 60th birthday yesterday.
Over the weekend gifts showed up:
unexpected and delicious time with my lovers,
a party surrounded by friends,
phone calls from people in other places
who love me, some new earrings,
my Princess saying at pillow distance
I love you so much, Daddy.
I have been thinking about past birthdays.
I hadn’t written about this before
until a couple of weeks ago on Facebook
when the actual day was there, mid-September.
Three years ago, two weeks before
my 57th birthday, I went to a meeting
of the personnel committee at the church
I served, and they told me they were reducing
my salary by 40% for the next year,
that I wasn’t worth the amount of money
they were paying me, that I was ineffective
despite the same people telling me the Sunday before
I was the best music director they
had ever had there. I went home from the meeting
and told me now ex-wife and she yelled
and said I had ruined her life, I had made her
move to this shit-hole of San Angelo
and now I wasn’t even going to have enough money
to pay the mortgage, which of course was factually wrong
and she threw things at me, my grandparents china
she was eating off of, two plates broke,
two more out of the 16 I used to have, and she hit me.
Not the first time she had hit me either.
As a friend I have now says, why did you stay
when you weren’t even getting any pussy?
I know now, but that’s another story
and another poem, perhaps.
So that night, I went in the bathroom
and got out all the pills, the leftover opioids
from dental and surgical procedures,
and put them in a line on the countertop
a total of 11 bottles, see, the expiration date
which had passed on some didn’t matter for this,
and I looked up on my phone what the overdose
for each one was, and I had about 80%
of what was needed for three different kinds
so I figured that together it would be enough
plus they all had acetaminophen mixed in
to keep you from taking too much, but it wasn’t relevant
if I killed my liver, so I opened up all the bottles
and lined them up, and wondered how many
I could swallow at once, would I get halfway and decide
not to finish or not be able to keep them down
and have to go get my fucking stomach pumped.
I was thinking about that when a colleague
who knew what I was going through at the church
with the allegedly Christian assholes there
and knew I had the meeting that evening, he texted me,
hey David, how are you? and I thought how I didn’t care
if my wife would be hurt and distraught and angry
if I ended my life and that anyway I hated my life with her
anger all the time, no sex, her hitting me and yelling
but that there were other people who would care
and did care, and I sorted out the pills
into the different kinds that they were
and put them back in their bottles and put the bottles
back in the cabinet and went out into the living room
where my wife threw a book at me literally, and hit me again.
I was ashamed of this for a long time.
Now I know that I am not responsible for my abuse
that I stayed with her because of childhood patterns
I was not the master of, I never learned how
to be in a relationship in a healthy way before
and I don’t blame her now, she was just as unconscious
and hurting, we all are in some way, so that now,
when I wake up every day more and more conscious,
I am deeply grateful that my life is amazing and glorious.
Three years later I am in a place where I would not
ever think about that again, I know that for truth
because I was that distraught again recently
when I thought one of my lovers was leaving me,
and it didn’t cross my mind to end my life.
So this birthday, I am fucking 60
and alive and in love and joyous
and have women and men who want
to be in my bed and text me that often.
I am surrounded by love, I have more sex
than I have ever had, except for that two year time
when I was 24 and 25 when I picked up
a different woman or sometimes man almost every night,
I estimate a total of 600 people, not bragging
because I’m not exactly proud of this
I survived it and this was in the early 80s
and many of my friends died of AIDS,
I did this without caring about my safety,
kids, don’t try this at home,
until one morning I woke up next to a woman
who was clearly my mother’s age, whose name
I couldn’t remember, and I decided I was done
with anonymous fucking but in reality it never was joy
it was pain, self-medicating through my cock
so now, when I can handle everything in my life,
when I am becoming more self-aware and conscious,
I can say with truth that I have more love than I have ever had.
This past weekend I was surrounded
by lovers and friends and even some family,
and if there ever was a good way to start a new
birth-year, goddamn this was it.
Somebody at my party said, 60 is the new 30,
fuck that, 60 is the new and perfect 60,
60 is the light streaming down when the sun
comes out from behind rain clouds, 60 is the taste
of the ripest strawberries and bitter chocolate,
60 is my lovers eyes, each of them in their turn,
at the other edge of a pillow, their hands in my hair
telling me what they want to do to me,
60 is knowing that each day I have left
is irreplaceable and lovely and perfect,
I”m not even looking ahead to see what might be,
today, right here, now, is enough.
I wanted to write a poem about being a feminist
and I did, but I can’t read that one;
that landscape belongs to women
who have experienced oppression in their bodies.
I wanted to write a poem about being gender-queer
and I did, but I can’t read that one;
I might be queer but I’m pretty damn safe
in my expression and sparkle.
I wanted to write a poem about religion
and I did, but I can’t read that one;
I don’t believe anything or not believe anything,
it’s all just irrelevant to me now.
I wanted to write a love poem,
and I did, but I can’t read that one;
the lover it is about isn’t my lover at the moment
and maybe we will be together again but I don’t know.
I wanted to write a protest poem,
and I did, but I can’t read that one;
I am weary with outrage fatigue and I don’t really know
that I have any right to protest when I am so comfortable.
I wanted to write a poem to make everyone happy,
and I think I have, but I can’t read that one;
when children die by suicide how could I?
and besides, happy doesn’t sell anything.
There are lots of poems I wanted to write
and I have, but I can’t read them today;
this is the only one I can read today:
it’s where I start each day, full of possibilities
that I want to own but that aren’t my path,
browsing through joys and angers and frustrations
that aren’t legitimately mine, sorting them out
like the coins in my change jar when I get low on cash.
The poem I can write, this one
is not long, or complicated, or beautiful
but it’s real, and all I want any more
is to do whatever I have to
to start each day real, and alive;
to be faithful to who I am even when that’s not
who I wish I was in some odd fantasy;
there are so many things not right,
all you have to do is look under any bridge,
or talk to the parent of a child who has died,
or sit with someone whose cancer is overrunning
their body like the weeds in my alley,
to put the lie to “God won’t give you more
than you can handle” and other sentimental bullshit;
but I am convinced that if each one of us
tries to start each day as real as we can be, then maybe,
just maybe, together, we can heal the world.
You don’t mind when I have one of those days
where I want to listen to sad songs
and cry a little, for no real reason
If you’re here, the time I see you each week
you just snuggle up to me
and put your head on my shoulder
and sometimes, you tilt your head
and look up at me with those eyes
that pierce me into my deepest parts
and tell me I”m your daddy
Your tiara is hanging on a little place on my shelf
by the door to my bedroom, I see it
every time I go out the door and remember
the time we first realized this was our true desire
to be this to each other, for you to let me
nurture and hold and care for you
in ways my heart has always desired
and those times when your skin is against mine
and you look at me again, your eyes radiant
I live somewhere between joy and tears
holding what seem on the surface to be
disparate emotions but underneath are not
my joy and sadness are merged in your touch
and your pleasure cries open me up to parts
of my life that used to be dead, now awake
from your touch and your smile and your words
The leaves are dropping from some of my trees,
maybe heat stress, or they are confused
about the season, cause, here that’s easy.
I am confused at your ambivalence
you say we are only friends then want to go to bed
you tell me we wont talk about our relationship
but we do, you say, no contact for the weekend
when you are at a retreat and then text me.
Ambivalence is unsafe in my body.
My mother was loving and compassionate
helped poor people, volunteered in the community
and could fly into a rage and yell and slap us
and so ambivalence in a partner now lands in me
as inherently unsafe, unsafe in my body and heart
waiting for the slap or the anger even when it never comes;
the leaves are partly fallen and partly still green on my trees
and I so want to be safe with you, to draw you into my arms
every part of you becoming alive and me also, everything green.
I don’t know when that will happen.
All the little griefs
of a day or a lifetime
and sometimes, other’s lifetimes
gather in my chest
and without warning, unexpectedly
my body turns them into joy
there’s a familiar unfamiliarity between us
or perhaps it’s an unfamiliar familiarity,
the reverberation of times together;
the way you held my hand so tightly
after a long and intense joint therapy
at the end, your arms around me, you saying I love you;
later, that echo again, at dinner, then later
walking your dog, who I had missed so much,
when thinking that perhaps we were through,
realizing that in a breakup you break up with pets also
so that early in the evening, arriving to your house
when he greeted me in his total energetic exuberance,
as I was kneeling in your entry hall, holding him close
and scruffing his back as you went to dress
for a date that was not a date, picking out burrs
from his uniquely kinky fur, then, tears came, gratitude
because it wasn’t a breakup, it was something
beyond, unexpected, beautiful, unknown,
like the flower on my desert rose that hasn’t blossomed
for the 5 years I’ve had it, until this week;
like seeing you, so radiant, earlier, in our session, struggling
to bring the truth of your body into existence,
like feeling the sheer physical pleasure
of myself in alignment, of my edges being solid,
energy running up my spine, and simultaneously,
the barely defined path forward, hovering
in the space between us, fragile and unstoppable both,
something beyond the immediate past, new and old all at once
something with no label, starting to be.
Watering plants on my patio, I reach down
to the feathery leaves on my copal tree,
the miniature of the ones we saw on the mountain in Oaxaca 2 summers ago,
many small leaflets, slightly green,
aromatic, leathery; I crush a few between my fingers.
The sticky resin on my fingers, fragrant,
reminds me of afternoons in our hotel, your sap on me
the limbs of our bodies connected; we have
put this aside for now or forever, we don’t know,
the rightness of that, the truth of it in my body
shocked me out of unawareness.
Bringing my fingers to my nose, I inhale,
the fresh scent of the copal leaves greener and brighter
than that of the burning resin, tears of the gods,
that exude from the trunk when cut.
Smoke rising from the charcoal in an incense burner
is the path we are choosing, transcendent and transitory;
your radiance and bravery burned me earlier.
What was before has to die, to be burnt into new fragrance,
for me to be whole, for our connection to be completed,
to open between us something unknown
and known, completely new and older than the day we met,
where perhaps we can both, finally, be safe.
I am standing in my kitchen making dinner for a lover
and suddenly I am overcome
it’s not the onions making me cry, this is real, deep sobbing,
I’m leaning against the counter with all my weight
so I don’t fall over holding the 10″ chef knife;
My brain wants to make up a story about it,
that it’s thinking about how the lover who is coming for dinner
is talking seriously, with her husband, about moving out of the country, for good,
whether or not the narcissicist-in-chief is reelected, that the bigotry and hatred
that is so evident in our country, that was hidden before, is too much for them,
and they are going on mini-vacations over the next few years
to check out different places to possibly live and see if they could do that,
and I know if they move I will see her maybe for a while on Skype
but it will be too hard and sad for both of us and we will drift apart;
or my brain wants to take me to why I don’t have pets now,
how I had to stand there by the vet’s table while my snuggle cat Artemis
was euthanized and before that my Bubba and my Otis and my Flea
or I had to see my Ditto-cat shivering in a cage at the vet’s clinic
who fucking didn’t treat his injuries and all my rage couldn’t reverse
what that asshole vet did fully on purpose to try to sell me
on expensive surgeries and procedures that wouldn’t have done anything,
all those things coming up in memory, knowing I can’t bear
to have another animal-love die; or it’s the dreams I have sometimes
way too often, too realistic, and too frightening, dreams of complete loss,
of standing in the cemetery at my Beloved’s family ranch,
standing at her grave with her siblings and dearest friends,
not knowing what happened, inconsolable;
or it’s the real-world, solid grief, of missing my brother
who died in 2008 of a sudden massive heart attack
while stoned, sitting in his hot tub, getting a blow-job
from his second trailer-trash wife who had to be SURE
my elderly mother with dementia knew those details,
and fuck, when I die, getting a stoned blowjob in the hot tub
wouldn’t be the worst way to go, except, I’ll have to get a hot tub first;
so he went happy, but I am still angry at him
for not taking better care of his health because I need him here, now, to talk to,
I am already older than he was when he died and he always accepted me
just as I was, and I know he still would, and there are days
where I need to know someone is out there who does.
My brain tries to make up all these stories about the grief
because that’d what brains do
but the grief isn’t about anything
some of it is older than me, inherited
some is just my anxiety magnified infinitely
so I simply stand there until my chest opens a little
and the tears stop and my heart is back to something like normal.
My lover will be arriving soon.
I think: vulnerability turns her on a lot,
maybe if I’m still crying I’ll get laid.
When I text her this, after the fact the day
I am writing this, she said: sorry you didn’t get laid.
I said, Princess, your head on my shoulder
was what I needed last night, and no more.
I think: it’s so easy to mistake boundaries for rejection
when she needs time alone, I feel cut off
when I need time alone, I don’t even need to explain
but I do and fuck it up
because I”m not being true to myself,
I’m trying to fit my need for quiet and solitude
into a framework not meant for that,
and maybe I can just say: tonight, I am enough
I am not broken, I care for you,
but my need is to be my own primary.
All that is going through my brain, leaning
against the counter, holding the freshly-sharpened knife.
slowly, ever so slowly, everything unclenches, the joy I have almost always now,
joy at being alive, joy at being in love, creeps back in, pushing grief ahead of it
like the tide pushing shells and rocks up the sand at the beach, and maybe, even,
just barely maybe, and I think this because hope is always hovering
over my shoulder in the same space where my connection to everything resides,
maybe they weren’t tears of grief at all but joy-tears, tears for all the beauty
I have in my life, so that I seriously need to ponder and uncover why
my brain goes to sadness as it’s default, because I have more joy
than I ever would have thought possible just three years ago:
deeply-connected lovers, new possibilities for more of the same,
women and men, some more closely connected already than others,
expanding each of my edges;
As I dry my cheek I realize they were cool tears, not burning ones,
cool water to wash away the silly distractions of the day that I got caught up in,
so that when my love arrives I am really, finally, completely here.
All this slides away as I hear her key turning in the lock.
In the end, only joy matters.
The dance of becoming acquainted
at first, is just wild rock and roll
or maybe R&B,
you do your thing, I do mine,
perhaps we do them in the same space
with some influence that shapes
what the other is doing, but mostly
I move how I do, and that’s that;
I’m always moving to the slower beat
the one behind the main beat
feeling it in my hips and wanting to sway;
like one partner said, as if this was
an insult, I dance like a girl. yes, proudly so.
A little later in becoming acquainted, it’s more like Bachata
in open position; your hands above, mine inverted, yours resting in mine,
two arm lengths apart, but moving at least
in the same direction to the same rhythm.
Then, in dancing as in everything, I’m the lead
and I bring you into closed position
my right arm around your left side under your arm
hand on your shoulderblade, your elbow resting on mine
other hands giving each other enough pressure
to keep the form, sense the moves.
When I know you more fully, it’s Kizomba
chest and belly to chest and belly
my lead in my intent and pressure,
slow and sensual. There’s the old joke,
why do Baptists not have sex standing up?
Because someone might think they are dancing.
I think about that, and the Irish saying,
dancing is a vertical expression of
a horizontal impulse, when I see anyone I desire
across from me, their body moving in ways
that make my heat rise, energy moving up my spine;
or when I see her dancing with another man
her hips moving in ways I know from my bed
and sometimes, just sometimes
I get it exactly right, exactly locked into my partner’s intent
and we are like one body, the beast with two backs
but on the dance floor and not the bed.
One night at a dance workshop, where there were
separate rooms for each style, in the Kizomba room
the songs flowed one into the other without pause
and I watched a couple who had just met,
an older man and a gorgeous young woman
getting acquainted through their moves, his lead sure
without being oppressive, her follow only a moment behind
and my heart longed for that with each of my loves,
that connection, that intensity, so that my eyes were teary;
and then my dance and bed partner, seeing what I was watching,
leaned over and said, seeing them makes me wet, I want that with you;
and I realized that it’s not the dance of becoming acquainted
that I need to learn, but the knowing each other in every sense of knowing
that I need to let flow into my lead, so that whether or not we are lovers,
my follows surrender, as all good follows eventually must.
I look at you and hold out my hand and you stand and take it;
I lead you onto the dance floor, for now, perhaps,
in open position, or we can still dance rock and roll if we desire,
but inevitably, as we dance ever closer, learning the other’s stories,
opening our vulnerabilities, we will be dancing
belly to belly and chest to chest
and most lovely of all, for me, mind to mind and heart to heart.
When I was married, if a woman flirted with me,
I could count on a nuclear barrage when I got home;
even if I didn’t flirt back, all hell broke loose
she threw things or threw things at me
and there was no protection, like when I was in elementary school
and we had ‘duck and cover’ exercises getting under our desks,
as if that was going to make any difference
if an atomic bomb went off at the refinery a handful of miles away.
Nukes are no longer part of my daily life
that arms race I just walked away from
so now I can just figuratively sit back
and enjoy flirting, the energy, the fun, the playfulness,
although with you, well, the heat was almost
as fierce as a bomb blast, when you touched
my leg with your foot, or took my hand
and placed it on your ass, even though I had set
the container to only be making out,
that was a difficult, I should say hard, moment
to withdraw from.
Flirting is location and person specific.
Flirting is the wind going through the trees in my back yard,
sitting crosslegged on my couch, wanting to look
at your short skirt when it rides up, but instead
looking at your face, thinking about how your lips
will feel against mine. Flirting is the connection
when I put my arm across the back of the couch
and touch your shoulder. We talk about our histories, music, friends.
Your eyes are shining, radiant.
The energy of flirting is the energy
of fucking, 100 times slower; approach, withdraw; enter your space
move away, a little, from your space, each time a little farther in,
savoring the connection as much as I savored the salad you made me for supper.
I liked the way your hands felt
between mine, soft and powerful
I could feel the energy,
touching the inside of your wrists
your gaze changing, some hints of passion.
I like hints. I like the slow movement
with someone I am meeting;
the teasing out of story, of connection;
the possibilities, or not, that open.
Your eyes are soft and stern simultaneously.
When I approach a definition of self,
a naming of your path,
that fits you, your whole body relaxes.
My desire is to open that path
since where it leads can’t be known
from this side of the gate.
Words come flowing out
things I might have said
years before but bit back
I’m sitting on the couch
we bought for our new house
my tongue shredded by pain
lips bloodied the way my arm was
when you dug your nails in
heart cut partly through
in little ribbons
like those Mexican paper flags
that hang from the strings
in the restaurant we go to
every Sunday after church
My words hang in the air
between us, you unable to hear
both of us crying
You say, you promised to stay
when I was old, I say
I don’t feel safe with you
and I leave, and leave again
multiple times as I retrieve
the rest of my stuff that
you hadn’t yet destroyed.
Fast forward three years
I’m sitting on another couch,
my beloved’s, it’s later night,
I have come to your space
to tell you difficult things,
things I need from you
I am crying suddenly
flashing on the memory
of the other time
and you look at me
and I see that this time
I am heard, you fully hear me
and in that single moment
you heal my heart
from all those years
she told me
that I was nothing.
In a text, you were flippant
about one of my rules.
I text: this isn’t a game
to me. Thirty minutes go by.
Then your reply: nor to me.
My heart swells, this is the first
moment of complete certainty
since your first surrender;
I am dizzy with what opens in front of me
and I reply: then, when you are with him
You WILL wear the bracelet
as your day-collar?
Your reply: Yes, David.
I never knew exactly the power
your obedience would open in me
and tears of gratitude come
that you are mine.
I read some poems a while back
at an open mic in a bar
and I sucked.
Lots of ways to say that. One friend I had
who is very prim and proper, wouldn’t use the word suck
things “Hoovered” or sometimes
if she was really upset, “that vacuumed”
I could have said, I blowed.
But let’s stick with the word suck.
I like that word. It feels like something I can own.
I’ve sucked at lots of things
in my life. Being a school-teacher,
being a husband, being calm and secure in meetings.
Sucking is something I’m used to.
I didn’t used to be used to sucking.
My ex-wife said, women don’t like to do that
they just do it so they won’t lose their man,
But even at the time I knew she was wrong
because I had a girlfriend, before I met her,
who couldn’t wait to get my zipper open.
So yeah, I like to get sucked.
and I am with women who like to do it,
thanks be to God.
I bet you think that’s an odd thing to go to,
when I’ve switched to talking
about oral sex, thanks be to God.
I used to be a pastor.
I say used to be, because the powers that be
in the church I was part of
found out that I like, among other things,
being sucked, that I liked fucking,
that on occasion I liked flogging someone
and tying them up, consensually, of course,
and a lot more, and I’m single,
and the rule-book says single people have to be celibate,
and I said, on my blog, that’s a stupid rule
and I’m not going to follow it
and so I broke their rules and
they did what they had to do
and asked me to resign, and I did
because I’m trying to live authentically
and I don’t fit their rules.
But anyway, I like sex and I am in love
with a few amazing women,
being polyamorous in my orientation,
and the church is messed up
in my opinion, (which is only that)
about sex and about love and about real intimacy.
It’s one thing to live your conviction
that sex is good and sacred even outside [gasp]
the narrow bounds of hetero marriage,
but it’s another to say so publicly
and I went too far in that to be ignored,
so I am no longer a United Methodist deacon.
When I was in seminary, I went to a Presbyterian seminary,
right about then the Presbys were arguing
about whether gay and lesbian people
could be ordained, and they voted yes,
and half of my class came out.
And some churches took their toys and went home,
left the denomination, and how stupid is that
because the Presbyterian church uses a call system
for their pastors, if they need a pastor,
people apply and are interviewed and hired,
and no one can force a church
who doesn’t want to to hire a queer pastor.
But they left, and the same thing
happened in the Lutheran and Episcopal churches,
and is about to in the Methodist church,
and they all wonder, they spend hours and weeks
wondering and studying and having conferences about
why young people don’t want to come to church
or why gay and lesbian people don’t want to come to church,
and that is such a waste of time, it’s totally obvious
that no one would want to go someplace where the leadership
doesn’t and can’t ever look like them;
so I was in seminary at that time, and I saw
a tee-shirt that one of my classmates had,
and on the front at the top it said:
Everything Jesus said about Sex,
and there were two Bible verse listed, two,
and on the back it said at the top:
Everything Jesus said about money, greed, and the poor,
and the whole back of the shirt was covered in tiny print
with Bible verses, over 200,
and still, the church in general is way more
worried about who fucks who
than who is fucking over who.
But I am convinced, from everything in the Bible, even,
that the Divine is way more worried about who is fucking over their
sisters and brothers than who is fucking who consensually.
I think this because I think the Divine is about love,
the Divine is love, and love, at least among humans
and that is all we can really know,
(because anything we say about the Divine is mostly incorrect)
among humans, love craves to be expressed;
and if the Divine really is about love
and really is, as Christian theology says,
three persons in one, in eternal conjoined bliss,
mutually holding one another completely in union,
then the Divine is polyamorous
and having one continual creation-long energetic orgasm.
You can see, probably, if you ever went to church
how this could be considered false doctrine.
And so, because of all this, I am no longer a fucking preacher
but I am now, and will always be, a preacher of fucking.
Can I get an Amen?
[that’s an inside joke for any
of my former colleagues who might
be reading this…]
Heart so full it spills out of my eyes,
we walk; I let my finger
run down your spine to the hollow
above your jeans, that last time,
too long ago, I had pulled
from the ankles, down your legs
exposing lace and paleness;
and underneath your talk of work,
family, friends, house paint color names,
Forest Mint, Early Periwinkle,
underneath I hear the same voice
earlier husky with desire, wordless,
that opens in me sensations
I thought were gone, never to return.
From one reveal to the next
there is a hard inevitability
like the glint of the obsidian’s edge
slicing open my heart
like the glimmer of grandmother’s diamonds
on my littlest finger
I slide forward into new skin
the feel of yours against mine
mine suddenly awakened in a burst
my fingertips running over your scalp
lips hovering, almost grazing
and letting complete or nearly so strangers
see into my darkness, the conchoidal shimmer
of the edge slicing into my awareness
taking away the old, glitter running
down the waste chute, going into
the oblivion of what’s already done,
and when I open myself, let you see me,
I stand shivering, sometimes scared,
always better at the end
than when I first let the knife strike my skin.
We had chatted online
but meeting in person
electricity was in your eyes.
We talked of openness,
domination. I shared a writing,
your body involuntarily shuddered,
you laughed and revealed
your desire for surrender.
My pulse was faster, your eyes
were glimmering, unflinching,
the connection so clear,
and yet I hesitated to ask
what my desire was, for touch,
for body connection.
Now, as I write, I am glad I hesitated,
because, later, we text: you, I suppose,
in bed, me still in the hotel lobby, and
you ask for permission to pleasure yourself.
I instruct you on the proper form
for that request, and you comply,
your obedience delights me,
your brief surrender unfurls a whole landscape
that could, perhaps will be, between us in time.
My breath comes faster, my body
reacts, cock erect instantly.
My mind’s eye sees you naked,
because, of course, I had been,
even without meaning to,
mentally undressing you earlier
as you talk about your lingerie,
noticing your cleavage, your body’s outline.
I see in my imagination your face in ecstasy.
I am not sure which was more thrilling:
the idea that my thoughts
pushed you toward this need
or that you shared it with me
so openly and clearly. I cannot wait
for our next conversation.
I sit across from you
hearing your words
feeling something else old
slide beneath, rustling
in the bushes, and the old,
old impulse to try to fix
what can’t be rises in me,
I push it away, blue-gold threads
of energy tangled up between,
a useless thing, because of course
you are not broken, not in need
of any fixing, just momentarily
paused, contemplating your life
the butterfly perched briefly,
a bird in mid-flight;
leaves moving in the wind,
all things are just a ripple;
but if you would allow it,
friend I love, I would enclose you
and make a space where
for a flight’s-time, for the length
of the wind’s movement,
you could be at peace.
Across the room, my three
lovers, my delight, comfort,
and Beloved, sit, close together
in conversation, about what
I don’t know, unnecessary to know,
and I see from a distance
mutual respect and admiration
and you, all of you at once
look up at me, and in your eyes
I see myself reflected, for a moment
as you see me, through the lens
of your affection and love
and suddenly my heart
is entirely too large for this chest,
I am dizzy with joy and humility
that all of you love me,
that my life has brought me
through every bit of anguish
to this point, this evening;
the rest of the room of people
oblivious to my revelation,
to my certainty that my desire
to grow old with each of you
is an adventure only beginning;
I am larger than I can be,
and coming back to myself I find
your eyes, and yours and yours,
where I get lost repeatedly,
now are places where
I am finally, completely found.
the back of my hand rests
on the napkin holding tortillas
your fingers curled around mine
each thumb to the other’s little finger
I am focused totally on you
to the best of my capacity
and this is uncomfortable for you
I say, my desire for you
is for you to fully receive
this amount of love
we speak of desire and love
you say, I am afraid
of being submerged, of losing
myself, and I totally understand
I say, my therapist asked me
a decade ago, why I got married
I said, I loved her, and he said,
that is not usually enough,
most people have other reasons
as well, and I admitted
that I had hoped she would help me
be accountable to being the man
I thought I could be but that it didn’t happen
and he said, did she give you any reason.
and I told you, now, in this moment,
that what you had said earlier, in our pleasure,
that you desired that I be more fit,
that you had not said ever to me
for fear I would be hurt, had landed in me
as deep love, as the reason I need
to go beyond my own will to do this
to be fit and healthy for me,
for you, for what is between us,
for the length of our desire
to go on and on into old age together.
later sitting on my back porch
with coffee, your legs resting over
the arms of both our chairs
we talk about our deep desires and fears
about what our future might hold
about what home is and isn’t
and I thought, but still did not have
the courage to say,
my home is where you are
I’m at a lover’s house
and you text me a picture
of yourself in my bed.
My house is yours, I told you
and it’s true
I come home and find your clothes
by the bed, your chapstick
on the counter, your shampoo
at the edge of tub.
You said before,
I’m living with you
and dating my husband
who I like and you love
and we, you and I, are in love
and you said, part of me is entirely yours
and the genius of that
slid everyone in my constellation of loves
into a new alignment
not a pie divided up into finite pieces
but an ever-expanding, unlimited
love for everyone, all expanding
together and each part of me
getting bigger now than even
the single part of me was before.
I grow huge and transparent
and bubbling up in me,
like the bloops of your lava lamp
are new shapes and arrangements
always shifting and changing
but still me, still you, still them
still all of us
and part of me is entirety yours,
and hers, and hers