Number 158 Summer 2014 $9.95
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Issue 159 / Fall 2014
THE FULL FORTY
Submission Deadline: July 21, 2014 www.rfdmag.org/upload
Remember, Rejoice & Renew! When did you pick up your first copy of RFD? Who introduced you to our radical read? Have you been one of those dedicated subscribers all along? Did you just discover us and send us your first poem, your thoughtful essay, your expressive art? Is that bookstore where you first found us still around? What issue uplifted you the most, really got you stirred up? You have never written us? Now is the time. For forty years this has been your reader-created journal. Your words, your images, your experiences, your desires, your grieving ––– they have been our reasons to exist, to print, to connect. You are US We are U So Do it Now Do IT Again Submit to RFD! The upcoming Fall Issue is our official 40th Anniversary. We marvel at forty-filled years of continuous publication. We honor the memories of so many: Stewart Scofield, Rick Graff, Carl Witman, Faygele benMiriam, Candor Smoothstone, Arthur Evans, Raven Wolfdancer, Michael Mason, Crit Goin, Dwight DeLight Dunaway, and so many more dearly departed comrades-inarms. (Tell us whom you remember and why!) We praise the intrepid dedication of a great many more: Donald-Engstrome-Reese, Ron Lambe, Franklin Abbott, Raphael Sabatini, Jan Nathan Falling Long, Tom Seidner, Steven Riel, Bo Young, Jim Long, Dan Vera, Dancing Mane, Vaughn Frick, Stevee Postman, Myrlin, Gabby Haze, Daz’l, Sylvan, Keith 2
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Thomason, Jombi, Lapis, Leopard, Ha!, John Wall, James Creagh… and the list so much longer. So much appreciation given and due. Matt Bucy, Bambi Gauthier and fellow feys in New England have revived our aging publication and are propelling us into this new
century with a format returning to its comfortably hand-held, radical roots and they have added full-color bleeds off the page! Ours is a unique and vibrant chapter in the history of gay publications. One not pandering to the gay gene for trendy consumerism but emanating form the Whitmanesque compulsion to self-celebrate and make comrade connection. Come, Rejoice in these forty years with us—with a renewal or first time subscription and with your thoughts and images —to keep active this forty year dialogue with one another. —Sr. Soami for the RFD Collective
t is Firs
Requiem Fictor Divinae* Vol 40 No 4 #158 Summer 2014
Between the Lines In this issue we share stories and poetry about how the AIDS crisis, a term so unable to reflect it’s actual impact on our lives as queer people. As we look at how time, political and medical responses have shifted the conversation about HIV, we hope our readers will explore some of the memories of your fellow readers as they share from the heart. We are also please to share a number of interviews and reviews of a literary nature. Firstly, an interview with poet, Edward Field on his ninetieth birthday. A winner of various literary awards, Field is one of our beloved poets and we’re honored to have him back in our pages. Dolores De Luce, on the other, hand is a fiesty memorist whose life in San Francisco allows us access to how before HIV life was more fluid in terms of community and sexuality. It’s interesting to see how her experience dovetails with the lives of people in the ‘post-HIV’ era compares in terms of ideals and outcomes. The upcoming Fall issue will mark the fortieth anniversary of RFD, from our humble beginnings in Iowa to our humble existence today in New England, we want to welcome our readers memories of RFD. Also we’d love to hear from folks who worked on the production of RFD in the past to share your experiences. Hopefully, we can share our stories with some dish but little drama, as we’re sure RFD has had a bumpy ride to four decades. Sadly, as Giovanni’s Room in Philadelphia closes, another of our gay bookstore accounts dwindles. If you have ideas for reaching new readers let us know. As always we strive to reflect our readers interests. If you have an idea for a future issue please send in your ideas. —The RFD Collective
*Rest Dreamer Divine
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Submission Deadlines Fall–July 21, 2014 Winter–October 21, 2014 See inside covers for themes and specifics. For advertising, subscriptions, back issues and other information visit www.rfdmag.org
RFD is a reader-written journal for gay people which focuses on country living and encourages alternative lifestyles. We foster community building and networking, explore the diverse expressions of our sexuality, care for the environment, Radical Faerie consciousness, and nature-centered spirituality, and share experiences of our lives. RFD is produced by volunteers. We welcome your participation. The business and general production are coordinated by a collective. Features and entire issues are prepared by different groups in various places. RFD (ISSN# 0149-709X) is published quarterly for $25 a year by RFD Press, P.O. Box 302, Hadley MA 01035-0302. Postmaster: Send address changes to
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RFD, P.O. Box 302, Hadley MA 010350302 Non-profit tax exempt #621723644, a function of RFD Press with office of registration at 231 Ten Penny Rd., Woodbury, TN 37190. RFD Cover Price: $9.95. A regular subscription is the least expensive way to receive it four times a year. Copyright © 2012 RFD Press. The records required by Title 18 U.S.D. Section 2257 and associated with respect to this magazine (and all graphic material associated therewith on which this label appears) are kept by the custodian of records at the following location: RFD Press, 85 N Main St, Ste 200, White River Junction, VT 05001. Mail for our Brothers Behind Bars project should be sent to P.O. Box 68, Liberty TN 37095.
On the Covers Front: “Finished Andre 4” by artboydancing
Managing Editor: Bambi Gauthier Art Director: Matt Bucy Editor: Paul Wirhun
Artists in This Issue artboydancing 12,21,23,24,27,29,47,48,51 Donald Rizzo
CONTENTS Letters and Announcements. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4 Lost Innocence. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Alan Yount . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6 Photographs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Grahame Perry. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8 Ropes: A Documentary Essay . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Lee Brozgol. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10 HIV. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Wonderful. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14 Coddling Moth. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Wonderful. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14 The AIDS Coalition To Unleash Power. . . . . . . . . . . Wes Hartley . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15 To Lose Is To Live . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Finger. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16 Ward 86*—1984 Lost in the Mysts of Time. . . . . . . Gareth Alteresçcu. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20 Lost or Exterminated?. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Ibu Ala Iña (Lowell Denny). . . . . . . 22 Distillation 35 [The Euthanasia Group]. . . . . . . . . . . James Benedict. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25 Yesterdays And Tomorrows. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . H. L. Sudler. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26 An AIDS Memoir . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Equus (a.k.a. Gregory T. Wilkins). . 28 A Note and Two Poems. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Michael Kiesow Moore. . . . . . . . . . . 30 All About Yves: Memories of Assotto Saint. . . . . . . Franklin Abbott. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 32 A Memory of Yves Lubin, aka Assotto Saint . . . . . . Walter Holland. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 35 A Few More Tears and Words for My Mighty, Assotto Saint! . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Duncan E. Teague. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 38 A Love Story from the Plague. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Dennis Dunnum. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 39 Men Who Love Plants . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Hunter Desportes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 42 To Blow A Coal . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Christopher O. McCarter. . . . . . . . . 44 Blue Plate Special. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Christopher O. McCarter. . . . . . . . . 45 Hymn to Adonis. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Rob McCabe. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 46 Memento Mori. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Rob McCabe. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 46 Goatboy. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Gavin Dillard . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 49 Child of Horns. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Gavin Dillard . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 49 The Future is a White Sheet. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Jason Bartlett . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 50 Inside a Pearl: My Paris Years (Edmund White) . . . Reviewed by Leo Racicot. . . . . . . . . 52 Interview with Dolores. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Robert Croonquist (Covelo) . . . . . . 55 Edward Field on Turning Ninety . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Franklin Abbott. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 61
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LETTERS & ANNOUNCEMENTS Letters Dear RFD, I can't help but notice that RFD has lost much of its rural roots and really cannot be 'rural' anymore-its more a drag fest--which I don't mind so much but I miss the rural roots of the magazine--how about providing more balance with article? a little less glitz a little more bee keeping in the nude? Thank you, John RFD’s response: John - thanks for being in touch we would love to print some bee keeping in the nude pics! Much of what RFD publishes comes out of the minds of it’s readers, so all you folks interested in “rural” life—please send in your ideas for a future issue! As a way of rekindling your interest in RFD’s roots—the Fall issue is a celebration of our 40th year publishing. So dust off your pics and send them in! We’d love to hear your RFD stories of how an article inspired you, or how those early pen pal contacts led to a friendship or more.
Asian Faerie Gatherings Gathering in Southern Thailand annually in late January/early February and starting in 2014 in Bali, Indonesia in August/September. Visit asianfaeries. com for all the latest news and information. We are also on Facebook: www.facebook.com/groups/asianfaeries/ and have a Yahoo Group.
California Community of Men Gathering Imagine an entire weekend dedicated to, even devoted to a long, wonderful pause from our rushed, daily lives. The perfect amount of time to both lose yourself, and begin to find a new, improved self among caring men who see, respect, even celebrate you exactly for who you are…at the California Community of Men, or “CalComMen” Community Camp. A rare and delicious chance for us to get totally “off-the-grid” together, at a 40-acre camp set in the woods, 6000-feet up in the San Bernardino mountains, with lazy warm days among the ancient, towering pines, and clean crisp nights filled with hundreds of stars. Los Angeles, CA, August 22-24, 2014 www.CalComMen.com info@CalComMen.com 4
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Cast Away: Witch Gathering at Faerie Camp Destiny The Radical Faeries of Destiny and their Reclaiming Witch friends are collectively conjuring a full-moon voyage. Join us on the land for a weekend of magickal learning, teaching, workshops, pathwork, and skill sharing. Cast away! Set sail! Explore the magic of being outside the mainstream, of feeling adrift. Find fellow castaways and create our own ways. Let’s cast our own circle, honor what we hold sacred, and discover what hoists our masts, shivers our timbers, fills our sails and inspires us to move forward together. Please plan to arrive on Thursday afternoon, July 10, and stay until Sunday afternoon, July 13. Choose the learning path you wish to embark on and commit to for the weekend, and enjoy workshops and ritual in the afternoons and evenings. This is a Radical Faerie/Reclaiming Witch mashup, and our spell is to strengthen our divinely human alliances as we set sail into the inevitable unknown.
Faeries and the Rainbow Gatherings I love Rainbow Gatherings. I adore the remote locations far from the pandemonium of the civilized world. The Rainbow people have sweet ways of behaviour, the Rainbow standards work for me so well. I feel free running through the forests naked, cooking tea for whoever shows up in the Chai kitchen and sharing knowledge with some incredibly inspiring human beings. There is so much diversity, kindness and love in the Rainbow space. Except … When I first came to the European Rainbow Gathering in the Ukraine, I had just turned 19. Freshly out of school, the world was mine. I was free, single and inexperienced. The gathering was in a location three hours walking from the last village, in the vastness of the Carpathian mountains. What pleasantly shocked me were all those beautiful people in colourful clothes (or without) with children of all sizes. There were people cooking together, eating together in a food circle of nearly 2000 people strong. That was a day before the full moon celebration when most people show up. Rainbow Gatherings last for a month, starting and ending with the Moon is new, with a big celebration in the middle, when the energy is high and the moon is full. I was fascinated. But after just a few days I got a fierce feeling of loneliness, especially at nights. When there are Matej Žitňanský. Photo couretesy of the author.
people all around you but you can’t find “your tribe”. I was missing something badly. During the day was quietly admiring all those beautiful men but didn’t know how to approach them, how close I could get to them. One day there was a man with such deep brown eyes. His look was mesmerizing. We kept looking into each other’s eyes for ages. I’d never felt anything that strong. The place, the moon, the person—all that had such tender but powerful magic in it. I relaxed and then realized we were hugging. I was excited and not only in my mind. My body was shivering. It was an intense hug with someone who was technically a stranger but felt like a soul mate. There were more such encounters at future Rainbows but back then it puzzled me. That man had a girlfriend there. I didn’t understand. I was very very confused. At the first sight Rainbow looks heteronormative. Couples—man & woman—are seen everywhere, often with children. But you don’t see two men or two girls together often. If they hug, it is hugging like friends do. Where were the gays? They must have been hiding somewhere; I just couldn’t get to them. I had the same feeling three years later in Slovakia. I coped better. I found friends and gave up on expecting any sex. I had a delightful encounter with Continues on Page 7 RFD 158 Summer 2014 5
Lost Innocence by Alan Yount
I came of age in the “Age of AIDS,” coming out at 17 in the idyllic, innocent, pre-AIDS year of 1978. AIDS took all that innocence away. I lost all faith and ran away, joining the Peace Corps in 1985, hoping to escape the plague—the war being waged on my people. But . . . no matter where you go, there you are.
I found the Times article. I noted it in my paper, in a short paragraph without much concern, concluded the paper, and handed it in. I didn’t realize how close I would come to this new “gay disease.” None of us did. By the time I graduated in 1984, several of my friends—and boyfriends—would be sick or dead of the disease. The first man I slept with at Carolina would get sick, be ike so many other gay men of that time, I first hospitalized, and die while I was rotating through learned of the disease that would later be named the wards at North Carolina Memorial Hospital. AIDS from the New York Times article, “Rare I would visit him while he was in the hospital, alCancer Seen in 41 Homosexuals.” The year was though he would not recognize me. 1981, and I was a nursing student at the University Later that year, while I was working as a cardiolof North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I came across the ogy nurse in Atlanta, I came down with the chicken article while researching a paper for my Health of pox. I would miss 3 weeks of work, lose some thirty Populations class. I had pounds, and be scarred chosen gay men as my from head to toe, but espepopulation to study. I was, cially on my face. after all, one of seven men More than scarred, I was in a nursing program with scared. There was no test for over 300 students. I felt it AIDS in 1984; the cause, a More than scarred, I was would be easier to choose virus, had just been identiscared. There was no test a population I actually fied that year. A diagnosis for AIDS in 1984; the cared about; a population was made based on the cause, a virus, had just I knew a little about from occurrence of “opportunistic my own experience. After infections”—unusual infecbeen identified that year. all, I had my own experitions that occurred because ences as a gay man to draw the patient’s immune system upon. I, myself, had been was compromised. These called by the county health infections had their own department after being ominous-sounding names— reported as a “contact” from someone with syphia Kaposi’s sarcoma, Pneumocystis carinii pneumolis. I had dutifully reported to the Student Health nia, cytomegalovirus—that came with their own Center, to the knowledgeable and sympathetic shorthand—KS, PCP, CMV. physician—a physician who worked with gay men. Another so-called opportunistic infection that While it turned out that I did not have syphilis, I did might indicate the development of AIDS was the now have a knowledgeable and sympathetic physireactivation of a childhood illness that a patient had cian who knew that I was gay and would attend to already had and should, therefore, have immunity the unique health needs of a gay man. For example, to. I didn’t remember if I had had chicken pox as a sore throat would require swabbing for gonorrhea, a child, and I feared that I had already developed not simply looking for strep or some other run-ofAIDS. the-mill cause. It only seemed fitting that I should My first night back at work, I was confronted honor this relationship by looking at the specific with the fate that awaited me, if I did indeed have health needs of gay men for my HOPs research the virus. The Emergency Room called in the middle paper. I was pleasantly surprised to find out how of the shift with an admission—an AIDS patient much research had been done on my own health with cardiology complications. I volunteered to take needs—journal articles and studies, all about gay him. He was brought upstairs by a team of orderlies men and their needs. It was while looking through in biohazard suits. He was placed on “strict isolathe latest updates and abstracts for health journals, tion”—we all had to don biohazard suits and masks
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to enter his room, discarding them in a biohazard container at the door to his room. All reusable materials used in his care—sheets, towels, washcloths, blood pressure cuffs—had to remain in the room or be placed into bright red bags marked “BIOHAZARD” and be sterilized before being put back into use. All disposable materials—dressings, gloves, masks, gowns—had to be placed into bags also marked “BIOHAZARD” to be disposed of separately from all other trash on the unit. He looked like hell, emaciated with the open weeping sores of KS, and severe PCP. I don’t recall what his cardiology complications were, but that he would have some cardiology problems was no surprise. Is this what is going to happen to me? I worried. At some point during that night shift I decided that I had to leave—I either already had AIDS and would die a very ugly death, or, somehow, I didn’t have it, and I needed to get out of town—out of the country—to avoid that fate. My plan took shape over the next several weeks, as I continued to work the night shift, watching our AIDS patient die that very ugly death that I feared. I would join the Peace Corps. The Peace Corps would send me overseas. If I didn’t have a healthy immune system, I would die quickly. If I had a healthy immune system, I would be safely out of harm’s way for two years. A little less than a year later, I was accepted and given my assignment—Guatemala. I left in June of 1985. Of course, I couldn’t escape AIDS. It followed me there. It seemed to taunt me. In my work as a volunteer, I collaborated with the United States Agency for International Development—US AID—and the
Continued from Page 5 a boy and a girl together, a three-way unity. It was random, the gays were still hidden. Last year the gathering was in the Greek mountains. A Faerie boy from Israel made a Queer talking circle and a theatre improvisation workshop. I was excited. Forty people showed up. We had a talking stick and shared loads of thoughts and feelings. So many people felt alone, like “the only gay in the village”. Finally, I was not alone. I made gay friends and enjoyed the dreamlike days. Supposedly, at Rainbow Gatherings in the USA as well as at the Burning Man there are Faerie camps or domes where the sexual expression is free, where people can connect with others of the same
Canadian International Development Organization—CIDA, pronounced sida, the same as AIDS in Spanish. It haunted me. The nights were dark. Darker than any I had experienced back home. The electricity went out around 8:00pm in my village, and I would be plunged into complete darkness. Something lived between the ceiling of my room and the tin roof overhead; it’s pacing a monotonous track, like my thought. We were given the international edition of Newsweek, with newsprint paper instead of the slick paper of the U.S. edition. I would read about AIDS by lantern light at night, learning that Rock Hudson had died. From AIDS. I would turn the lantern off, close my eyes, and try to go to sleep. The Peace Corps did, at least, teach me to face my fears. I returned to the United States in 1987. I went to Washington, DC, and got a job at George Washington University Hospital, working with AIDS patients. The AIDS Quilt came to DC while I was there, in 1987 and 1988. I visited the quilt in 1988—8,288 panels. Eight thousand two hundred eighty-eight lives. It was six years after last seeing the first man I dated at Chapel Hill, dying in his hospital room. I wondered if anyone had made a panel for him. I had to search my memory for his name—Hogie Gaskins. Then, I searched the Quilt. He was there. It’s been 32 years now, and I still put flowers in church at Easter for Hogie. I only lost my innocence. He lost his life. w
sex easily and shamelessly. That’s what I want to bring to Europe. My mission is to create Gay-Queer-Faerie areas at European Rainbow Gathering in Romania (26 July to 25 August 2014) and World Rainbow Gathering in Hungary (25 August to 24 September 2014). I wish for a space where sexual expression of any kind between adult humans is all right. The points are sharing, acceptance and harmony together in our bodies. Is anyone willing to join me? Contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org. —Matty Rainbow Boy
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Grahame Perry Dreams Deferred What has been sacrificed and what might have been?â€š It is a life lived more cautiously and paths not taken. What would life have been like without the loss of friends and community that was irrevocably altered by an epidemic?
Eat / Mourn This image, a double exposure, is the coming together of two ideas. The daily ritual of taking medication. The rising out of the memorial stone. Recognizing the good fortune of those still here but the relationship to those who werenâ€™t so blessed. This self-portrait represent not just myself but also others who struggles with illness.
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Am I Blue? Looking at the world through blue colored pill bottles. Like rose-colored glasses, HIV and other illness colors ones interpretation of the world. There is a psychic toil after decades of struggle.
Multiple Loss This image uses four different photographic processes. Referencing the process of multiple losses and the steps to acceptance of death. Survival is never simple.
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Ropes: A Documentary Essay By Lee Brozgol
ime: Early 1980’s. His personal in Drummer Magazine was unlike the others—forceful, graphic, explicit. It summoned me into a world I did not know and would only experience vicariously. I wanted to know who he was and so I replied: San Francisco, SM, 33, 5’8”, 135 lbs., 8”, cut, good-looking, hard-edged Libran into top/bottom trade-offs or one way clashes with serious leathermen into hot bondage and belt sessions. Bodies in leather and toys in hand, we’ll put tits, cock and ass to their proper use. Skip the bullshit, forget the scat, tune into the head and body and let’s explore. Photo gets photo. I answered with an imaginary ad: “ARTIST SEEKING MODELS: NYC, Married Man, 41. Wants to portray people I do not know; nor do I have any idea of what kind of art. We can figure that out through our letters. We will never meet faceto-face. If interested, write to: P.O. Box 89; Prince Street Station, NY, NY 10012.” 29 March 1983: He replied: “It has always made me very uncomfortable to write to an unidentified entity, but your project sounds interesting, if vague.” His name was Jon. In his letter, he enclosed copies of photographs taken by Mark Chester, a gay, radical sex photographer. As a model, Jon had posed for Chester’s photo essay, “Bondage Confessions” that had been published in Drummer. In the first image, Jon is perched at the foot of a makeshift bed in an otherwise empty room. The room is dark except for a halo of light focused on Jon. He is wearing a jock strap, crew socks and work boots. His head is bound with duct tape. The shots are from high above. Even though, Jon’s body looks powerful, he appears dwarfed, isolated and vulnerable. In each successive shot, more ropes crisscross his body—simultaneously highlighting his musculature while binding it and rendering his strength useless. The final photos are close-ups of Jon’s erect penis jutting out of his jock strap. It is buoyant and glistening like a balloon twisted into the shape of a dog by a devilish trickster. Me: For years, I had followed the Personals. They evidenced a depth of need and a longing for connection. I deluded myself into thinking that had nothing to do with me. Although I was deeply in love with my wife, a childhood in which I had been emotion10 RFD 158 Summer 2014
ally battered had left me with wounds I refused to acknowledge, but the darkness that threatened to envelope Jon in his bondage photos was a darkness I knew quite well and it bound me to him. In an effort to save us both, I based a two edition series of papier mache masks on “Bondage Confessions.” One for Jon; one for me. Mine is staring at me right now. The acids beneath its lacquered surface are slowly turning it yellow and brittle like an ancient skull. The mask glares with fixed, impenetrable eyes and bares teeth as jagged as broken knives. Ropes twist across the mask’s surface. They imply direction, but lead nowhere. Jon/30 April 1984: “For a number of reasons of which you could not have been aware, the mask says quite a bit about some substantial aspects of my personality. I am a wearer of masks. Sometimes socially, often emotionally, occasionally professionally (12 years as an actor). Many people relate to me only as the mask and ignore revelations I might make. All of this means I was particularly surprised at the kind of art our letters prompted. Thank you! It has provided much deep thought—all of it beneficial.” Me/Summer 1984: Jon was reluctant to continue our work together. He did not want to feel obliged, but over the summer, I persisted in writing to him about wanting to do a drawing. After a few letters and no reply, I wrote and said good-bye. Jon/11 September 1984: “A difficult letter, but one I must write, as I don’t feel comfortable about allowing my silence to be misinterpreted by someone who has been so kind and thoughtful. The situation: I became an AIDS patient in June, first diagnosed with Pneumocystis (which, for now, was successfully fought off ) and now with Kaposi’s Sarcoma showing up in addition to an assortment of other but minor plaguing difficulties. It is all right—I’m taking one day at a time—trying to stay as healthy as I can as long as I can. Perhaps your “good-bye” is prophetic. In any event, I know I have had your concern in the past and hope you will understand if I cannot write again. I wish you well, my long-distance friend. Most affectionately, Jon” Me/20 September 1984: “The coming months
aren’t going to be easy for you. Within the unfortunate limits that our circumstances allow, I want to help as much as I can. The best way I know how is to listen. So, I’ve enclosed a tape for you to record. If you told the story of your life, perhaps we could write it together and create something more enduring than your life—or mine. You and I touch each other in small ways in a small context, yet I think it stands for a great deal. What I’m offering is a wish as well as a suggestion. If you decide not to respond, it changes nothing.” In all likelihood, my wife was pregnant when I wrote to Jon. Our son was born that June. About a month later, Jon came East to visit his family in Connecticut and to spend a few days in New York catching up with old friends. He hadn’t taken up my offer to write his life story; but, by then, our friendship had deepened. We arranged to meet at a Lower East Side storefront gallery where I had been invited to install a mask exhibition. When Jon arrived, I was standing on a ladder and saw him from the same perspective as I had first seen him in Chester’s photo essay. He looked very different— small, wispy and elfin. He seemed to be fading as if an eraser had begun its work of taking his image away bit by bit. Yet, as we talked over dinner, Jon began to gain some indefinable kind of power. When I asked about it, he said, Yes, he was a chameleon and could appear any way he wanted. Later, that evening, when I introduced my wife and our infant son to Jon—a new life meeting one that was beginning to close—our smiles were wry and melancholy greetings across a widening abyss. Me/October 1984: “Dear Jon, I think it’s going to take me a long time to understand why I was so moved by our meeting. From the beginning of our correspondence—as glancing and insubstantial as our letters were—there was something about you I liked very much. By the time we met, I was prepared Photo courtesy Lee Brozgol
for a different kind of romance, but you appeared so different from the Jon that I had envisioned that it took me a while to put the imaginary you aside and to listen to the real man. Then, what you roused was something I should have expected, but all I experienced was the comfort of the kinship we’d established. Later, though, the wave hit. I felt as if we were Corsican brothers and I had assumed the burden of your sorrow. In reality, there is little I can do except listen to the extent that you want to be heard; but, in another realm, I would do anything to help you untie the ropes.” Jon/October 1984: “How to respond? Your letter took me by surprise. I wept without knowing where the tears were coming from. Indeed, our meeting was potent. I never expected it would happen. I thought perhaps I’d try to find a phone number, maybe give you a call. I did not know if I could meet you face to face. But I needed to know if you were real. I have undergone a severe setback. Illness is now penetrating and constant. The weakness has deepened. I am pretty much confined to my flat. I hate it. I feel so much like a prisoner—a prisoner who has committed no crime except to be sick. But I endure—I don’t know anything else to do. If, indeed, you assume the burden of my sorrow, let me ask just one thing—accept it as a mother would a handful of wildflowers from her child—lightly! Stick by me just a little bit. For some unknown reason, I put much faith in your communication. I will do what I can to respond, although, in my slump, it is harder each day to get my brain cells to do their proper work. I strain to remember, to express myself, to make sense. I wish all of this shit had not come between us. I think we might have become great friends. Isn’t that odd? My most sincere love to your wonderful little family and to you, my compadre.” Me/1985: Jon continued to decline. I still wanted RFD 158 Summer 2014 11
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“Rendering of the Body” by arboydancing
to draw him as a way of memorializing his life. He provided photographs and annotated them. “Father and brother. Right now, they are the center of my life;” one of his mother, “A princess with no kingdom. Sad, beautiful lady.” Jon’s correspondence became limited to an annual Christmas greeting he mailed to family and friends. Neatly printed in red and decorated with dancing Santas, his “Letter of Christmas” in 1985 was his attempt to rally: “It has been a year of extraordinary change and startling growth. Here are some of my joyous discoveries: Love really does run the world engendering a pulse that everyone can feel should they choose to do so. The power of friendship extends in all directions, bringing shelter and solace and healing of the mind and spirit. The lines of separation between us are thin and fragile and easily crossed. Indomitable is not just a word in the dictionary, it is a spirit in our hearts. Adversity is only what you make it. There is always sunlight, a quiet stream trickling to the sea and the song of birds to cheer our spirit. Each time we give, we add to the infinite storehouse whose doors will be thrown open in our need. In the space of my life I have seen these things and so much more. I can offer these visions to anyone who will listen. To all of you, I wish the blessing of good spirits, good health and good kinship now and for all our years to come.” On the reverse side, he wrote: “Lee—So much that I want to write, but physical and emotional exhaustion has left me confused, angry and depleted.
I will be alone on Christmas most of the day. Just the way I want it. I’m going to prepare myself a special Christmas meal, make a few phone calls and luxuriate in the peace of my flat. The only visitor I will have is the nurse who comes to plug me into my medication.” Me/January 1987 (Excerpt from a letter to a friend of Jon’s): “I didn’t want to ask Jon how I would know if he died. I assumed it would get worked out. But it hasn’t. That’s why I’m writing to you. My letters to Jon have been returned. I’ve called and his phone has been disconnected. No Christmas card, either.” Reply/February 1987: “Ah, this is all very sad, isn’t it? Jon died many months past. There’s so little to say. He went through many illnesses. It was very ugly at the end, but he chose to hang on. His family was good; so were his friends. I’m at a great loss to say more, really. I don’t know what would be helpful or meaningful. He was in the hospital at the time, Presbyterian, I believe. It was difficult for everyone. There aren’t many heroics at the end of this thing, just great sorrow.” Epilogue: After all these years, it is remarkable that, in writing this memoir of a friendship, I have discovered something I had never noticed before. It was included in the copies of the photos Jon sent: a small, black and white Xerox of a cartoon—quite corny which is probably why I had never bothered to study it: a road narrows toward the horizon, then ascends upward and ends in a cloud. Alongside the cloud is this poem: “Rainbow river, Take us home. All together. None alone.” w
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HIV Looking for the sweetness of bees, I knocked on the hollows of long dead trees. I fell to my knees in a panoply of needs: Love, love . . . looking for the sweetness of bees. I rattled the hasp. Rusted hinge of the door long locked. Metal to teeth: the heart screels. Knock. And knock. Looking for the sweetness of bees, I offered hum, lover. Husk. Wax. Barb. Schist. Sting of the stinger thrust in —Yes. Yes. And yes. Looking for — Honey, oh honey! All that falls is grist —Wonderful
Coddling Moth July pears, their burgeoning hips green as lamby hillocks and rumpled as Venus of Willendorf goddess figurines, still are filling into their juicy potential — sun crisp, yearning for a coming gold-under-rose glow. The glossy leaves, rough trunk, branches drooping groundward as if offering any obeisance to please, do not care who does or does not know of the coddling moth — the hand that plucks the fruit, the teeth that bite, tongue that delights, throat that swallows and only wants more — copper winged and loving, she lays her eggs easily, as nature intended. (If your diagnosis arrives in July — is it a Cancer?) Larvae burrowing down, feeding on the proteinaceous seeds, growing fat and happy like any of us would want to be. Until it is time to leave the body. Take flight into the world. Begin again. —Wonderful 14 RFD 158 Summer 2014
The AIDS Coalition To Unleash Power
In response to criminal indifference and ingrained fundamentalist bigotry of state and federal government agencies during the puerile reign of the B-movie third-rate actor-puppet-mouthpiece-stooge whose multi-national corporate masters write his lines and pull his puppet strings, queer persons inaugurate a politics of anger the AIDS Coalition To Unleash Power “united in anger and committed to direct action to end the AIDS crisis” SILENCE EQUALS DEATH Young politicized ACT-UP shit-disturbers demonstrate on Wall Street against drug profiteers, demand the FDA release experimental drugs, disrupt Massachusetts state senate proceedings to protest its refusal to pass gay rights legislation, picket the White House protesting AIDS policies, stage a Die-In at FDA headquarters in Maryland, and confront the hate-mongering former Hitler Youth German Cardinal Joe Blood-On-His-Hands Ratzinger at a New York Roman Catholic hate-speech confab shouting down his hate spew and sending him packing —Wes Hartley
Arrested Protestor ACT UP Demo SF June 21, 1990 - 6th AIDS Conference. Photo courtesy Wes Hartley
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To Lose Is To Live By Finger
alf a lifetime ago I lived in New York. I didn’t Christians was Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Ugly know then what I was looking for, except Duckling.” I prayed to God that the story be true: that I wanted to be there, the maelstrom that was One day my face would lose its tiny eruptions of Manhattan, the birthplace of so many heroes who’d acne, my armpits its rankness, my narrow shoulders inspired me to read, reconsider, rewrite. There, in its boniness. One day I would come back to my my tiny room in a fifth-floor walkup off the corner hometown and say, “Here I am! You thought you of West 4th and West 10th Street, literally a block could relegate me to the dustbin of your classroom away from the heart of Greenwich Village otherwise again, but uh-huh.” I’m also no longer in awe of nuns known as the intersection of Christopher Street and and priests and anyone who’s affiliated with the Seventh Avenue South, I sat on a stool and wrote Catholic Church. Sometimes I have the urge to spit on a twelve-pound Zenith laptop that ran MS-DOS on a priest passing by, but I don’t. and WordPerfect off two disk drives; no hard drive. Funny thing is, I don’t care anymore what all In those days when I wrote my novel Men with Their these people from where I’d grown up think. It’s Hands, I wore headphones and played Suzanne hard to please those whose minds are small as Vega’s Days of Open Hand marbles. Let them all slip and nonstop on my CD player. trip on their own tomfooleries. Even though I cannot always Let them bawl. hear the music fully due to • I was wary of having my deafness, I imagined the I’m old enough to recall sex with anyone. music containing a twinge of reading about GRID, the acroNo exchange of melancholy, a sense of yearnnym for Gay-Related Immune ing to break free but feeling Deficiency. I was a senior bodily fluids; not unable to. in high school, and I knew I even saliva. My Each time I hear Suzanne was gay, and here, a national fantasies were all Vega’s “Men in a War” or news magazine was telling me shrink-wrapped in “Rusted Pipe,” forgotten details that there was a mysterious of the late 1980s and early disease that were wiping out cellophane. 1990s always come back to me seemingly only gay men by the in a rush. hundreds? • I didn’t know then that I’d grown up an orphan, not reading the article was my first in the literal sense but in the figurative sense, within taste of loss as a gay man. I didn’t know that I would my hearing family of nine children. I learned how it read stories about men sucking and fucking indiswas possible to feel lonely among my own siblings; criminately anywhere they could in large cities like then among hearing classmates too. The hearing New York and San Francisco, and long for that sense aids that I wore like a bra underneath my shirt and of uninhibited freedom. I didn’t know that I would my nasal voice made me stand out. I was perpetually later meet deaf gay men like myself, only to find out skinny; often felt gawky and self-conscious beyond that one by one they’d die. belief. I hadn’t realized that orphanhood was a most In the historical footage of my hospital visits likely requisite for faeriehood. Not to be understood with these men that still replays from time to time or wanted or loved as you are is the cruelest gift for in my dreams, I watch them signing to me. It’s anyone, let alone a child. It scars you in ways that do not their pallid faces pockmarked with Kaposi’s not become apparent until years later; makes you sarcoma; it’s the thinness of their wrists that stops strong, perhaps too strong, in order to break away me. How was it possible that their limbs could turn and create a family of your own. into toothpicks? Their fingers took longer to sign, In those days the one story that gave me great and then with a tired look of surrender in their comfort in the way the Bible is alleged to comfort eyes, they turned their heads away and released 16 RFD 158 Summer 2014
their final breath. I was frightened; absolutely so that when I moved to New York in September 1988, I was wary of having sex with anyone. No exchange of bodily fluids; not even saliva. My fantasies were all shrinkwrapped in cellophane. • In that tiny room that had no air conditioner, I sweated and wrote profusely in the summer of 1990. I never forgot their stories of what it was like to be Deaf gay men during the halcyon freewheeling days of the 1970s. I wanted somehow to make it possible for others to remember them as I had. With each Deaf gay friend who died, I pushed myself harder to write, finish. I wrote hundreds of pages not out of blind grief, but out of my dogged determination not to forget the firefly impressions of the Deaf men I’d met in San Francisco, New York, and Washington, D.C.
If only a portable video camera were as affordable then! Today the Internet is filled with video clips of Deaf people signing, vlogging, and performing in ASL and other foreign sign languages from all over the world. The ghosts of these Deaf men, if alive today, would’ve stared slack-jawed at the sheer multitude of all those videos. They would’ve wept. • Some nights when I needed a break from my writing, I strolled around the Village and wondered about the mysterious lives behind windows and doors of the houses and apartment buildings nearby. Who were these people? They were like shadows to me. Each time I return to New York, I am always struck by how familiar yet strange my old neighborhood feels. Had I truly lived here? Or was it only a dream so vivid I’d have sworn it did happen? didn’t know it then but I was But I do know that it creating my first scrapbook wasn’t a dream. No matter featuring a family I so loved, where I am in the Village, my Even if I’d known cherished, missed. Focusfeet know where to go. My them for a fleeting ing on their stories forced heart is a compass. The ghost moment, they told me me to live more fully on the of my youth is always waiting that I was beautiful; page. I would do things that for me around the next corI couldn’t have the gumption ner. The city may change, but not in the way that to do in the nerve-wracking the ghost of my youth will I looked then but climate of AIDS hysteria and always stay forever young. that my fluency fear. I would pretend to be one • in American Sign of those hot Deaf guys who I write because I’m mindfucked one hearing man after ful that people get orphaned Language had made another in the dark labyrinth every day even within their them feel unique. of a bathhouse. Out by the own families. The outcasts, West Side Highway, I would the misfits, the unwanted. trick with nameless strangers I want to set down stories with not an iota of fear at all. and say, This is what it was like When they told me one story after another in the before you came along. This is your true family history. bars where we convened, they were acknowledging You will become magnificent as the sun. me that I was one of them, that I was family. The One day I too will become forgotten; perhaps language of hands that we shared had automatically a footnote wedged in someone’s bibliography if made me so. Even if I’d known them for a fleetI’m that lucky. We are literally made of the same ing moment, they told me that I was beautiful; not elements as stars, so to that great sky of mystery in the way that I looked then but that my fluency and shadow we shall return. We shall glitter and in American Sign Language had made them feel inspire. unique. I felt accepted, loved. They told me firsthand • stories about hearing teachers and speech therapists In 1927, the astronomer Arthur Eddington dewho had tried their damnedest to eradicate ASL to veloped a concept known as “the arrow of time.” the point of tying their hands behind their backs. He figured that time itself went one way only; in They would make them speak, Goddammit! They other words, there was no symmetry when it came had to speak! Speak. SPEAK! They had to be like to how the universe unfolded. The universe has a hearing people! Oh, yes, they would conform. built-in date of expiration; some have estimated
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“PrEP BB” by Donald Rizzo
that the sun won’t truly die out for at least a few billion years. To think in smaller terms, the hard shells of a seed, when it splinters in the spring, won’t become the seed it was before. The shells will decompose right back into the soil. The seed goes through time in one direction only. Everything will eventually fade. Everything. If that being the case, why bother to create anything? To remember? If we can leave behind a record of how we’d lived and loved, we have a much better chance of turning our own arrows of time into something akin to the spears of time. We will last a few moments longer and land with a greater impact. • To lose is to gain something in its place. Sometimes it’s not what you want, and sometimes it’s not readily apparent. But it is there, even if it’s just an idle memory. So aim your bow and let the arrow ejaculate where it must. • I haven’t read my novel Men with Their Hands since its publication in 2009. I cannot read it again because it will make me so sad, recalling the original flickers of light inherent in their hands. Life is like that. A firefly flame, and then it’s gone. The echo of night is all we have. But the heart is a video camera. It’s constantly
recording, and therefore it does remember, much like how hearing a certain song will unexpectedly bring back the footage you’d completely forgotten. It is then you realize how much you’d truly lived, and how much more you need to live. In each of us is a brilliant nebula. Explode. Seriously. Do not be afraid to detonate. Time is an arrow still sailing through the air. Oh, do spread your wings. Your hearts are covered with Plexiglas feathers, and you will astound when you flap your wings, shocking everyone who thought you couldn’t fly. You are a neon swan. Shimmer. The fallout is pure elegy. It is the residue of art. The one feather of yours that survives long enough to float down to the ground is everyone’s memento. It will twinkle into many feathers worn as a badge of pride. Fade. Horrible to do, but necessary. Take your place among the stars, the ultimate dream factory. To lose is to live on in everyone’s dreams among the stars. w
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Ward 86*—1984 Lost in the Mysts of Time by Gareth Alteresçcu
Read it fast Like slam poetry Because they all die before the end of the story. Sweet, smiling man who yells at the receptionist. “You can’t talk to her that way.” “Then who can I talk to that way?” “Me…” And he yelled for at least 20-minutes. “Is that all?” I asked. “No,” he said and cried out “I’m scared.” And we both cried for a long, long time. Larry, whose openness I would’ve crossed the street to avoid in a former life. Snap! Another card to the back of the Rolodex. “Why are you still in school – it’s killing you?” “I’d be dead tomorrow if I lived my life any other way.” Paul went back to his books. Snap! Another card to the back of the Rolodex. “So what’s the difference between you dying tomorrow— and my getting hit by a bus, today?,” he asked. “The difference is that I can see the bus coming in slow, slow motion.” Joan, who kept re-testing for this dis-ease; never quite believing it.. Snap! Another card to the back of the Rolodex. “I’m a counselor and I’m here to tell you about your diagnosis.” “What do I have to do to stay OK?” “It’s not that simple, really. You’ve got to go into the hospital.” “When,” he asked? “Now.”
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“For how long?” “Drew, you won’t be going home.” Snap! Another card to the back of the Rolodex. “What’s amphoterrible?” “A treatment worse than the disease.” Bye, Robert. Snap! Another card to the back of the Rolodex. Where’s that Queen Freddie when we need a really tough song? What dance has Rudolf yet to challenge? What novel has Paul Monette not even imagined? Where are they whose shoulder I would’ve leaned upon down this long, lonely road now alone? Every bit of information changes how I look at myself. “Oh wilderness of thought—How could I not be among you!?” Snap! Another card to the back of the Rolodex. Snap! Another card to the back of the Rolodex. And another card to the back of the Rolodex. And another card to the back… And another, And another…. * Author’s Note: Ward 86 was the San Francisco AIDS Intake clinic of choice in the 1980’s, even before quality AIDS care was understood or defined. It was a time of great compassion & tragic loss.
“Boccaccio” by artboydancing
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Lost or Exterminated? by Ibu Ala Iña (Lowell Denny)
he late American Indian Movement co-founder, With HIV/AIDS the nation did not mobilize; Russell Means [Oglala Lakota], bemoaned the official culture had already taught them not to care. influx of immigrants to his natives lands—from the HIV/AIDS involved too many taboos: not only dealt Pilgrims to the present—as a people on the hustle with gay men—an unmentionable subject, but it just looking to make money. It’s the moneymakers’ also dealt with sex, which even in the best hetero culture we celebrate today, not the Indians’. Rather times is off-limits. Haitians remain in the parenthethan the natives’ stories as our official narrative— ses, and barely a footnote to this early history. their spirituality, the way they related to each other Gay men, however, did mobilize while the nation and the world—we are given a capitalist one to live was able to fall back on its perverse narrative and by, with its Horatio Alger overtones, of people arriv- find a new rationale for indicting queers for being ing low and rising high. queer. This has become the narrative—the culture!—of But let me clarify. Not all gay men mobilized. the United States of America. Just as with Stonewall, the suits and ties stayed This is one example hidden while the drag how a culture is lost: it queens and radicals did is simply disappeared the heavy lifting and by a new narrative. Any got beaten up to make narrative that subverts us all more civilized. In our dominant narrative the 80’s, it wasn’t just Predictably, those of us who is always menaced with Rock Hudson who died dared continue or strive to extinction. silently and full of shame lead a sexual rebellious, nonThe early movements while ACT UP was stagheteronormative lifestyle for gay liberation—Mating “die-in’s” and distachine Society, Daughrupting meetings. There were ostracized by the ters of Bilitis, Radical were many, many like bought-outs and sell-outs as Faeries, etc.—represent him who died mysteri“irresponsible.” resistance against the ously of “cancer”. same dominant narraThe suits and ties tive. Other examples of came out later to apresistance include the propriate the imagery abolitionists fighting to and symbols of early gay end the enslavement of Africans against a slaveradicalism for their mainstreamed “Let’s All Be Like owning, slave-trading society; the early feminists Hetero” Campaigns. demanding the same social and political recognition This is also how culture get lost: Horatio Alger against a patriarchy; anarchists and communists stands on the shoulders of some pissed-off drag insurgents against anti-union, red-baiting Wall queen and joins the Aspirational Society of money Street pirates. makers and venture capitalists. The drag queens are The response of the official chroniclers is predict- forgotten, and the A&F boys are the Cover Story. able. Every insurrection is met by the system with Gay characters on TV, which were just beginmockery, brutality, and accommodation. Remember ning to emerge at the time, quickly disappeared. Anita Bryant? Those the dominant culture does not I remember reading that even young, gay fashion marginalize it kills; and those who don’t die will designers could not get contracts because conglomseek to be co-opted, and those it co-opts are duly erates feared they might drop dead from this Gay instructed to marginalize the remaining insurgents. Cancer and not fulfill their clothes lines. Some meThis is how culture get lost. Not only deliberate dia personalities that had openly flirted with being acts, laws, royal proclamations, and institutions, but bisexual quickly shut up. also complicity. The reality too truthful to print is many gay men 22 RFD 158 Summer 2014
in the 80’s retooled gay liberation and rallied around and helped our own. Like a brief period erroneously called “the 60’s”—really, it was the later 60’s and early 70’s that were militant and anti-imperialist—these gay men built survival mechanisms and institutions from within, while on the streets challenged the shitty system we are all made to toil under. The nation hit its reset button for the imagined purity of the 1950’s. Now we endure Red Ribbons, Gay Marriage Campaigns, and gay assimilationists. Those who were not left to die of neglect, were coddled with a pipeline of drugs and “research”. Thirty years later since that April 1984 announcement that same bribe continues. No cure or discovery of what this virus is: just drugs and mystery and stigma. And let’s not forget also, the steady and monotonous march of HIV educators—an oxymoron if ever there was one— at a bathhouse near you. The HIV educators are like watching CNN’s 24-hour disaster coverage: more experts, more smoke and mirrors, but what have we really learned? How many ways can you learn to put a condom on after 30 years? Predictably, those of us who dared continue or strive to lead a sexual rebellious, non-heteronormative lifestyle were ostracized by the bought-outs and sell-outs as “irresponsible.” Lost culture? I philosophically daresay our culture of insurgence and spiritual/sexual expansion was exterminated on the same altar that American Indians’ bodies were massacred. Remember, Lost Culture is not only exterminated culture, it is also thrown-away culture. Since “Partner” by arboydancing
culture is the stories we tell to each other, verbally and non-verbally, what is your narrative? Where do you place value, less on paper and more so in your day-to-day life? Do you belong to the Aspirational Society of Pilgrims who just want to come low and rise high on the backs of those deemed less? Culture informs how we relate or don’t relate, to each other and to the world. Ronald Reagan, during his two terms of office, never spoke about HIV/ AIDS. Do you ignore its existence in our community—your community—with pretending you are “clean” just because a lab test designates you HIV negative, and insisting “UB2”? How is this improving your character, let alone honoring a culture of lesbian and gay radicals who did the work? The culture that preaches going from low to high, rags to riches is a rape culture, a death culture. Our culture of sexual deviants, queers, faeries, genderfuckers is only a Lost Culture in so far as we submit to this dominant culture and tell its stories instead of our own. Don’t cry crocodile tears about a lost generation of gay liberation and HIV/AIDS activists when you yourself are helping to make it disappear with your politics and/or privilege and especially your American Dreams. This is why I say, despite the mourning, that the loss of our resistance to a corrupt system is the Lost Culture, and it is far, far worse than the loss of our dead. We cannot lose our way. Let’s not forget them, but more over let’s not forget that insurgency, that historical continuum that reminds us silence still equals death and that we must continue to act up. w RFD 158 Summer 2014 23
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Photo courtesy of the author
Distillation 35 [The Euthanasia Group] By James Benedict
And Saul said: “Stand beside me and kill me, for pain has seized me, and yet my life still lingers.” 2 Samuel 1:6-16 “I have nursed fifteeen of my friends till they died,” he says, “up to three at a time, while working too. They in turn nursed their friends, before they crossed over.” An emaciated man in his fifties, Of amazing agility and muscle tone, Is my witness, The eyes of a stalked animal Occasionally smoldering With compassionate fire, And leaping into flame On a gust of oxygen: A peer survivor*. “Inevitably there comes a point of no return,” he continues, “when the suffering is pointless, and there are many suicides in the wakes of depressions.”
“We now have a network, and when the request comes, we prepare ourselves through conversations with the dying.” “Then we get together, and each of us places a harmless pill in a wineglass, contributing to the lethal cocktail, and we sing the dying man on to the other side.” The massive grief Occasionally curves his spine, And there are other signs of strain. Does he ever break? I wonder, as he says: “We have two new requests To end the pain.” The poem was written in Sydney, Australia in the early 1990s, as part of the collection Distillations I: XY Action Writing from Australia. At the time there was no efficient medication against HIV. *When the virus first became known, my friend had a GP boyfriend, who advised him how to stay safe.
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Yesterdays And Tomorrows by H. L. Sudler
hat have you learned from your life? What will you take with you when you die? Will it be all the lessons you’ve learned, all the pain you remember? Romances, milestones, regrets, eras? I always return in my head to events that have hallmarked my life, steering it into a direction unforeseen, jarring me out of complacency and ignorance. I turn these thoughts over like pancakes on a griddle, examining them, but always arriving at the same questions. What have you learned from your life? What will you take with you when you die? Lawrence Blakely, Laurence Gray, and Bernard Little were all friends of mine in high school–and let them be remembered here and now, for they are all forgotten. We spent three years together laughing, joking, studying, but also growing as kids do, stumbling into adulthood with blindfolds on and hands outstretched. We relied on each other, fought and made up, not realizing the importance of our friendship as gay African American men. Laurence Gray was my girlfriend’s sidekick. He was short and lively with a wide, infectious smile and an equally contagious laugh. He was also very emotional and would cry at the drop of a hat. He lived a terrible life at home. His family was poor and he was often hungry and no one wanted him. He was partially responsible for me winning a student government campaign, handing out flyers and making up posters. I helped him with his studies, shared my lunch with him, or gave him money to keep him fed during the day. I remember him in a fight once, and being shocked at how much anger he carried with him. He was no taller than five feet, two inches. He was proud to be an Aquarius. Bernard was a lot taller, lanky and not terribly good-looking. He referred to himself as Millie and he would breeze through the school hallways, his lunch in a wrinkled plastic supermarket bag, his torn knapsack held together by safety pins, his outfits shit brown and polyester, worn two or three times a week, smelling stale. He had grown up disadvantaged and pushed on his grandmother. You could tell he sensed his future had limited options and that he was living only for today. He gravitated toward me like a puppy dog and everyone knew him–teachers, staff, nerds, jocks. Out of school he 26 RFD 158 Summer 2014
was considered invisible. But in school he was a celebrity in our little high school soap opera; comic relief that reminded us that if someone like him could find laughter despite his circumstances, so could we. Lawrence Blakely was different altogether. He was tall, husky, and black as newly applied tar. He walked with dainty steps, as if he was worried he would disturb the universe with his presence. He spoke in a nasally voice, his eyes distorted behind unflattering bifocals. He always emitted a laughter deep and throaty, as if to hint at the man he would become. A week before senior graduation, Lawrence Blakely and Laurence Gray got into a fight in the chemistry lab. I was the school’s student government vice-president and knowing the fight could prevent them from participating in commencement ceremonies I tried to break them up. The massive Lawrence Blakely attacked me and all three of us found ourselves in the principal’s office with the threat of suspension over our heads. Then there was graduation. Then they were dead.
fter high school, I never saw or heard from Lawrence Blakely or Laurence Gray ever again, and saw Bernard Little only once. I was walking down the street in downtown Philadelphia one day five years after graduation, and another friend from school (also black and gay) informed me that Bernard Little and Laurence Gray had died within a week of each other. A little more than a year later, this same friend would tell me of Lawrence Blakely’s death. Despite the fact that he had lost weight, shed his glasses and timid gait and became a gym boy–fully evolved into the butterfly he was meant to be—he too succumbed quickly to the disease. All of their families disowned them and they suffered and died for the most part alone. I was so burned by this, so ashamed I had immersed myself in college life and parties, that I was spurred to do something in their memory. I would not allow these men to rest as fading tombstones in a cemetery. I began to volunteer at local Philadelphia AIDS charities, doing everything from selling pies to handing out condoms and literature at clubs. I attended fundraisers, volunteered at AIDS walks
and LGBT Pride festivals, and served as a Buddy to people suffering from HIV and AIDS. The people I encountered at these organizations changed my life. They were angels, each so different from the other, yet all of them bound together in grief and hope. The soldiers at these organizations were like a secret society working diligently for people they had lost, and for people they knew who were suffering from the disease, for people they did not know at all: men, women, gay, straight, transgendered, young, old, Black, Caucasian, Latino, Asian. The hours were long and there was always so much to do, but we existed as a family unto ourselves and they welcomed me with open arms. I am ashamed of my ignorance–for that is the only word that aptly describes my situation. How dare I believe that it could not affect my circle! That I was buffered; AIDS reduced down, chalked up, to a headline, a broadcast, something that people who were careless suffered. Today I would like to think that if I had known about Lawrence, Laurence and Bernard, I would have come running in the pouring rain to stand beside them in their final hours. What have you learned from your life? What will
“Friends” by artboydancing
you take with you when you die? I remember my friend Ted Kirk, whom I helped to take care of up until his dying day. I remember his wispy blonde hair, his smiling eyes and broad laugh. I remember feeding him his dinner and helping him bathe and use the bathroom and getting him in and out of bed. I remember when he had to be moved to a hospice, and the people there who were so pleasant and worked so tirelessly. I remember him marrying his boyfriend from a wheelchair, his dementia, and times when I thought he would not make it through another night; then finally his quiet death, like a light summer breeze that enteWWrs a room and just as effortlessly exits. When I die I am determined to leave behind my ignorance. I shall leave behind my regrets as well. What is past has passed. I will take with me only my memories of loves, lovers and friends; of sunny, golden days long gone. I will take with me the days of Lawrence and Laurence and Bernard. I will cherish our fun together as children in the face of life’s harsh realities, our laughter. And of the lessons they taught me, which I will forever hold dear to my heart. w
RFD 158 Summer 2014 27
An AIDS Memoir By Equus (a.k.a. Gregory T. Wilkins)
Death was bred into his body. A time bomb ticked with its iron clasp wrapped around his chest.
He thought he wept alone, But I too cried to view his beauty slowly dissolve and consume itself before my eyes.
He was AIDS prey. His victim of unfortunate circumstance. A man of twenty-some-odd years lost in a world of indifference. Fear stalks the common people. They stand an armâ€™s length away. None budge or squirm but all want to dash, to run while casting blame.
A vulturistic pecking left him lame, dashed to the side, a cast away. To taste his flesh, to feel him with me, I loved this dying man. And in his pain, the beauty of his nakedness reincarnated a spirit of thanksgiving.
Some call AIDS Godâ€™s justice, but I will not hang my head in shame.
28 RFD 158 Summer 2014
“Coming Out” by artboydancing
RFD 158 Summer 2014 29
A Note and Two Poems by Michael Kiesow Moore
April 28, 2014 Dear RFD Collective, I am very glad you are putting together a special “lost culture” issue that looks at the AIDS crisis, its impact, what happened, and what happened to us. Who we lost. Whenever anyone asks me about the AIDS crisis, I often clam up. How do you even begin to convey what happened, how many of us died? I lost almost everyone I knew to AIDS.
My friends, my lovers, my best friends. The friends who were going to grow old with me. All gone. I spent the days of my youth – in my twenties – going to funerals. Sometimes the funerals happened so fast and furious, I was choosing which funeral to attend. It still remains hard to talk or write about who I lost, all that our culture lost. Over the years I have chosen to use poetry to express some of this. I am attaching a
handful of my poems for consideration for your summer issue. I selected the poems that are about some of the specific people in my life who died, the dear ones I don’t want any of us to ever forget. I hope you find a poem or two that you would like to publish. I have attached a short bio at the end in case you need one. Thank you for your consideration. All my best to you, —Michael
The Lost Word for Keith Gann (1958-1990)
Your eyes sing the star songs. You leave us the way you lived. The cut tulips blaze. They should smell like poppies. You close your eyes. Times you can only take so much beauty. Your eyes sing the star songs. “That is the most beautiful person I’ve ever seen.” I see no one next to me. “I feel so comfortable now.” You leave us the way you lived. As you silently mouth your last words to us, I am called to mind words of Octavio Paz: we must dream aloud, find the lost word. Your eyes sing the star songs. The final words you silently say to each one of us—with burning insistence—are, “I love you...I love you...I love you.” You leave us the way you lived. Your eyes sing the star songs.
30 RFD 158 Summer 2014
Bowl of Soup for Mark Chalmers
You are not welcome at the funeral. They greet you with a glacier of silence. You—big black snap queen for days—strut into the parlor of prim Presbyterians. The mother gasps. You know her crime and you smile. Eyes turn to the father. But he has turned into a pillar. That is how he met his son the day he was born. This is not news. You step to the closed coffin. The secret inside is so big no one wanted to see it. But here you are and the secret is out. Once the shock of glorious you subsides— a little— the gathered notice what you carry. No one has ever brought this to a funeral before. You bear it like a gift to Apollo a great steaming bowl of soup. The homey smell of chicken fills the air. You tenderly set your gift on top of the casket. Then you make your grand exit, head held high, looking at no one. Like the lightning bolt of an avenging angel— you vanish.
Michael Kiesow Moore is an awardwinning writer of fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction and author of What to Pray For (forthcoming). His work has appeared in several books and journals. For more information visit www.michaelkiesowmoore.com.
Someone else can clean up after for a change.
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All About Yves: Memories of Assotto Saint by Franklin Abbott
ssotto Saint was the pen name for Yves Lubin, the Haitian American poet, performance artist, playwright, editor and AIDS Activist who lived from 1957-1994. June 29th marks the 20th anniversary of his death from AIDS. Born in Haiti he emigrated to New York City in 1970. He became a modern dancer with the Martha Graham Dance Company before beginning his career as a performance artist, poet and playwright. He edited and published the
ground breaking anthology The Road Before Us: 100 Black Gay Poets in 1991. He went on to edit another anthology and to write two books of poetry. A collection of his work edited by his publicist and literary executor Michele Karlsberg, Assotto Saint: Spells of a Voodoo Doll was published in 1996. Three of his friends, Walter Holland, Duncan Teague and Franklin Abbott have written tributes to him that are included along with several of his poems.
e corresponded before we met. We lived in different cities. I met Yves through Daniel Garrett who was also a member of the black gay literary collective Other Countries. Yves was nine years younger than me so he was in his 27th and I was in my early 36th when we met. I had come to New York to host a reading at the gay center celebrating my new anthology, New Men, New Minds: Breaking Male Tradition. Yves was a contributor. I met him in person for the first time the afternoon of the reading. He was selling Other Countries t-shirts at Pride. I bought one. He smiled at me and I was charmed. We read that evening to a full house. Yves was electric, magnetic. The crowd loved him. It was 1987 and we were at the apex of the first wave of gay liberation as it crashed on the rocks of the AIDS epidemic. We would become much fiercer in the terrible years that followed. Our ranks would be radically thinned. Yves was swept away and I am left to tell the story. After the reading Daniel Garrett and Yves walked me back towards my hotel. Daniel was also a contributor to the anthology and was one of the readers that evening. He and I connected working on an issue of Changing Men on the theme of black masculinities. I needed an African American coeditor to work with me on the poetry for that issue. Daniel replied to a request posted in an earlier issue. 32 RFD 158 Summer 2014
Like Yves he was a member of Other Countries. Through Daniel I met Yves. He sent me Yves’ essay, “Haiti: A Memory Journey” where Yves writes about meeting his estranged father, Dr. Mercier, whom he had not seen since he left Haiti as a teenager with his mother, Marie Lubin. It is an elegant meditation on betrayal, longing and rage. Half way to my hotel we stopped at a subway station so Daniel could catch the train to Brooklyn. He
Yves and Tre Johnson, poet and protégé from Atlanta, in Yves apartment around 1993. Tre also died in the epidemic
kissed me. I remember that kiss and wonder what would have happened had I said goodbye to Yves and followed Daniel into the subway. Daniel disappeared and Yves and I walked on. Yves suggested we stop at his apartment on the way. We were in and out in a hurry. I could hear him and his partner Jan speaking loudly in another room. Yves came out, said let’s go and so we did, back into the night leaning into each other as we walked to my hotel where I asked him in as he knew I would. I’d had lots of good sex but I don’t think I’d ever been ravished before. What happened next? Blissful amnesia on my part. The next day my feet barely touched the ground. That evening I was to see Yves again at a reception for the reading hosted by Carl Morse. I was aglow when I entered Carl’s apartment. Yves was there and he was absolutely radiant. He was truly one of the most beautiful human beings I’d ever met. He was tall, his features almost perfect in their symmetry and he moved with an absolutely androgynous grace. I had made love with him the evening before and couldn’t wait to see him again. He ignored me. Yves explained to me later he couldn’t let me know how much he liked me because that was breaking a rule. He and Jan had an elaborate set of rules about who they could and couldn’t sleep with and he had broken three of them: he knew me, he brought me to their apartment, he liked me. He was willing to break a fourth rule, he was willing to see me again. He knew I would agree. I was also in a relationship with only two rules: no chaos, no cooties. AIDS broke all the rules leaving only two choices: the cloister or the precipice. Yves and I both chose the later. Who was I to Yves? Jan Holmgren, his partner, was doubtless the love of his life and I was one of his many paramours. Sex was what drew us closer and closer but friendship is what sustained us, the dear love of comrades. We spoke often and at length by telephone, each of us a lifeline to the other as the terror of AIDS became more and more ominous. Our friends were dying and we were standing sentinel in sterile hospitals and stuffy apartments. We were present at funerals where the person who died was hardly acknowledged. AIDS was stalking us. Jan died. We mourned. My relationship broke apart under the stress of the epidemic. We mourned. There is an African tradition that no one should go into grief alone. We kept each other company as long as we could, sigh for sigh, sob for sob and story for story. Yves came to Atlanta to promote his new book
Wishing for Wings at Oxford Bookstore. Duncan Teague, one of the contributors to Yves’ groundbreaking anthology The Road Before Us: 100 Black Gay Poets had invited us after the reading to a gathering of Black and White Men Together. When we arrived Yves told me he was too tired to get out of the car. I went in and made his apologies and we drove back to my apartment where I offered him red wine and marijuana. He relaxed and asked me to read him poems from my new collection Mortal Love. We sat at my kitchen table and I lit a single red candle and read my heart out. We reinvented sex that night. He was positive and I was negative and we did not allow that to diminish our passion. We made mortal love as only mortals can. I did not know it would be the last time. Yves died within the year. There is a crack in my heart that has never mended. I look at his picture every day. It is a publicity shot and he is Assotto Saint. His hair is perfect, he is wearing a velvet robe embroidered with two birds in flight. He is sporting one dangling earring, lipstick and high heeled shoes. In one hand he holds a silver goblet, in the other a large, intricate golden key. He is stunning and he knows it. He has never ceased to amaze me. The phrase he used over and over in his Haitian French accent, “this madness, this madness” referred not only to the apocalypse of AIDS but to this crazy vibration we know as life. This madness was the lesson I learned from Yves. You can’t outwit it, you can’t deny it. Just when you think you’ve got it right this madness will prove you foolish. This madness was how I got to know him and how I came to understand him and how I could bear to lose him. This madness is how I can hold what happened when the world I knew spun out of control. How did twenty years fly by? I am settled now in another place, a place where he has never been. I have had twenty years of history we did not share. He is now one of our ancestors. Ancestors are both visceral and ephemeral. Can I feel him, yes. Can I hear him, yes. Can I see him, yes but in a mist growing thick with the passing of time. His poem, “Hosanna,” is the one I return to when I need to invoke his spirit: irds of a feather coo b they spread their wings at the edge of the world they soar stretching themselves to god w RFD 158 Summer 2014 33
Soul I remember the beginning a dream as ancient as dawn a dream of destiny drumming up the blood the flesh the earth a dream we were once one soul Pater Noster father my father laius liar liable domed by the oracle of blood where the soul burns never a daily bread sacrifice fuel of the lowest temptations ash of forgiveness smiles revelations still too hot father my father laius liar liable damned be thy name Mater Dolorosa night after night a mother bends over her son’s bones sores scales writhing on his bed fit for a king satin sheets sweet secrets she closes his blurry eyes rolls rosary beads faithful in the morning he’ll wake up to see her smile On the Pulse of the Night startled out of sleep I look around the room swamped in a nightmare of silence not even the faintest snore to let me know you are still alive fearing hushed calls gone unheard my heart breaks in the wake of spirits that quake the ground my tongue curls dry with a cry i don’t call your name & there’s no sound as my hand slides across these bed sheets to hold your wrist feel your pulse race through me —Assotto Saint 34 RFD 158 Summer 2014
A Memory of Yves Lubin, aka Assotto Saint by Walter Holland
met Yves Lubin sometime in the late eighties. I met Yves by way of a black writer, M.E. Fuller aka Michael Evans, who was a medical doctor. As I was in health care Michael and I had met at Bellevue Hospital. Michael suggested I call Yves and discuss how to set up a small literary press. Yves had established Galiens Press. He asked me to come to his apartment in Chelsea. I was met at the door by this tall, slender man who spoke in a soft voice with a slight Haitian accent. What struck me first was his extensive library. He also had memorabilia from his performance pieces with framed photos of his partner Jaan, who helped him found Xotika, an art-rock band. They became a couple in 1980. Jaan Urban Holmgren worked with the airlines as a flight attendant and was from Sweden. He was a handsome man. He composed most of the music for Xotika as well as for Yves’ theater pieces. The band’s equipment was stored in the apartment and Jaan had out his electric keyboard for composing music. I noticed Yves’ writing desk. An outdated Brother computer served as Yves’ typewriter. It always seemed to be causing trouble but he refused to replace it as much of his writing was stored on it. I was invited to sit on his terrace which looked out over Ninth Avenue. This was the terrace from which Yves could watch all the gay boys heading West to the Clubs along the Hudson. He would shout to some of them as they passed by his building.And everyone seemed to know him. Yves brought out a large bowl of fresh cherries and we sat and ate cherries and basked in the sun as he described to me in detail the steps to establishing your own small press. He was very helpful and shared many of the tips he had learned in setting up Galiens Press (he told me the name Galiens, which he had chosen, was a contraction of Gay Aliens). Yves was very meticulous in his speech in describing copyright laws, ISBN numbers, cover design, printing places, Library of Congress citations. He was generous with his time that day. He played his CD of “Forever Gay”, Xotika’s song which was featured in “Feeding the Flame” released by Flying Fish Records. He was very proud of Jaan’s music. Yves had chosen the pen name of “Assotto Saint.” “Assotto” came from the name of Haitian vodou’s
most sacred drum, and “Saint” from the great Haitian revolutionary Toussaint Louverture. He was very proud of his Haitian heritage. Yves also reminisced about Haiti. He showed me a photo he had of himself as a young boy posed in a saintly display like an altar boy. He said he had wanted to be a saint at one point, having been raised devout Catholic by his grandmother. But it was when he came to New York City in 1970 to visit his mother, a nurse in Queens, that he changed his mind completely. He observed two gay men on the train holding hands and he knew then and there that he wanted to move to New York and live a life of freedom from the past. His mother who was a nurse had born Yves out of wedlock in Haiti. The father was a prominent doctor who Yves tried to contact only once, which was a complete disaster. His mother fled Haiti, leaving Yves behind with his grandmother. She worked in Europe, especially in Switzerland in Gruyere. She often would tell the story of how the village children were puzzled by her dark skin and called her an “African.” This was before she settled in the U.S. where she served as a private duty nurse. Yves had gone to Queens College and studied dance with Martha Graham. He left his pre-med courses at Queens College to pursue a life of performance and writing. He was a very creative person. His first play, Risin’ to the Love We Need, won second prize in the 1980 Jane Chambers Awared for gay and lesbian playwriting. His chapbook, Triple Trouble, was anthologized in Tongues Untied (GMP, London, 1987). His poetry collection, Stations was published by Galiens Press in 1989. I had the honor of later seeing New Love Song his second play with original music by Jaan. I’ll never forget that it was the first and only time I saw Yves in drag. Here was this stunning priestess, who ruled the stage with authority. He was fascinating, fierce as he liked to say. He spoke of the African Yoruban tradition of a god who was both man and woman, embodying the two sensibilities and how like the shamans of the Indian tradition, these tended to be the spiritual leaders of their tribe. At that time in the gay community, a strong movement toward separatism had developed. People-of-color formed their own private writing group RFD 158 Summer 2014 35
36 RFD 158 Summer 2014
Publicity shot for Assotto Saint by Alcindor c. 1991
entitled Other Countries. Yves was a foremost participant in the work group which met at the Gay and Lesbian Community Center on Saturdays. While Yves couldn’t invite me to attend he introduced me to several of the participants. I remember it was at a Gay Pride event where Other Countries had a booth, manned by many of the writers Yves had described to me. These writers would later be included in The Road Before Us: 100 Gay Black Poets or Here to Dare: 10 Gay Black Poets. Both these anthologies were published by Galiens Press. The Road Before Us in 1991 and Here to Dare in 1992. Yves was the editor. Yves had AIDS and was aware of his own mortality. I believe he worked for the City of New York and had good benefits. He tried retiring once but then went back to work. He always enforced with me the importance of a good day job to make sure one had good insurance. He was always drawn to poetry because of the time required for prose. Poetry could be written on the go and therefore was shorter and more condensed. I did not know of Redvers JeanMarie or Ortez Alderson. Both died early on of AIDS, but Yves spoke fondly of them both. I did know however of David Warren Frechette who fiercely proclaimed in his poem, “Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien,” that he indeed did not regret anything of his gay life. Yves pointed out that this was a major problem in the Black community. That religion so often repressed black people and left them too afraid to confront AIDS. That many black gay men remained in the closet and died at home, never having seen a doctor or taken action to live. Yves had recorded David Frechette’s death on video, a recording which he realized he had recorded over with a game show. He waxed philosophical about the mistake, having hoped to have kept the video as another document of the horrors of the plague. Even when sick, he continued to protest and stand up for the gay HIV community. During the 1987 March on Washington I had the pleasure of giving a joint reading with Assotto and many other poets at Thurlough Tibb’s house and gallery in D.C. Despite requiring to lie down on the floor in pain, Yves managed to read his work to great applause. Yves always stated that “to read is an honor” and he never forgot that as he went forward in his career. Later that same visit to D.C. he was taken in to custody for protesting at the White House. To the judge of the court the next day he read a stirring statement, vindicating his actions and those of others in protesting the government’s inaction in the
fight against AIDS. Yves himself always assumed he contracted AIDS on Fire Island during a summer season he spent out there. He was very open about his illness. I began to visit him on a regular basis as he underwent his medical treatment in the final days. When he was at the Coop Care at NYU I would go several times a week to check up on him. His mother Marie, used to come visit a great deal although they often had their differences which sometimes caused them to have fights. There was however an unflagging bond between the two. Yves nursed Jaan to the end. Jaan died in 1993. Yves passed away in 1994. Both had funerals at Redden’s Funeral Home on 14th Street in NYC. Reddens was one of the only funeral homes that handled AIDS patients in the early days. Yves proudly showed me the joint tombstone he had chosen for both he and Jaan. I accompanied him to the Evergreens Cemetery in Brooklyn for Jaan’s burial. Little did I know a year later he would be joining Jaan side by side. His mother, Marie was later to follow in 2009. It is a tribute to Yves that in his final days, even with illness, he managed to design and publish his final book of poems, Wishing for Wings. Many of the poems in the collection I had seen in draft form. All the poems reflect the courage and generosity of this truly remarkable poet. w
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A Few More Tears and Words for My Mighty, Assotto Saint! By Duncan E. Teague, Unitarian Universalist Minister
alter was small: barely five foot tall, a dark skinned Black man and much grander queen than I ever thought of being at the time. He was of a certain age and when he died those of us gathered around were astonished to discover that his real age was far more than anyone had ever guessed. Walter and his lover, Michael, shared a lovely ranch-styled house in the unincorporated part of Dekalb County outside of Decatur, Georgia, as I remember. It was my poem about Walter’s funeral dinner held on their sizable property that put me in relationship with Assotto Saint. To me, Assotto was gregarious, mannered, statuesque, sexual not just sexy, and in charge of everything within his world. Assotto spoke through his Haitian accent about poetry, and pushed me out front to read that poem, “In the Backyard for Walter or Our Fried Chicken Customs” at the National Black Gay and Lesbian Leadership Forum. His anthology of one hundred Black gay men, The Road Before Us, was my first published poem in gay print. It was one of the first African American out publications of such, and it followed Joseph Beams’ anthology, In the Life. I started to take myself seriously as a poet, because I “made it into Assotto’s book!” Assotto was on fire about something at all times, boldly vocal. Never, even if he had some of the facts misplaced in my estimation, was he going to back down. His book had to be phenomenal and it was. He demanded that worthy Black gay stories outlast this horrendous epidemic, as we were falling like soldiers on the battlefield. That is a metaphor, but 38 RFD 158 Summer 2014
it was also reality because we, Black gay men and our male sex partners were dropping in our tracks in greater percentages than our white and Latino counterparts. Assotto wrote and fought to put us in print, as if he were a historian war correspondent for the losing side. He was an excellent writer and the kindest editor. In the midst of our discussions about my poem, we became friends and remained so until his death. He respected my more fem ways
of being and I adored his chamelion butch and fem, black-leather life and tightest white denim toying with sexuality, erotic sensibility and literature. He embraced me as a “brister” and did not seek to control my trajectory through our shared communities. Oh, how we need his pen and editing now. The kids growing up in our current digitalized gayness need Assotto and his fire. w
Yves Lubin and Jan Holmgren at the Wedding, 2nd March on Washington 1987. Photo by Franklin Abbott
A Love Story from the Plague by Dennis Dunnum
e was dying. When the second lung collapsed humor his loved ones defended their hearts with. a week after the first he knew he couldn’t face Death is so fucking serious—more so for them than more tubes and more drugs and more attempts to him, at this point. The week moved on—his personkeep his brittle body vital enough to hold his spirit al goal was to exit by the weekend—he wasn’t totally any longer. He had never been all that sure of any sure how this would be accomplished but he knew of the drugs and procedures over the past two years it would be. He had discussed the OK-ness of his but each step had seemed such a little thing to do friends helping him get through on many occasions, to stay alive—whatever that meant at that moment. individually and with groups of them. He really This, he now knew, was not living. The final decision didn’t feel like talking about it now, though—it was was not all that hard to make. In the final analysis, just happening. Time will tell. Time...how strange when you’re right up against the dividing line, there that concept had become. Sleeping and waking had didn’t seem all that much difference between life assumed a pattern specific to his own tight little and death. universe but he kept one feeble finger on the pulse He was grateful for the friends he had around of the larger world outside his room – like he knew him now—the “bupe troupe” who had spent the last it was a Wednesday, for what that was worth. Some weeks filling the endless of his friends would be gosyringes with buprenex, ing off to work, returning saline and heparin. All in the evening. He knew those marvels of modern they knew he’d still be Everyone gathered at the chemistry that kept his there when they got back; bedside—the room was hurting mortal shell from it was close, but not that thick with the unspoken, shutting down on its own. close. It was actually the seeming to form a haze But..... they had gotten first time in a long time he him to this point and felt in some control—or around the candles that were probably worth it for maybe it was the first softened the hard edges that. He felt an ineffable time he didn’t feel out of of the IV poles, trays and calmness now. He had control. trays of medications, his troupe call his many His mom arrived as did friends and relatives all several cherished friends needles, swabs, diapers… over the country—they and one who was actusat and explained all the ally more insistent than medical details; all the cherished. While death morbid facts that everyone needed to reassure is certainly the most personal event of our lives it themselves that he really was leaving and all the doesn’t happen in a vacuum, either. Whatever this options had been explored and rejected. Once they friend needed by being there he didn’t feel like he were satisfied with the facts then he would take the had the right or the strength to debate or turn him phone—expressing his earthy love for them one last aside. time, asking forgiveness for old hurts, arranging to He realized there were many mundane details meet later on the other side or sharing one more inhe needed to attend to. He called in the friend he timacy. Some wanted, still, to dissuade him, urging had appointed his power of attorney and executor him to squeeze one more battle from his frail self; of his estate. It was comforting to know that this he was quietly amazed at how easy it was to lovingly man knew what he wanted to do with his material turn those arguments aside. Some few he allowed stuff and, in fact, even with his physical self should and encouraged to make the physical journey to be he be unable to express himself at some point. He with him one last time, if they’d hurry. had even outlined what kind of a memorial service He could sense the subdued mood among those should happen. He had carefully instructed the engathered in the house—he was glad of the black tire group of ten friends who would be there at the
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transition how to proceed in the hours immediately after he was gone. On Thursday evening he felt that perhaps it was time. There was a fleeting irritation at how little practice one gets in this culture to prepare for this moment. It’s such a dramatic scene and it has to be so extemporaneous. Everyone gathered at the bedside—the room was thick with the unspoken, seeming to form a haze around the candles that softened the hard edges of the IV poles, trays and trays of medications, needles, swabs, diapers—all the tools the culture brings to prop up the hulls of the nolonger-seaworthy vessels on its farthest shore. He was tired and a little anxious and something like confused…but mostly tired. He had thought he had made all the required good-byes—there was no sense in dragging this out. He had requested a pretty heavy dose of morphine and he floated between the worlds for quite a while before sliding into a peaceful serenity. He sensed, but couldn’t grasp with any rationality, that there were things going on just outside his shrunk down universe—but inside there was heavenly quiet, no time, no space, no pain.
wareness came slowly—like Jell-O thickening; floating gave way to lying; nothingness to a congealing of light and dark places; all-sound (or no-sound) congealing into lumpy voices. Am I dead? Ascertaining that seemed the first order of priority or the first priority of order because it was becoming apparent that there was ’order’ emerging. The sounds and forms were beginning to pattern in familiar ways and he began to understand that he was back where he had started. He was still ’here’; he hadn’t died. Feelings started welling up from depths he couldn’t fathom—disappointment, anger, frustration. As his body began to catch up with his awareness the familiar numbing, all-encompassing pain joined the melange of emotions. What had happened? Or, what hadn’t happened? Why was he still here? He drove everyone from the room—he was unbelievably weary. He drifted in and out of consciousness. His friends came and went from his bedside continuing their ritual attendance—faceless drones ministering to the lethargic queen—continuing what was familiar; unable or unwilling to alter the program but knowing something had changed. A full day and night passed. He was totally self-absorbed—observing the endless procession of feelings while he was more or less awake and taking refuge in long periods of sleep. He had spoken briefly with several of his friends but without much 40 RFD 158 Summer 2014
enthusiasm. So it was exasperation he felt when his room filled rather suddenly with the entire population of his small world. They were unclear, they said, about what he wanted of them. While he had spoken with some of them at various times of helping him die, they did not know if that is what he wished now. Two of them admitted that on the previous night each of them had surreptitiously crimped the air hose of the oxygen concentrator causing it to make a fearful noise but ultimately having no effect on his continued existence. They said that once they had begun talking amongst themselves they realized that if this was truly what he wanted then it needed to be stated clearly to them and agreed to by all who were present. He, after all, would leave and they would remain to deal with the reality of having committed an awesome deed without clear instructions and without the support of the others. He realized the rightness of what they were telling him and he labored to overcome his weariness and testiness to satisfy them. He said he did want their help. It was difficult for him to spell out the details of what he wanted them to do but he strained to devise a plan that would work. They helped him think and question until together they decided to administer an unhealthy dose of morphine every fifteen minutes until he was dead. He barked at them when they made him repeat his instructions a second time but he knew they needed his reassurance. He added that he did not want to see tomorrow’s sun and he truly didn’t. It was time and he was impatient. He felt he had been kept here long past the original deadline—perhaps he should have left a year and a half ago with the first round of pneumonia or when they’d saturated his body with poison to kill the bacteria destroying his brain or when they had sucked out the fluid squeezing his heart to a standstill. It was time to stop; get off this train hoping there’s another to board; we all believe there is and have to find out eventually. It was time to trust, or at least, accept the fact that one can’t stay on this train forever. Tonight. Anyone who wanted to went in and had their last moments with him. He was as loving as ever but also as irreverent. This was serious but let’s not get overdramatic—and he was entitled to share in the black humor—the lightness of darkness—that had returned to the group.....and he did feel, once more, that he was part of this group, not separate as he had been feeling for the last few days. They were all family now and focused on one task. That feeling lightened the anxiety and ordered much of the confusion and frustration he’d felt when he’d been
trying this on his own. points of his old body. He leaned into the opening Most of the medical stuff was taken from the and felt wave after wave of contractions—spasms room—the props not necessary anymore. This vesdrawn from the pain of separation and the joy of sel was going to be launched—floating on the surhope, both his and theirs. As he slid through in his face is not the only criteria for seaworthiness. One new form he heard behind him the screams and of the women re-lit the candles. He looked around laughter of his midwives—Go, Larry, go! We love at his family—people he’d grown with, worked and you! played with, fucked…lived with. Life had been an His absence was a palpable thing in the room. amazing experience so far…he saw no reason that We cried and laughed and screamed into pillows, should change now. It was time to begin. He felt the held each other until we had exorcized the mofamiliar softening as the first injection coursed up ment and could go on. He had told us we were to the line into the vein leading to his heart then gently do nothing until each and every one of us was OK. diffuse through his body. His friends, his mom, grew There was such a love-fest that afternoon. Followfurry and then melded into each other until they be- ing orders, some of us began calling other friends came one soft, warm, loving circle of familial energy to come to the house. Others washed his body and surrounding and enveloping him; holding and givarranged him on his bed strewn with rose petals, ing form and direction to his spirit that now began as naked as he had come into the world, his arm looking around—looking for the way out that must around his Hobbes tiger doll. surely be there. The colors We went and laid with him were fantastic, the landscape from time to time, feeling the familiar and yet, not—much drawing away of life from notlike the acid trips of the 70s. life, feeling the soft warmness Sometimes he flew, more of our living flesh against his We rubbed him into often he walked but without increasing coolness and rigidour skin, tasted him on feet, moving slowly and withity, watching with fascination our lips, dissolved him out fear, knowing there was as pink became grey. We had in our tears—intimacy a door and that he’d find it. participated as intimately The soft voices of his friends as it is possible for others to as easy and compelling hummed around him offering participate in this, the most as it always had been. encouragement, directions… personal of experiences; we We had loved him to (please, no more reminders had walked and loved him death. about the light!)…but mostly to the very gate and helped love and the assurance that him through. In the hard they were still there with and clumsy language of our him. There was no time here, culture, we had killed himself only color without form,… and we were determined to movement without motion,…and peace…but it stay with him as participants in the awesomeness and was a peace with a purpose—there was always the finality of the deed, willing perpetrators and victims, sense of purpose—he wasn’t done, yet. He couldn’t both, of mutual love. just sit and enjoy this space. At last he saw what People streamed in and out of the house all day he was searching for—the door—it wasn’t really long. We kept him home until the next morning. a door, like with a knob, it was a hole and a small The crematory came for him then and agreed they one at that—sort of like what your asshole must would cremate him right away because he had not look like from the inside, or a womb. The walls wanted to be put in a cooler—they really were quite around it were soft, warm and strong, red and cooperative, considering. They delivered the box velvety. It was not dark here but he could tell it of his ashes the following morning—they were still was very bright on the other side. For the first time warm. Those of us still around broke into a chohe felt a little hesitation. The hole looked awfully rus of, “Nothin’ says lovin’ like somethin’ from the small and it was SO bright on the other side. He oven”, bathing our hurting hearts in laughter. We was not sure he could do this. Just when it looked rubbed him into our skin, tasted him on our lips, like fear might become panic he felt the love of his dissolved him in our tears—intimacy as easy and family begin to caress his being, coating him with compelling as it always had been. We had loved smoothness—eliminating all the angles and sharp him to death. w
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Men Who Love Plants by Hunter Desportes
wo of them followed the straight and narrow path. Well, better to say they played the common, early 80s role; small town fellas, “friends,” who lived together and bought antiques to fix up. They bought the town’s derelict “mansion, ����������������������� ” painted gingerbread, shellacked old sideboards, hung a huge porch swing, then even put a cross complete with a purple quilt wrapped around it up at Easter. Staghorn ferns on the porch, bougainvillea mixed with pass-along-plants grew into a dead-on accurate Southern rendition of a Victorian garden. They weren’t out. But one was a hair burner at Peter’s Salon; you know the type, in your face, flipping his bangs and, in his way, challenging the old ladies who loved him to ask what they didn’t’ really want answered. The other reserved, working factory swing shift, drove a Z-28, knowing his buddies, who love him, sure as hell would never bring it up. Then came the third—younger, a nomad, ear-ringed, fey farm boy— who, wanting to be worldly, challenged everybody, including the other two who saw through it all and made him part of the family. I was something very much loved, in an undefined role between adopted and “hell yeah, if that 20 year old wants to fuck us and work in the yard…” Half the time I was exploring the world, driving a green Honda from Miami to Maryland. A mentor, J.C. plugged me into his network of garden queens, who’d put me up and download 42 RFD 158 Summer 2014
their knowledge of gardening. I’d work a little, pick up riders in hostels and visit gardens, national parks and the follow the best of 80’s music. I soaked it all in, took it, loved it then I’d head for home, park in the back, and slide into that big bed just before breakfast-time as welcomed as an old cat. We’d spend long, uninterrupted days, my two boyfriends and me, smoking, pouring over rearranging garden paths, climbing the old water tower in a veil of purple wisteria or wading in the black water creek to dig ferns from the banks. As Joel got sicker and sicker, he’d call me back more and more, “You need to come see me. Bring me one of those strawberry pies from Shoney’s.” Where ever I was, he’d order up some plants from there, too: ginger lilies from that place outside of Gainesville or hellebores from the boys in Athens or hostas from the goat lady in Myrtle Beach. Once I brought a tiny garden bench I’d found, and he said, “Lord that just says
Photo by Hunter Desportes
Country-Come-to-Town and sho’ nough these people round here are gonna think we are town queers if we put that out for all the world to see.” It went on the front porch, for all the world to see. I’d curl up by the gas flame stove and listen to him breath, refill the cooler and learn to be a caretaker. But graduate school called me to the West, and of course, he told me to take the rest of the pie for the road and bring back great plants. I didn’t plan on coming back ever, to live in this little town where most of those old ladies and bubbas who “loved them”, from my point of view, failed to meet the challenge by staying miles away. Until, one night on the phone, he said, “Come home from Seattle and make a good garden.” I think that���������������������������� ’��������������������������� s what he said. He was mumbling. He wanted to tell me one last thing, to ask about one last plant, to issue one last piece of advice. Someone was holding the phone up for him. When they were most needed, some of those old ladies and bubbas did gather around his bed, to help both those boys with through the final night. I can see the scene clear as day, as if I were there, we were both delirious, and that someone picked up the phone and said, “Jenks he doesn’t know what he’s saying, but he wants to say it to you again.” He gave me understanding that I could come home. But not yet. My first weekend in the Northwest I found myself bathing naked with a bunch of Canadian firefighters in a pond of water more clear than I’d ever seen in my life. How could anybody leave that? Hippy dick, head spinning gardens, a nun who became my Robert Bly Wildman. Two thousand miles and another planet away and damn if I didn’t ended up in a Victorian house and a home with two loving men. Me and a terrier named Blutto, the youngsters of the household. The other two were a Mr. Seattle Leather and a horticulturist. Jerry was a strong willed, outspoken man, with impeccable taste in garden color schemes. He cared for an elegant little garden, filled with obscure but vigorous plants, and fitted nicely into our not yet gentrified neighborhood. We’d putter together under an Italian plum tree and trained hardy mandevilla over a bench. When I said we needed more plants on the front, scruffy bank, under Monkey Puzzle tree out front, he taught me that it worked as it was, fitting into the neighborhood and making the hidden garden more of a surprise for guest. I didn’t know that helping him when he needed a walker or moving his bedroom downstairs would make me sort of an activist handing out rubbers on the University quad. I was in a DC hotel when that call from Mr. Leather came. A young woman who had dark hair like a cloud of bees around her face comforted me. Feeling isolated, she suggested a movie where we were in the dark but around others. I cried from the opening credits to the moment we walked out through some 80s glitzy, hanging plexiglass tunnel. Then I went home to make a garden in South Carolina. Over the years I got to share my love of dirt and plants and write a book, too.
But Joel, Jerry and all those men, full of country wisdom and studied, urban elegance didn’t get too make their dream gardens or to write down their secrets. They didn’t get to mentor us fully; they didn������������������������������ ’����������������������������� t get to fill a known and expected role in horticulture: that of wise elders with dirty hands and stories to tell. Losing this generation of leaders is particularly painful to the field of horticulture. Many of these men grew up in a fading rural America, coddled, warmed and taught by grandmothers and grandfathers. They were rooted in the soil. But they left it seeking the gardens of Europe, the plazas of Brazil and the urban planning of Vancouver. Emboldened by their experience, they were making gardens that people who focus on families and work don’t always have time to make. They were the conduits and catalysts of horticultural history. Public horticulture lost a generation of creative leaders. There’s a gap that many young gardeners may not even recognize is there. And so many guys like me, who should be interviewing, photographing and helping them hobble around their gardens today, don’t get to. Some don’t realize the gap, but those of us who got to be, in little ways a part of their gardens, think about them, plant with them and are emboldened by them every time we get our hands dirt. w
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To Blow A Coal Teach yourself To blow a coal White and take breaths and turn it Until it is clear You have more patience Teaching yourself How to bathe What is clean Know the feeling of that around your feet Around your shins and up your thighs All around your privates Feeling up your stomach, sides, the pits of your arms, divots of your back Get up around your neck Go until all your edges move And the center feels cool Look at you, you are clear and slender You could disintegrate Your enemy like a wave, like a sharp wave The body is a purgatory A single party Some will stay longer electrocuted by the foam Listen Your mind is paradise Clean and light and hot Not benign So a sword A racket A contest
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â€”Christopher O. McCarter
Blue Plate Special When the morning no longer pleases Don’t wake up Just kidding Paint the windows black Let that dry and then paint them red Then pink, and then live again Like in a stomach Kick at air If you hate that move to a throat Or a tall woman’s head By the time she gets up it’s lunch she’s so tall I wish I could write instead of eat Oh thankless disaster, what is for dinner? Come take my ceiling away Show me the whole blue plate special I’m living I mean I’m leaving If there’s no potato leek soup that’s why My heart burns at chili I’ve already settled in at this long counter café Someone says, Thank You I think it was the fly landed on the round Tip of the ice cream I’m here Thank you for sinking in this bowl with me
—Christopher O. McCarter
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Memento Mori Memories A strand of hair Wrapped in a pocket watch Un souvenier des jours passe’. The days pass away Funereal in their structure I hold these thing & think of you Treasures of the past In my loving hands.
Hymn to Adonis For T.J.
Skin, white as marble Soft, pliable muscles Rippling Undulating Under the hot water Of a much-needed shower To relax you. Stark, black tattoos Tribal Sensual Kissable Especially the fleur-de-lis At the base of your spine. “You are so beautiful,” I say. If I were an artist—I’d paint you. If I were a photographer—I’d do a series of nudes—Tastefully done. But I am only a writer A poet Who can only immortalize you in words
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“Remembering 2” by artboydancing
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“Rebirth” by artboydancing
Goatboy Goatboy thinks he's Pan and maybe he is, who am I to say strange passion, this! What recourse have I when horns do sprout, but to watch the child grow stout and goat about. Who am I to criticize the raptures of youth, make angels of devils or decry goatly truths? Goatboy thinks he's Pan and well he may be, he'll find no reprimand from an old satyr like me.
Child of Horns I chanced upon a child of horns within a dewy copse of thorns, a naked babe of no great years with flaring nose and trembling ears; tiny hoofs which caked with mud curled tite against the mossen soil, furry legs which tipped with blood did spread to let his thrust uncoil. And there he took me in the weeds my hair a web of teeth and leaves, he plowed me as if Spring had come and blossoms burst to peach and plum; an hour's storm of fire and wind within this dark and sodden day, he left my heart in brambles pinned as with my soul he chased away.
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The Future is a White Sheet by Jason Bartlett
Hiatus of a lotus, the future is a white sheet, impulsive, compulsive. A country pretending to be a country. Will you be my cheap date? We can look at supernovas, all alone, inside a dark room. Forget the planetarium, our secrets are an emporium. Talk to me, so my words can be free. We don’t know the wonders we are capable of. Dance where nobody dances, love where the ghost prances. Take a bite a forbidden pineapple. Make them think you’ve snapped a bit. But, you really haven’t. Tell them the truth, let it go, like an open wound. Let’s see if they love that, the real you, that only you can love. Don’t deprive your heart of what it deserves, because all it is, is words.
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Don’t look up to anyone else, look up to yourself. You are royal, but live your life, knowing people will try to take that from you. The gold in your soul, that a fake friend will mine. Only let your hobby use you. Let your hobby, make you a paper crane. Fly away and rip, see temptation, take a sip. Until it’s so loud, you’re nothing. Listen to what you say, and say it, until others wish they were deaf. You have the right to dance and speak of love. I once heard the future is a white sheet, and no obstacles can compete. Your problems eat you up inside. We have all the time in the world.
“The Oak King” by artboydancing
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Inside a Pearl: My Paris Years by Edmund White Reviewed by Leo Racicot
ith Inside a Pearl: My Paris Years, Edmund White has added another lovely illumination to his row of votive memories. He opened the door to earlier reminiscences in two, previous and very successful memoirs. In the masterful My Lives, he explored the psychological and psychosexual influences of his parents, relatives and first friends on his formative years, and in City Boy chronicled his years of sexual awakenings, political activism and lovers, also his founding, along with other gay writers, of The Violet Quill and crucial participation in the Gay Liberation Movement, pre- and post-Stonewall. In this new and happily-greeted memoir, Inside a Pearl, White travels back in mind and heart to Paris and the French countryside. Finding himself physically and psychically exhausted by the losses and decimation of the burgeoning AIDS crisis, he decided to see if a foreign country could help revivify him and his creative fountain. Middle-aged, he arrived among the French, not able to speak their language, an alien to that country's culture and M.O. He wondered why he chose to make such a bold relocation in his early forties and soon discovered that the city, its traditions, its people sparked his creativity, for these were years rich with writing, research, and love. It was in Paris that White began what was to be the ultimate go-to biography of Jean Genet, worthy profiles of Proust and Rimbaud, this working sojourn book-ended by a chance (or not so chance!) meeting with architect, Hubert Sorin, who was to become White's lover for many sustaining years ahead, and by Michael Carroll, a young man on leave from his Peace Corps stints in Yemen and Czechoslovakia whom White met just as he was about to run away from Paris, so devastated and lonely was he following Sorin's prolonged and painful death from AIDS. White tells us he moved to Paris, in part, to escape what had evolved into a static and stagnant existence in New York. There is nothing static about Inside a Pearl; it is a locomotive in high gear from page one, alive and shining with stories of the many literati and glitterati of the 1980s City of Light—Yves St.-Laurent, Catherine Deneuve, Alan Hollinghurst, 52 RFD 158 Summer 2014
Michel Foucault—White met or knew everybody who was anybody, and they delighted in knowing him—the gossip is operatic, and the pages are full to bursting with the author's signature wit, a comedic bent, too, as well as his keen and observant eye, an uncanny magic and a habit for displaying a refreshing candor as he scrutinizes people, places and events, laying his literary paintbrush down on yet another of his brilliant, nonesuch canvases. The slimness of the volume belies its importance; it spills over with wonders books double and triple its size don't have—vivid descriptions of people and neighborhoods, of the avenues and arrondissements of one of his favorite cities, quite possibly his very favorite of all. And there are sentences here blanketed in such a tenderness, if they don't bring a tear to your eye, you should lie down because you are probably dead. Inside a Pearl offers up, most of all, White's loving and objective valentine to his good friend, Marie Claude de Brunhoff—MC—the widow of Babar creator, Laurent de Brunhoff, as clever and curious a literary figure, she, as any Proust, Flaubert or Stendhal ever produced. MC joins the ranks of strong-willed, quixotic, interesting women who led the way for yet another mid-twentieth century movement—Women's Lib. White makes us like her, admire her, not in spite of her tics and quirks, but because of them, and she strides amid these pages still vibrant, expansive and alive, as if she and her kind have never died, will never die... This is a work of sure-handed and reassuring prose, and it fits beautifully into the collage of memories White is reconstructing for his legion of readers. White has always had his pen trained on the Zeitgeist; the timing for Inside a Pearl couldn't be better, co-inciding as it does with a worldwide resurgence of interest in the 1980s. He wouldn't like it put this way but Edmund White, a true social, sexual and cultural pioneer, led us out of the dark when the closet was very dark, indeed, marched us out into the light of liberation to a place of not only self-acceptance but of real and lasting pride in who we are. In Inside a Pearl, he takes us back to a time in gay world history when
the happy results of his literary liberation placed gays on center stage. In the vast tangle that LGBTQ literature has become, White's work is the gold beginning and ending thread that you want to look for. Like Christmas tree lights balled up in last year's box, if you find the line of White's work, it will surely lead you to the spark that lit up the whole tree. Do add Inside a Pearl: My Paris Years to your must-read list. It is a beautiful, strong swan of a book, navigating a winter lake, remembering summer. w
Edmund White. Photo courtesy of the author.
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Dolores De Luce. Photo courtesy of the author.
Interview with Dolores by Robert Croonquist (Covelo)
Robert Croonquist: Hello Dearest Dolores! Congratulations on your new memoir, My Life, A Four Letter Word: Confessions of a Counter Culture Diva, Double Delinquent Press 2013. I loved reading about your life from an immigrant Italian family in New Jersey to a fabulously rich and theatrical life in Los Angeles and San Francisco. Although the Sixties are famous as a transformative decade, it was the Seventies where the ideas of the Sixties flowered. It was also a time when the Radical Faeries came into being. Let’s focus on three aspects of your experience that contributed to the formation of faerie consciousness—communal living and creativity; gender roles, identity and relationships; and spirituality. My earliest memories of you were in 1972 when you were “Tapping in a Varicose Vein” onstage in San Francisco. It was the opening night of the musical Rickets, A Day in the Life of the Counterculture. You were a featured actor in that show and I was the new boyfriend of its lyricist and director Martin Worman. The San Francisco we knew at the time was a confederation of communes and many of the Rickets family lived in communes. You lived in a communal household on Clayton Street. Tell us about that. Why did it come about? Dolores Deluce: In 1973 after doing my first show Cinderella with the Cockettes at the Palace Theatre in which I played a dancing pumpkin I decided to make a permanent move to S.F. Leaving warm sunny Venice Beach was a major turning point in my life and I packed up all my worldly possessions with my three-year-old daughter Viva in my VW Bug and drove north. I found a fourbedroom railroad flat close to the top of the hill at Frederick on Clayton Street, just four blocks from Golden Gate Park. My flat was the middle apartment in a three-story Victorian, and my landlords were the Robinsons, a working-class African American family who had a great tolerance for the crazy kids who started to multiply like cockroaches over their heads. I hadn’t planned on joining a commune or creating one but just needed roommates to help pay the rent. Jimmy, my ex-neighbor from Venice Beach, moved in, and a week later he introduced me to
Marshall Reiner, an elfish, Pan-like, Jewish Eastcoast transplant who was looking for a home. Just like in the Cockettes’s Cinderella whose fairy godmother turned me into a Pumpkin, she her waved her wand again and the four bedrooms, back porch and eventually the tiny space under the stairwell took on a different personality reminiscent of a Hollywood movie set, and the cast of characters kept appearing. Mark America, a brilliant visual artist from London, appeared and before long, Martin, a husky, long-haired, East Coast Italian American waiter, stumbled in followed by Jerry, one of Sylvester’s back-up singers who added diversity and more color and liked playing daddy to my daughter Viva whose black daddy was obviously missing from the picture. If you pressed fast forward on the comings and goings at Clayton Street, it would make your head spin. Eventually my fabulous house decorator Mark moved out, and John Compton, the Bay Area’s most famous male bellydancer, joined our ranks for a short while and converted the tiny back porch off the kitchen into a tiny bedroom that resembled an exotic stall at an outdoor market in Marrakesh. He brought Jimilla, his six-foot-long pet python too. He would place the python on top of Viva’s wild curly locks, and my five-year-old posed like a young queen of the Nile, never missing a step, pivoting to the beat as John taught her to Belly Dance. The only female besides me and Viva to live under our roof was Debbie Debris—Tra-La-La Trent. Once Debbie moved in, she continued to live up to her street cred, “The Mistress of Offense.” Until then our landlords had never complained about our raucous behavior. Amidst the scents of broccoli, garlic fried tofu, marijuana and patchouli oil, a few old ghosts lingered in the long hallway until Marshall found a friendly ghost-be-gone ritual in one of his esoteric books and used it to smoke out the pranksters. For this mansion in the Haight, with every square foot utilized, we paid only $37.50 a month each, and the only time we ever heard from the Robinsons was when the sink drain backed up and overflowed into their kitchen. My queer companions were my teachers, heroes and saviors. We valued each other, our drag, vintage RFD 158 Summer 2014 55
items, and our next show. We dressed ourselves and decorated our rooms in the styles and glamour of any age we fancied, from Renaissance courtesans to 1950s rock and rollers. We pioneered recycling, health and fashion trends, shopped at whole-food community co-ops, did yoga, and ate organics and tofu decades before it became trendy. We were living the life yogis have strived for throughout the ages; we lived in the moment. RC: How was it run? How did you deal with interpersonal problems? How did you deal with food? DD: Everyone took turns cooking and doing chores and most of the everyday household events went smoothly without a lot of planned organization. In hindsight this was a miracle and could never happen for me today considering how many people lived there with only one bathroom. But we were young and didn’t have aging health concerns like frequent urination and digestive disorders. Once a month we’d hold a monthly house business meeting at Mommy Fortuna’s, a local greasy spoon on Haight Street, to discuss important household issues. Just for fun, we called these meetings ‘The Coffee Shop Coalition’ and dressed like’50s housewives with our hair up in curlers, and wore housecoats and slippers. No one in the hood ever blinked an eye. This was San Francisco. It was the dawning of a new age, and I thought I had found Shangri-La. RC: There were other communes in the City at that time. Who were they? How were they the same? DD: Although my household was not a true commune, we borrowed much of the political and spiritual philosophies of our time. For lack of a better name, I called our home, Casa Del Grande Boca, (house of the big mouth)—because no one could keep a secret. The neighboring communes had higher ideals like The Angels of Light (free theatre), Hunga Dunga (food collective), and Kaliflower 56 RFD 158 Summer 2014
(political watchdog). These communes created food banks and free clinics, lived on strict vegan diets and pooled all their resources. They did free theatre and gave free dance and yoga classes to the community. Within our house, we managed to share just about everything, but followed no rules. When I learned that Kentucky Fried Chicken used batterycaged chickens that never saw the light of day, I swore off KFC, but, at best, I was a quasi-vegetarian. I personally drew the line on giving everything away for the good of the whole and held on fiercely to my individual boundaries and personal rights to my stuff. RC: How were they different? DD: One night at the Angels of Light commune, I popped in during the home birth of baby Govita, who had just made her entrance through Angel Lenore. I found Ralph, a former Cockette true to his title, “Kitchen Slut,” cooking for the clan. I sat at the long table and watched him sauté onions to a caramelized perfection in a gigantic cast-iron pan. Tony Angel, the proud new papa, delivered a bedpan filled with a blob that looked like calves liver to the stove, and as I congratulated him, Ralph began to cut up the mystery meat and ad it into the onions on the stove. When I asked about the meat, Ralph informed me that the bloody mush was the fresh afterbirth just discharged from Lenore’s uterus and went on to lecture me on the evils of meat eating and the nutritional value of the placenta. “This is the only meat we can eat without killing anything,” he said, and then Ralph and Tony invited me to join them for a new life celebration dinner. Asshole Consciousness—a vague philosophy that had something to do with avoiding toilet paper— was another practice of the Angels that I could never warm up to. I dreaded using their bathroom unless I had brought plenty of tissues in my purse. In the Angels toilet next to the commode all you would fine was a coffee can filled with water to wash Dolores De Luce. Photos courtesy of the author.
your butt after a dump, and more often than not, there was never a towel to dry off with. The infamous gender-bending troupes the Angels and the Cockettes shared the same roots, but became a house divided, due to ideological differences. The Angels rejected structure and rehearsals and were heavily influenced by Irving, the head of Kaliflower, a commune that swayed heavily toward the left. Irving wrote an editorial in the Kaliflower newsletter berating the Cockettes for their ambition to grow along professional lines. “They started free and sold out to golddigger dreams of riches and stardom.” But even after the split, members of both troupes often crossed lines and performed in each other’s shows. Other newcomers to this community were the gang who lived at The Rancho Del Ruby. Not that they had a mission statement, but for all practical purposes it appeared that their communal mission was to flaunt decadence. Joe Morocco was their charismatic leader, and his housemates included his lover, Doug, Janet Planet, and a few other New Yorkers who revolved in his orbit. The Ranch went through a phase when they converted from being heavy meat eaters to practicing a strict macrobiotic diet, juicing, and taking lots of supplements. This was not done for humanitarian reasons but to counterbalance all the chemicals they smoked religiously. I myself had given up smoking the deadly PCP, commonly known as Angel Dust, but at Ranch parties, you would often find the guests so dusted on this animal tranquilizer that they stood like zombies holding on to the furniture and swaying for hours. For fear that someone would fall on her, I would have to hold Viva on my lap throughout their parties. I chose to overlook their bad behavior because I was in awe of their creativity. Joe Morocco appeared once in the Angels’ Cabaret Kitchen Show wearing blackface, dressed as a pepper shaker singing and tapping to “Shaking the Blues Away.” That night Joe Morocco, the dark knight, stole the show, and toward the finale all hell broke loose when, during the middle of the Angels’
chorus number, Janet Planet and Doug threw large chunks of raw ground beef on the stage while the Angels were dancing, mocking their strict vegan rules. From that day forth, the vile meat eaters were forbidden to work with the Angels. These contradictions from light to dark behavior dominated our scene. No matter whom we fucked or worshipped, what we ate, or how we wiped our asses, the one bond that held us all together was the fact that we were all hams when it came to the stage, and we were often fiercely competitive. RC: Tell us a little about the group of people who put together Rickets, something about its creation and your experience creating the character of Gloria. DD: It was Martin Worman’s idea to salvage the afterbirth of the Cockettes by forming a brand new troupe. Warped Floors Players was the new name we decided upon after hours of arguing. The troupe consisted of Divine’s matinee idol David Baker Jr., former Cockettes—Scrumbly, Pristine Condition, and Bobby Star; the new breed from the Ranch—Joe Morocco, Janet Planet, Jorge, and Liz Birsis; and the White Trash Boom-Boom Girls—me, Candida Royal, Janice Sukitis, Leilani and Theresa McKinley. Scrumbly wrote the music, and Martin and Janice Sukitis collaborated on the script. Martin had been waiting to write a show with more serious political overtones than his previous shows with the Cockettes. Rickettes, a Day in the Life of the Counter Culture, was to be the antiCockette production. No glitz, no glamour or glitter and no big fake tits, just a musical exploration into the plight of the humdrum workers who performed their duties at their counters in a department store. I created my character Gloria, a wisecracking snackbar waitress, based on my mother’s heyday at the Woolworth’s lunch counter. Janice wrote my scene, but no one but Martin could have hit the nail on the head like he did with my song, Tapping in a Varicose Vein. Martin grew up in a working class family in Paterson, New Jersey, like me and we even went to the same high school, but it wasn’t until he saw me perform with the Boom Boom Girls on the bar top RFD 158 Summer 2014 57
of the Stud in San Francisco ten years after high school that we really got to know one another. When I performed the lament of Gloria, the struggling waitress who her lost dream—”a fabulous dancer at Radio City, with three kids, I gotta to wurk”—I won the heart of my audience. With the entire cast tapping behind me, the showstopper earned me my first and best critical reviews ever. I owe Martin for all my fame without fortune. RC: Early in your life you had many unfortunate, to say the least, experiences with straight men and along the way became close to many bi and gay men, drag queens and transsexuals. In Los Angeles you went to a gay men’s bar and were thrown out for being a woman. You were told by the police that you were lucky to get out of there alive. But then once you found your stride, much of your story is about living with gay men. DD: That bar in L.A. was an exception to the rule of Gay Life as I knew it and identified with. It was a hardcore S & M Leather Bar like no other I have ever seen. It was archaic and that experience was an eye opener for sure. RC: There were a whole group of women in San Francisco, Sister Hags you call them—Esmerelda, Beaver Bauer, Lenore—who lived in a predominantly gay male world. You wrote, “Like designer labels, Fag Hag, Bitch, Witch and Whore were terms I wore proudly.” What are your thoughts about the relationship of women and gay men at the time? DD: I can’t speak for the other women in our community, but I know my bond to my gay friends and lovers was stronger than any other male female relationships I had ever had. Gender boundaries 58 RFD 158 Summer 2014
were in constant flux and there weren’t as many rules about what was or was not politically correct about sex back in the 70s. My gay lovers were not monogamous and never promised me happyever-afters. Gay men made me feel adored. I did not identify with some fag hags, who made sport of getting a gay boy to bed, and my women friends were not like that either. Most of my lovers evolved naturally out of our friendship. I was always surprised when an innocent love crossed the line. I had many intimate affairs with gay men back then. Some were one night stands and others lasted longer, but when the lover label faded away—or, as in some cases, was ripped off like a hot Brazilian bikini wax—these relationships always reverted back to lasting friendships. And I think that is true for the other women in our community too who were intimate with gay men. I called that chapter about the women, Sister Hags because in some ways our community was more like polygamists in a Mormon cult (sort of ), except that in the gay counterculture, we did it with style. I don’t recall the women ever competing over men like women sometimes do in straight society. We behaved more like sister wives and loved one another too. It was Martin Worman who taught me that the word fag meant twig. Fags were the boys used as kindling on the pilings used to torch witches. The fags were sacrificed merely for associating with or loving the women who were persecuted for showing their power and their spiritual gifts. Martin explained that fags and hags made one hell of a hot bonfire. I really do believe that I must have been one of those witches in a previous life, and I was Dolores De Luce. Photos courtesy of the author.
being reunited with my fellow victims from the past. Marshall loved to tease me about my trysts. He said I had “fag attraction” and no one could understand why so many queers always ended up in my bed. Neither could I. My friend and lover Tommy Pace would tell me about flashbacks he had to a past life where and when all the members or our particular community in San Francisco had been together in this other lifetime, and that idea rang true for me too although I can’t prove it. But we were for sure a tight knit family of misfits. Maybe that fact alone was the reason we bonded so well. RC: What did each have to offer to the other? DD: “It’s the woman in me that’s attracted to the man in you and the man in you is attracted to the woman in me.” Or as my dear friend and gay husband Tommy Pace put it, “it’s the woman in you attracted to the Lesbian in me.” Our gay brothers were more in touch with their feminine side and we women at that time of the sexual and women’s revolution were coming into our own feminine power and we complemented one another. Gay men were not threatened by strong women and we women loved intimacy with men, with or without sex in the relationship. RC: Were things different in San Francisco than in LA or had you just found a different subset of the gay community? DD: I do think they were very different. In the ‘70s, S.F. was a Mecca for the Gay Rights movement and it was being broadcast to the world. Gay people flocked to S. F. from all over the country to taste that freedom. L.A. had its pockets of the same movement of course but much of L.A. was still dominated by Hollywood and its superficiality. Most of the gays I knew in L.A. were not as politically identified with the exception of the Lesbian Community I knew in Venice Beach. RC: Had the times changed in just a few years? DD: Yes I think so. RC: How have things changed since then? DD: That’s a loaded question. Everything is different. Where to start? Technology for one has made us less dependent on community than we
were back then. The gentrification of our cities especially in S.F. has changed the landscape. People can’t afford to live in the city anymore unless they are rich and own their property which many of us Counterculture types never thought of doing back then. The political ramification of AIDS and the losses we have survived has changed us all deeply. For me for the better in many ways since today I have more appreciation for my friendships and take no relationship for granted. Age changes us in so many ways. When I was young I loved living with lots of people and preferred to travel in packs. Now that I’m old and cranky I prefer my own company most of the time. I need more contemplative time to write. RC: Not all was quiet on the Queer Anarchist Front. You also encountered gay male feminists who objected to your depiction of women. I lived at 529 Castro, a commune several doors down from Harvey Milk’s camera shop and at the other end of the block from the Hula Palace. We called ourselves the Ho Chi Minh House and flew a flag out our window that said “An Army of Lovers Shall Not Fail”. Tede Matthews, who was a member of the commune, tried to organize a boycott of your musical revue Broken Dishes because it was “politically incorrect”. What was Tede’s problem with Broken Dishes? DD: Tede said we shouldn’t be portraying women as victims as we did in our show. RC: What are your thoughts about that? DD: I thought Tede’s politics robbed him of his sense of humor. I felt he had no right to tell me and my partner Amber, both of us single woman raising our children in this gay male dominated community, how to express our creative views of women’s oppression. And from how I recall it, he hadn’t even seen the show when he started to dish us. I thought he had a lot of nerve to dictate to women what was politically correct. Just because he dressed in drag didn’t give him the right to know what was best for a woman. And personally I knew his comments had a lot more to do with jealousy both personal and professional. I think he resented me because at that time I had a short -lived relationship with his roomRFD 158 Summer 2014 59
mate Jada who remained my friend to the end of his life. At the time of Jada’s death he was living a hetero lifestyle, married to a woman, and kept in contact with me until his untimely death to AIDS. RC: You were raised Italian Roman Catholic and you now meditate and are a devotee of Guru Maharaji. In between those two poles was a life of wild self-destruction and wild creativity. Your name went from Dolores Grosso to Dolores Deluxe to Dolores De Luce. Throughout it all you have always been Dolores. Was there a spiritual journey from Grosso to Deluxe to De Luce? DD: I talk about the significance of my name in the book. Dolores means pain and the Latin root for sorrow, De Luce means “of light” in Italian. Grosso means big and so does Deluxe I suppose. So there you have it, by any other name, my big little life went from pain to deluxe pain into the light. If a person stays open to growth, they will continue to learn. That’s the good news about ageing. Having hindsight and learning from your mistakes. I think my Life has always been a spiritual journey but I just wasn’t always aware of it. Every step we take, planned or not, makes the journey interesting. RC: Like all of us who lived through that time, you experienced great loss. DD: Pain is a great teacher. I once heard Rev. Michael Beckwith, one of Oprah’s favorite spiritual teachers, say, “The pain pushes until the vision pulls.” I love that because in my experience it is so true. As we grow into consciousness we have the opportunity to see and feel more and express love and joy. Life is a gift and that’s the lesson my Guru taught me. He showed me a way to feel it one breath at a time. For me meditation adds more joy and dimension to the gift of my life, no matter for how long I have to live it. RC: Do you believe it luck or spirit or was it just random that you survived? DD: There is luck and random acts of violence and or kindness in the universe but above all it is the Spirit that shows us how to deal with it all! RC: What sustained you? DD: The most potent of all four letter words, LOVE—love of spirit, love of my daughter Viva, love of my friends, family and teachers, love of life and the unexpected. RC: What are the greatest gifts that were given to you from those whom you have loved and lost? DD: Well, their love is number one and my book is filled with examples of how each person contributed to my life through sharing their knowledge, their service, their honesty, their fears and hopes, all 60 RFD 158 Summer 2014
of it. My friendships are the greatest gift. RC: You are much loved in your home in Los Angeles by a wide spectrum of people and with good reason. You bring something special to them with your presence. What gifts from those times have become a part of you? DD: My creative spirit, my joy, my humor, my openness, my warm mothering qualities, my sense of style and fashion, my love of spontaneity and serendipity, my high heels and high hopes. RC: In what ways do those who have died live on in you? I still feel them with me most of the time. I don’t think a day goes by when one or more of those dear departed friends doesn’t surface. They are a part of me now and though all eternity. Especially as I wrote the book I felt them guiding me throughout. Just the other day the reason why I love to write occurred to me. It’s because I get to experience the events in my life again when I put them down on paper. My collected memories and the residual feelings I have from living such a full life is profound to me. I’m writing a second book now, a follow up of a sort to My Life a Four Letter Word. Ironically the title is two more four-letter words. It’s called, BLOW JOBS, a Guide to Making it in Show Business or Not! Although still autobiographical, it’s different from my memoir. It’s a series of short stories of how I got through the decades that I did not cover in my first book. More humor, less sorrow. RC: What would you want to say today to those we have lost? DD: I don’t think I have to say anything because they are always looking down and witnessing what I feel and say about them. They are the reason I wrote “My Life…” It was my way of saying thanks for sharing your life with me. They know I’ll love them forever. RC: Thank you for decades of friendship and for taking the time for this interview. Are there any parting words you would like to tell the faerie community of 2014? DD: What can I say to the Faeries, that they don’t already know? Just a reminder, perhaps, to keep the Spirit alive through all that you are and do. Thanks so much Robert, for being in my life. We are the survivors and the witnesses. Love you, DD. w
Edward Field on Turning Ninety by Franklin Abbott
dward Field is one of our finest living poets and he is still going strong as he approaches his ninetieth birthday. Born on June 7, 1924 in New York, Edward grew up on Long Island, flew twenty-five missions over Germany as an Air Force navigator in World War II, began publishing poetry to acclaim in the 1950’s and has had a successful career as a poet, novelist and translator for almost seventy years. He lives with his partner of 55 years, Neil Derrick with whom he cowrote the novel The Villagers Greenwich Village. His latest book, published last year is a memoir of old Afghanistan, Kabuli Days. He has won many prizes for his work, including a Lammy, for his book of poems, Counting Myself Lucky. His autobiography, The Man Who Would Marry Susan Sontag, was published by the University of Wisconsin Press. He is co-author of the children’s book Magic Words and is the friend who Diana Athill wrote to for more than thirty years in Letters to a Friend. Edward is featured in the film Big Joy reading the poetry of his late friend James Broughton. You can find out more via his websitee: www.edwardfield.com. Franklin Abbott interviewed Edward for RFD 15 years ago and in anticipation of his birthday asked a few more questions.
ideas and fragments! If there were one or two things about being gay that stand out between now and the years you came out, what would they be? Being gay is less important now. I am, of course, but now that the inner torments and public hostility are pretty much quelled, the kind of sex I do is just something men do. The gay struggle of course remains a political issue—fighting for our rights. But now I feel the same as other men, gay and straight. I think travels in the Muslim world helped me in this. The Muslim world has a lot to teach us. Another thing is my attitude toward my dick. I used to want men to want me, and I wanted their dicks—cruising day and night, I was looking for a dick. Until I discovered my own. Your relationship with your partner Neil has been central to you for the past 55 years. What can you say about love that would encourage those of us not so far along on the journey? Each couple is a different combo, so I don’t know if my experience is of any help to anyone else. Neil and I were together for about ten years—the romantic part of our relationship—and then broke up. That’s when I, shattered, went to Afghanistan, the furthest place on earth I could think of to recover. But then Neil lost his sight from a brain tumor operation, and we got together again—out of necessity. Sounds grim, but let me say what a wonderful life I’ve had—dare I say ‘we’ve’ had? Maybe I can’t speak for him—he went blind, after all, and now has cancer. One thing I’m sure of—I’m the best life partner a blind man could have. We don’t have much of an income, but I’m a person who can do everything—
Franklin Abbott: As you approach ninety what sustains you as a poet? Edward Field: I’ve always counted on writing poems to the end, so whatever happens feeds the poetry—everything is ‘material’. Actually, though, my partner Neil has come down with a rare form of cancer and taking care of him has kept me from writing for the past year and a half. Though I keep making notes. But right now all I care about is helping him fight this disease. When I can catch my breath I’ll write again. I’ve got a full notebook of Edward Field. Photos courtesy of the author.
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cook, sew, fix things, build things. Also, I’m a great sighted guide and have led him through the cassabas of Moroccan cities and through oases in the desert. And we’ve lived, cheaply, in London, Rome, Paris, Berlin, Amsterdam, Tangier, and Athens. And when he lost his sight, we started writing novels together and even made some money on them. Yes, I am more madly in love with him than ever, I worship him—but it’s based on him needing me and me happy to be needed. I love being useful. Is that a clue to making things work? w
Celebrating His Ass they try to block your dick with their little pills for blood pressure, prostate, heart
I get to watch him putting on his clothes watch the way he fills his underwear and even better when he takes it off
they figure you’re an old guy so what’s the difference
and when he does the dishes naked each cheek as he moves here and there at the sink altering its shape, its roundness… wow! I can’t stop pulling on my dick
and just to stay alive you go along with it, take the goddam pills but how lucky I am to live with an antidote to their poison whatever the depredations of age he still has one goddam beautiful ass and just looking at it I can’t stop pulling on my dick I follow him around like a dog drooling over the ballet of his movements and can’t stop pulling on my dick actually, anything he does goes to my dick and he’s walking around naked all the time
62 RFD 158 Summer 2014
and when he bends over I ‘m riveted by the beautiful crack of his ass, and can’t stop pulling on my dick and when he does his daily exercises I’m breathless, I’m breathing hard I’m sipping the nectar of the gods oh lord, let me die looking at that ass and with my hand still pulling on my dick —Edward Field
Franklin Abbott , Edward Field and Gus Kaufman in Atlanta 2004
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an international gathering of
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Issue 160 / Winter 2014
DIFFERENTLY ABLED FOLK
Submission Deadline: October 21, 2014 www.rfdmag.org/upload
Disability Within the Community
As queer people we often think of ourselves
closer to heteronormative ideas, we lose
as different yet we often do not consider
a bit of our magical edge in embracing
people who are “differently abled.” Just
the “weird.” Weird was a word of power
saying differently abled leaves something
and strength, but as conformity came to
to the imagination. It is a coy phrase for
fear difference, we have embraced what
trying to undo the damage of the labels
we think of as typical. We all face some
put on people: deaf and dumb, physically
amount of being weird, and yet it is the
handicapped, mentally challenged, or
magic we bring to share.
emotionally disturbed. But like any moniker, which a community has some way of
We hope our readers embrace the idea
creating, we both embrace it and reject it.
and submit their stories, poems and artwork
We hope our use of the phrase is seen in
and images for this issue to embrace our
an embracing light, not as a label, but as a
phrase of identification and power. We’re hoping our readers will write in and share their personal stories of being a queer “differently abled” person or share how being in community with people having a variety of abilities expands our thinking about what we all have to offer. As the gay movement cycles closer and
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a reader created gay quarterly celebrating queer diversity
RFD Vol 40 No 4 #158 $9.95
66 RFD 158 Summer 2014
Published on Jun 21, 2014