RFD 190 Summer 2022

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Number 190 Summer 2022 • $11.95

WORDS if only then yes. RFD 190 Spring 2022


Issue 191 / Fall 2022 QUEER RELATIVES Submission Deadline: July 21, 2022 www.rfdmag.org/upload

All of us have some connection to queer relatives, be they actually LGBTQI or not. So we’re asking readers to delve into their family relations—siblings, parents, cousins, aunts and uncles or grandparents who shared some queer story, a shared sexuality, a coming out, a transition. Alternatively, you can share how your queer identity influenced a relative to come to their queer senses. We would also love hear how relatives have odd or mysterious stories that made them stand out in your family tree. We love storytelling about odd uncles and twisted sisters. Meanwhile, some of us shape family outside of blood relatives and so we welcome stories about found family, new kinships. We are looking for stories, poems, artwork and photographs, which show our queer kin, people who helped shape our own narratives by reflecting on their experiences. So let us honor ancestors, close siblings, distant cousins, beloved kin and the cantankerous grannies. subject from 2 Unidentified RFD 190 Summer 2022glass plate negative, c. 1895, courtesy Matt Bucy.

Rural Faerie Digress Vol 48 No 4 #190 Summer 2022

Between the Lines

In this issue we asked people to contribute to the idea of the power of words. In many aspects, one or two words can create sensations of comfort or can instill in us the need to flee. Much of language is reservoir of memory, learned experiences and magical access to understanding one’s self, one’s environment or more importantly often the key to another horizon. Each contributor’s work reflects a declaration to the reader to take something in, to understand or merely listen in. We hope you enjoy the issue and what the words bring to you. Meanwhile, please consider passing along your thoughts and ideas for future issues. Your engagement helps keep RFD vital to other readers. As we celebrate the return to summer, take time to enjoy the people around you, take in as much Nature as you can and reach in to help celebrate who you are in our amazing community. With warm regards from a Beltane evening enjoying margaritas and black raspberry ice cream in sunny Vermont! —the RFD Collective

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Submission Deadlines Fall–July 21, 2022 Winter–October 21, 2022 See inside covers for themes and specifics.

On the Cover

Front: "Words" by Barry Shoenfeld


Managing Editor: Bambi Gauthier Production Editor: Matt Bucy

For advertising, subscriptions, back issues and other information visit www.rfdmag.org. To read online visit www.issuu.com/rfmag. 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 RFD, P.O. Box 302, Hadley MA


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01035-0302. Non-profit tax exempt #62-1723644, a function of RFD Press with office of registration at 231 Ten Penny Rd., Woodbury, TN 37190. RFD Cover Price: $11.95. A regular subscription is the least expensive way to receive it four times a year. First class mailed issues will be forwarded. Others will not. Send address changes to submissions@rfdmag.org or to our Hadley, MA address. Copyright © 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.

Visual Contributors Inside This Issue

Images or pieces not directly associated with an article. artboydancing. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27, 29, 35 Bill Maynes. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18 blackbird.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16 Chris Moody.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15, 56 David Carter. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 40 Demain Martin . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4, 5, 43, 49 Dragon (Arthur Durkee). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 52, 60 Gregory T. Wilkins. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13 Jan Ziegler. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11, 46 Jim Jackson. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2, 21, 25 Michael O'Boyle. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 63 Wave. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 37

"Deep Down Clowns / Keep Bold Souls / Seek Sound Mounds," by Jim Jackson.

CONTENTS Bonjour Michigan!. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Demain Martin. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4 Paragraphism. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Jonathan Leyva Mack. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6 All Meaning Is Applied!. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Rosie Delicious. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10 The Paradoxical Power of Words (Perhaps a Poem). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Eli Andrew Ramer. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12 Inclusion of Language Minorities. . . . . . . . . . . Theoklymenos . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14 MAGIC WORDS. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Edward Field. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17 Poet Edward Field and the Magic of Words . . Franklin Abbott. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18 Words on a T-shirt . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ronald madson. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19 Li Jun. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Stephen Othan. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22 Trick or Treat . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Daniel Schoener. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26 Two Words Changed My Life. . . . . . . . . . . . . . Bob Henry aka Smiley. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 28 The Word that Shattered the Wall. . . . . . . . . . Caitlyn Fragosa. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30 It Was Like a Watercolor All Over. . . . . . . . . . James Champion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 32 The Power of The Word Faggot. . . . . . . . . . . . . Timothy Arliss O’Brien. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 36 Keeper. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Nicholas Alexander Hayes. . . . . . . . . . . . . . 38 Do You Remember When Words Had Power? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Michael Kiesow Moore. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 39 Those Words. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Ken Anderson. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 41 Ode to a Flamer. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Nicholas Yandell. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 42 Toast to the Dead. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Rita 'Rusty' Rose. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 44 Spoken Word. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Andre Le Mont Wilson. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 45 lineage (or lack thereof ). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Emerson Gray. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 47 Desert. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Duncan Hilton. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 48 Untitled Poem . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Bubbles . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 50 A Rare Bird. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Al Cole. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 51 Trans-. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Al Cole. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 53 Aflicker . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Scott Hightower. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 54 More Berry Than Brine. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Bruce E. Whitacre. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 55 The Foldout Couch. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Bruce E. Whitacre. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 55 Narcissi, We Drown in Our Own Eyes . . . . . . Bruce E. Whitacre. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 57 Forward From Today. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . David Milley. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 58 Faggot . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Dustin Brookshire. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 59 Play It By Ear. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Aldo. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 61 Not afraid . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Qweaver. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 62 Queer Is a Magic Word / Juxedo . . . . . . . . . . . Franklin Abbott / Michael O'Boyle. . . . . . 63

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Bonjour Michigan! Youhouuu! I’m Demain Martin! A Folleterre raised faerie from France. I'll be painting around Grand Rapids, Michigan all Summer 2022 and would love to connect with queers and faeries from the land! You can contact me through my mail dieudo.martin@gmail.com and have a look on my website if your curious to see my art <3. www.dmarcaje.fr. Many kisses to you all and have a great summer ! [below and adjacent are some of Demain's work, and we've included a couple more later in the issue.]


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Photograph and paintings courtesy the author.

"Seth Resting," by Demain Martin.

RFD 190 Spring 2022



by Jonathan Leyva Mack (jthanmack@yahoo.co.in) a brief introduction or, how to survive by means of the paragraph About seven years ago, wounded and adrift, I had to find out how simply I could live. In a room in Mexico, I devoted myself to studying literature, sacred and secular. I fell in love with Gertrude Stein, and John Cage, and, most of all, with a macho Mexicano deaf dentist temazcalero named Angel. My endless daily scribbling became a practice I call paragraphism, a way of finding refuge and solace in the paragraph, in the moment and the word. In case this practice might prove useful for others, I offer it. By now, there are many thousands of paragraphs. Here are just a few. On the odd chance this strikes a chord, I am grateful to hear from anyone. —Jonathan Mack. Jalisco, Mexico. We are involved in a life that passes understanding and our highest business is our daily life. —John Cage, Silence ∞ The wish - I know it makes no sense - to write a manual - about living in the paragraph as a gift and an experiment - to those who have no other home - to others only - 3 days welcome - at best - to offer up - the paragraph - constructible - collapsible - traveling home - you make yourself - a kind of camping! - the way that mantra - name of God - serves as home to sadhus - who undertake the vow - to spend no more than 3 nights - under the same roof - or at the roots - of the same tree - the paragraph as refuge - and as gift - for everyone - else who had to listen - to the fastidious - list of why you - did not belong - did not deserve - were not worthy - I do not suggest - any wars - I cannot give - you justice - even though - you deserve it - let us see - what can be done with the paragraph - let us build - from letters - and from breath - what they cannot - take from us - let us - be - let us be - welcome - let us be welcome - here - let us be welcome here 6

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∞ These are the unofficial lives, our own : 2 poor, graybearded queers in Ixtapa. Mexicano y gringo. One mostly deaf, the other gimplegged. People ask, What happened to you? Desde el nacimiento, we say. From birth. Right now we’re roasting chiles on an open flame to fry with onions and douse con crema, as Angel was taught by his tia Socorro, also deaf, who dressed like a man and helped her sister, Angel’s mother, raise 10 children, because his father was a drunk. In the mountains past Tepehuanes, poor past hunger, tia Socorro was never taught to speak. Nor was she taught sign language. Undaunted, she spoke her own language and made her own signs. But how could she survive! I ask. I know this face. The one that Angel’s making now. This is the ‘gringos don’t get it’ face. She was fine, amor. She was FAMOUS. ∞ Paragraphism, key principles: the paragraph as a zone of resistance, make-shift and floating. The paragraph as a place for people who don’t (officially) matter to put their things, like a backpack or a plastic shopping bag, or a hole in the ground beside a certain tree. Do you understand by now that only very flimsy and momentary things have any chance of lasting? Place all bets on ephemerae. ∞ Paragraphism, the paragraph as emergency ration, a simple edible thing of unpromising color, packed into a tray and covered with foil. If you are running you can carry it with you. ∞ Paragraphism is an ideal practice for prisoners, pensioners, virgins, reprobates, schoolteachers, mystics and the depraved. Paragraphism is perfect for those with little space, for those with almost no time, for desesperados. (Angel, my lover, asks me very often, amor tu estas desesperado? and it is true that I am desesperado a great deal of the time but,

oddly enough, I am hardly ever desesperado at the moment he asks me.) ∞ I pass my days seeing to my stable of horses. Several of them are beautiful. Others are charming. Each of whom has at least one prosthetic leg. Except for the horse with 4 good, strong legs. And a prosthetic head. Turns out there’s nothing you can’t do without. ∞ Beauty, they say, is in symmetry. Beauty is symmetry, they say. So we will do without them, we say. We have done without them all along. We say. Me and my friends will get along without them. Me, my friends, and beauty will do just fine without them. ∞ genre I would like to make words good to stare at for however long, the way a poem is, especially one unafraid to be beautiful, mysterious, or difficult. But I don’t want to be haughty, like some poems. Fine for some queens, but not for me. I don’t want anyone to feel like they need qualifications to enter or belong. I want to be like that good-looking lanky man at the bar who half-grins at you, leads the way, and fucks you in the toilet, leaving you bewildered but pleased. ∞ Sober weeknights I pretend I’m a genius between 8 and 10. In the summer it’s between 9 and 11. I can’t pretend I’m a genius in daylight. (Obviously.) It’s a reward for not drinking, ok? Lots of people have odd hobbies. It doesn’t cost anything, it doesn’t make me fat, I don’t hurt anyone. I don’t dress-up, I’m just radiant. I have to wind down (resume being hopelessly deficient) by 10 (11 in season) or else I won’t sleep well. Until that time I am boundless, illuminated. For all of a hundred and twenty minutes it isn’t already too late for me. ∞ Paragraphism, under the regime, amidst the war, an unobtrusive bunker to which the queer, outlawed, and non-normative may make our way.

There, the doors barred, the shutters closed, we doff our shapeless blacks and emerge in turquoise and scarlet, in tangerine, and chrysolite, in skin and fur. Do we survive? I do not know. We gleam, regroup, and conspire. ∞ Paragraphism, because prose is too often falsely assumed to be “All right children, stand in a single file, face one way, hands to yourself. Shush! It is time now to go down the hall to ART.” ∞ about our language We don’t disown our errors. The best we adopt and set to work. Borrachisme is my work for drunken, gossipy nonsense. Thuesday comes twice a week, Angel explains, because lazy gringos could only come up with 4 names for 5 weekdays: Monday Thuseday Wednesday Thuseday Friday. Celibro is what I say, instead of cerebro, but since my brain is mostly books anyway, Angel insists the word must stay. He talks about the neighborhors, “pronounced “neighbor whores”—is it wrong that I enjoy this too much to correct him? Angel stopped confusing the words ‘kitchen’ and ‘chicken’ years ago, but we still do it willfully, because it is so joyful. Why settle for a kitchen sandwich if you can dream of a luxury chicken, a chicken with an island? When I say, “I love you”, Angel says, “I love you to you.” Someday someone will correct him. I live in dread of that day. ∞ The consistent wish : to write a vast and invisible space. Where you might wander at your liberty. A two-thirds empty museum. Suggestions and invitations dangle from bare white walls. A museum so to be a little free. To peer and wander. Maybe grab a coffee. Find a sofa and stare. Or you might decide to have sex. In the handicapped toilet. With a hot guy in a wheelchair. Because museums get depressed when no one fucks in them. ∞ The desire to create minor highly polished artifacts. Out of anything. Out of what is best forgotten. Paragraphism: a found art of mental objects. And RFD 190 Spring 2022


then to present them in an immense white space the populace can walk through on an overcast day, because they are curious, slightly, because Matisse is too crowded, because third Thursdays are free. To stroll among the minor, through a vast and grand expanse, and then to say, most commonly, but my fifth grader could do that. ∞ EXCUSE me! Simple people, too, can OVERDO things. Such as exploring caves. Or firearms. Me too! With my dropfoot brace, shoe lift and bifocals. I stumbled far enough into language to end up fixated on consciousness. To such an extent that I am now overwhelmingly interested in subjects mocked by all right-thinking people : Gertrude Stein, the narration of dreams, hallucinogens, shamans, dryads, the bardo, the doctrine of emptiness, Joan Miró, language poetry, modernist doorstops, mediumship. I am a guaranteed WORTHLESS person and, what’s more, I’m really, really EXCITED about it. ∞ Paragraphism—is the English word. In Spanish it’s párrafismo. In French, paragraphisme. In Pali it’s called vipassana, or the practice of insight into whatever arises. There are many divisions of vipassana. Paragraphism is one of the chattier, fidgety branches, at the very tip of which sings a dun-colored and persistent bird. ∞ Paragraphism. Yes, it looks like nothing. And that is a great help. Another word for nothing is solace. ∞ John Cage composer and philosopher, wrote more than a hundred tiny stories, or anecdotes, which he delivered as lectures, recorded, and collected in books. For these small stories he supplied instructions, which I trust he wouldn’t mind me borrowing to use again : I suggest that they be read in the manner and in the situations that one reads newspapers—even the metropolitan ones—when he does so purposelessly : that is, jumping here and there and responding to 8

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environmental events and sounds. In particular, I would like to say what a great joy and honor it would be for me, to be printed, stapled, and placed beside your toilet. ∞ John Cage’s great passion was mushrooms. If he had life to live over, he mused, he might choose to be a botanist, not a composer. The volumes of his improvisatory, innovative writings are regularly dotted by cheerful accounts of poisoning himself and other people. ∞ I won’t say it causes PROBLEMS exactly, but it may foster confusion and consternation in persons, should a flicker of confusion arise, in regard to what is called “my life”, because it is difficult to explain to others (and perhaps better not to tell them?) that my therapist AND my psychiatrist AND my personal trainer AND my life coach AND my financial advisor AND my literary agent AND my guru AND my primary physician AND my best, must trusted, friend are all—a small, white fox no one else can see, a female fox specifically, a zorra, the color of snow. ∞ Sliding door cracked to hear the rain on fallen leaves, traffic on wet street in the distance, tumble sound of the dryer behind me. This is my evening at the symphony, and I have as much right as anyone to call myself a music lover. ∞ Is it still possible to tour the anechoic chamber at Harvard? The silence at the center of the genius of John Cage. I want to hear the silence he heard, those same 2 sounds. He said, Describe them. I did. He said, the high one was your nervous system in operation. The low one was your blood in circulation. ∞ My art is a small box in which I attend to the moment. A series of boxes. Nothing serious. Or important. (Except that I die without it.) As children collect seashells and sea stars. One rock with a hole in the middle. Another that’s black and round and perfectly smooth.

Storms, tides and daylight all exist. Therefore it is conceivable beachcombers might find a treasure. Or a message in a bottle. Or a corpse. My wish, my art, my practice is—what washes up. ∞ this voice never goes away So WHAT you’re disciplined?! 40 fucking 8 years old, no job, no money, no genius. 200 dollar room in Jalisco, alone with your English, aiming to show something (WHAT?) by 10 hours of daily study, with coffee, with timer, Pali scriptures and Postmodern poets— oooooee! Only to get stranded on Xtube (Big Dicks) at 2 in the morning, gooning on some semblance of warmth. What good are you? You and yr strenuous uselessness—as if virtue is only a swept and bleached floor and eyes so tired they feel scorched—what are you for? Why should your same dumb problems, and something Angel said, and a tattooed narcotrafficante, freeballing in the park, be points on a cosmic map? WHAT GOOD ARE YOU?!! There’s a RiteAid in Wilmington, Delaware where you ought to be assistant manager. ∞ if I even think I’m OK-looking. . . that’s a RED flag. I did my daily Spanish lessons on the computer. I even did extra lessons. Then I did lessons in Latin, then Navajo, then Guarani through Spanish, and then I thought I had better go for a walk. The world, it turned out, was full of things, and at the same time simple. I went from Guarani to Spanish to English to barking dogs to bouganvilla to cobblestones. I can’t explain, it just came to me, I could now read the world. One leaf, one dog, one car after another. I was late, I’d been slow to catch on, but I’d finally learned to read. I could even read the air! It’s just something that happens. It’s called : learning through immersion. Sure, I’d heard of it. I just never thought it could happen to me. ∞ Paragraphism, because the longer I am alive, the more the anecdote seems a riddle. You can read what happens to you as you might read a dream. You can become intensely interested in that monotonous, nonsensical, babbling language, that of life. Always, it seems to me, both cases can be made.

That the language is random. And that it is arrowprecise. The only thing we know for certain is that it is the tendency of things to speak, to speak without ceasing. ∞ Paragraphism, alas, a sort of canning process. That same thrifty earnestness. Like some old maid who cares about economy and not a whit about her moustache. With a mind intent on what Gertrude Stein calls the potatoes, which in this case are tomatoes, such an endless bumper crop. What’s to be done with them? The only thing that’s super clear is that the neighbors do not want them. Just the same, it appears to be ineradicable: the wish that some use might be found. And so there is this peeling, slicing, salting, boiling process. It is crude. It is unglamorous. Nobody wants your tomatoes! The old maid, however, knows nourishment, knows sustenance. She aims to survive. Paragraphism. It is the maintenance of a secret storehouse. ∞ The assumption, always, is that is has to be more complicated, more sophisticated, more pure. And I, too, would have to be—improved beyond recognition. Don’t you think so too? Don’t you agree? But consider, for a moment, just lightly, and in passing— what if we are wrong?t

∞ RFD 190 Spring 2022


All Meaning Is Applied! By Rosie Delicious

“Words are the maker of reality,” drones Deepak Chopra as he introduces his reading of The Bhagavad Gita on an audio tape I listened to years ago. With/through words we all co-create our realities; whether in telling a story, writing a manifesto, or framing a video in production. Human communication primarily uses words to exchange ideas, motivate the masses, recount histories. Reality is shaped by the words we use, and within this creative act meaning is constructed and communicated. “All meaning is applied” is my favorite aphorism and a truth, I fear, we too often neglect, or seldom consider. If wordsmithing is a primary form of human magick making—then this aphorism’s truth underscores the power inherent herein. If we use words carelessly, we then fail to comprehend the power available to us within this means of magick. A clear example of the operational truth within this aphorism is the current war in Ukraine. The language the Russian President uses to justify his nation’s aggression is tied up in his version of Ukrainian history, which I’d identify as stereotypical Russian imperial hegemony, but he wouldn’t. If the victors write the history, then the history of the Ukrainian people, who have been colonized by regional super-powers for centuries, includes their struggle to maintain their own language, culture, very identity as a people. This is all done with words, words at the service of whatever regime needs them to send armies to kill. Not too different from how the U.S. second Bush regime concocted all kinds of facts through words that launched us into Afghanistan and Iraq! This macro-level view of meaning making is a rather facile approach in uncovering how operational this process is in creating action, thus shaping reality. Ukraine is being bombed daily and is resisting this invasion daily however you justify either’s actions. How easy is it to apply this truth on the microlevel, the here and now! This writer wonders what meaning you’re making right now reading what I am now writing? What does “now” mean herein? What is time? What kind of stories do you tell yourself about yourself? What words do you use to describe the you in those stories? Why those words? Words bring meaning—it’s inherent in the word’s 10 RFD 190 Summer 2022

very definition. Naming all the animals, the power given Adam by Yahweh in Genesis, is a very early reference to the power humans have given themselves in the act of naming. A name always brings meaning: a cougar is not a canary, a zombie is not alive… The words we choose to tell a story brings meaning automatically—why are those words chosen to write that history? Think “6 January” in current political rhetoric. Was it Shakespeare who noted: “Humans are meaning making machines”? We take astronomy and add some meaning and call it astrology, the values of numbers is the practice of numerology— otherwise they are just numbers. We can’t help it, no use struggling against nature. Then, what is to do about this knowing? I use it as a backdrop, a screen as it were, against which to throw those “facts” announced in some reportage, especially if it is emotionally heated. I’ve caught myself too many times (why too many herein?) hurling meaning at someone when upset, anxious, angry whilst reworking the words in the story to justify this projection on another. The words become tools in this reshaping of that person in my mind, all done by my own volition, within a state of being unconscious of my own role creating the very problem, or the emotions that are driving this drama. “All meaning is applied!” is a call to consciousness; my intention herein is for us all to be empowered by this truth. Let it be a way for us to clock our own projecting onto others with our words. This holds especially true for our new reality, the interwebs, something wholly constructed by language. I’ve witnessed all kinds of words being hurled by and at various people who are unknown to each other, except through these online arguments—and the result is often grim. More importantly, may we realize the amazing power we have in our minds, imaginations and spirits to use words for the benefit of all. That we use words to heal ourselves within the way we write our own personal journeys, including all those who join us in weaving our futures through tales of wonder, love, justice, community and harmony. May our words and the meaning we mold with them create a world of Beauty, Balance, and Delight!

"Rage," by Jan Ziegler.

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The Paradoxical Power of Words

(Perhaps a Poem)

by Eli Andrew Ramer

God said, “Let there be light” And there was light And God saw the light that it was good and God separated the light and the darkness Genesis 1:3-4 If language were liquid It would be rushing in Instead here we are In a silence more eloquent Than any word could ever be Suzanne Vega In the dream the teacher is reading to us from Tolstoy’s War and Peace. Tolstoy, who liked men, if you pay careful attention to the sexy descriptions of the men he wrote about, to some of his early journals, and to what his wife had to say about him late in life. There was no dream. I made that up. But what is a story? A fabrication by another other name might be velvet, silk, or corduroy. I come from a long line of tailors. My mother liked to say that I didn’t have a first word. I had a first sentence. “No. I don’t want to do that!” In this poem a storyteller gets to play with light and darkness, with sounds and silence. I want to tell you that being read to is sometimes more delicious than sex. In the dream a book of mine is published by a new press in a wonderful holographic edition. It gets reviewed in the New York Times. The reviewer hates it, but bad press sells books too, and the book ends up on the best seller list. After my father left home my mother bought a boxed set of all of Beethoven’s symphonies. I hate when anyone calls them vinyl. They’re records. Or phonograph records, if you want to be fancy about it. When no one was home I would blast them on 12 RFD 190 Summer 2022

our record player and dance wildly around the living room. Beethoven, who loved young men. You can hear that in his music, if you are paying careful attention. Even more so in his later compositions, when he was deaf. I don’t like the word queer, even though I used it in the title of one of my books. When I was teaching a class in my synagogue I wrote on the whiteboard in the lobby: “Kweer Torah Study – second floor.” I don’t like the word, not because it was one of the worst things to call someone when I was growing up. I don’t like it because it means strange, different, and when we use it we unconsciously invoke the majority, the mainstream. The sound of water splashing over rocks is one of my favorite sounds in the world. In the dream a student in the writing class that I’m teaching on Zoom makes up a word to replace queer. A word that only invokes us, and references no one else. It catches on like “they and them” and I am very happy. Ten years ago I was ordained a maggid, a storyteller in the Jewish tradition. My family all said “Of course.” In the story these words get translated into a universal language, like Esperanto but lovelier. Universal? Really? Isn’t that a bit of an exaggeration? Wouldn’t global be a better word? I left my globe of the world behind by accident when we moved for the first time. I was five. My father refused to go back for it. He said he had to follow the moving van. The sound of a car or truck engine is one of my least favorite sounds in the world. Along with the banging of a metal screen door. Among my favorite smells – you. And forsythia, lilac, lily-of-the-valley, hyacinth, salvia, lavender, rosemary. I rub my fingers on them and raise them to my nose and inhale, when I’m out for a walk and pass one on my path. A story is a song that’s sitting down, not standing up. In the dream the old man is writing a poem.

On the wall above his desk hangs a copy of Jules Bastien-Lepage’s painting of Joan of Arc, staring out into space, clearly listening to the three golden saints who are floating in the air behind her. Jules Bastien-Lepage, who loved other men. You can feel it in his tender brushstrokes. “Sticks and stones can break my bones but names will never harm me.” I miss the word fag. In the poem there are two fags. Once is dancing. And one is not. He is watching the other man. Smiling. And I think that man is you. Yes. I’m certain of it.

The middle of the night. The lights are out. The young man licking his lover’s left armpit, the one who wrote this story, cannot speak right now. But you can hear him breathing. As he stretches out on pale blue satin sheets. Blue of sky. When the sun is stretching and preparing to rise. Silence… Sigh lens…

"Vortex," paper collage, sewing thread, embroidery thread on paper, by Gregory T. Wilkins

RFD 190 Spring 2022


Inclusion of Language Minorities by Theoklymenos

In Faerie space, English is the main language. It may not be a problem in USA where English is the official language. But it is an issue in Europe with it's many countries with different languages. Faerie space is dominated by English Native Faeries who are privileged to speak their mother's language and who never need to feel, think, talk or write in any other. Besides them are underprivileged Language Minority Faeries, from whom it's expected to communicate in English as foreign language which they need to study (e.g. at school, university). It does matter, if one can express oneself 100% correctly in one's mother's language, or if one needs to try hard in a foreign language and may not reach 100% accuracy. Especially when it's about sensitive topics with emotions involved or decision processes. Issue is: Language gap is power gap. English dominated Faerie space is exclusive. Which is mostly not seen, understood or talked about. The time has come that we Faeries take responsibility towards inclusion. It is the responsibility of privileged English Native Faeries to include underprivileged Language Minority Faeries, not the other way around. First step from exclusion to inclusion is awareness. Here are ideas: What can English Native Faeries do to include Language Minority Faeries: • Be aware of your privilege! Talking in your mother's language is a privilege. Realize and admit it. • Try to talk slowly and avoid dialect/slang! Don't asume or expect that Language Minority Faeries understand you the same way as fellow English Native Faeries. • If you meet a Language Minority Faerie who says "For me English is no issue": Don’t assume that there is no language minority issue. The certain Faerie who said this may have learned English at University and/or has enough energy, money and time to recap in classes and/or to travel to practise, whilst other Language Minority Faeries may not have the same chance (because of lack of energy, money or time). • Don't say to Language Minority Faeries: "Your English is pretty good!" or (even worse) "...good enough!" It may hopefully be meant as a compliment. Realize that there is a (hopefully not intended) underline meaning: "I am the reference point 14 RFD 190 Summer 2022

and it’s up to you to catch up. If you try harder it get’s better, if you don’t it’s your fault!" • Realize that Language Minority Faeries may not be able to talk in English 100% correctly like you. Be patient. Especially if you're talking sensitive issues, when both feel confused, upset, angry or hurt about what the other one said. Realize that in such situations you tend to talk more quickly (like a "machine gun") in dialect/slang, whilst the Language Minority Faerie’s ability to talk in English tends to gets worse. Which makes the language gap wider and the communication finally sucks. Don’t interrupt the Language Minority Faerie, who may get even more confused while trying to talk in English. When you feel hurt by what the other one said: Realize that Language Minority Faeries may use certain words in another meaning than you, not knowing the specific meaning you expect them to know in a certain context. • Don't say "Talking in heart circles in mother’s languages is enough inclusion." Would you stay in a heart circle till the end if each Language Minority Faerie did share in one’s mother’s language and you’d understand nothing? And whilst heart circles are about listening with the heart, there are situations where understanding the other one is needed (e.g. discussions, workshops, decision processes). • If you don't speak any foreign language: You're invited to learn one. It widens your horizons. Foreign languages usually come with foreign cultures. It may also help you to understand how hard it is for Language Minority Faeris to learn English. • If you learn a foreign language: You're invited to use it. Talk to Faeries, who's mother's language your foreign language is, in this language. To practice. And to show respect for the Language Minority Faerie. If they switch to English for you, encourage them to stay in their mother's language and stand your own insecure feelings not being 100% accurat. It helps you to understand how Language Minority Faeries feel about English. Be more brave: Talk in the foreign language in circles and ask a Faerie (who's mother's language it is) to translate into English. You may wonder how different the translation is from what you tried to express. It may help you to understand how Language Minority Faeries feel when they talk in English.

What can we all together do for inclusion of Language Minority Faeries: • All Faeries: Put language minority inclusion as topic on the Faerie agenda and keep it up! Awareness needs reminding to finally make a change. • Gathering organizer: Point out as a mantra "Talk slowly and avoid dialect/slang!" Faeries have good intentions, but tend to forget. It helps if we use such a mantra. Like e.g. the mantra "Wash your hands!" for the sake of hygiene does help a lot. • Gathering organizer: When starting a round of names and pronouns, invite Faeries to add one's mother's language. It makes it obvious how many different mother's languages are in the gathering,how diverse attendees may be about it. • Workshop facilitator: Invite Language Minority Faeries to speak first. Often it's English Native Faeries who start to explain their point of view. Language Minority Faeries may feel "everything has already been expressed in 100% perfect English, which I can never reach, so I better stay quiet." Make sure Language Minority Faeries can express themselves without interruption. They may get confused and loose their ability to talk. Offer a talking stick. When setting a time limit, don’t say (e.g.)

"the entrance omen greeted me," by Chris Moody.

"Each Faerie gets three minutes!" Whilst English Native Faeries can easily say what they want, Language Minority Faeries need to translate what they feel or think into English, which needs more time. Better say (e.g.) "English Native Faeries get three minutes, Language Minority Faeries get four minutes." • Whilst in some gatherings (e.g. in USA) English Native Faeries may be the big majority, it's not the case everywhere, e.g. not in Europe. As gathering organizer: Ask in the registration form for mother's language. It may be that a relative majority of attendees speak another mother's language than English. For example, of 30 attendees: 10 French, 5 English, 5 Spanish, 4 German, 3 Dutch, 2 Italian, 1 Polish (mother's language). If so, use French as first language. Provide main informations first in French and in a second round in English (and then, if needed, in other languages). English Native Faeries can experience how it feels not always to be the first, the need to wait, while questioning "What did they say? Did I get everything right?" These ideas are just a start. There may be more and better ideas? Let us work together to make Faerie space inclusive for Language Minority Faeries!

RFD 190 Spring 2022 15

16 RFD 190 Summer 2022

"inner guru," by blackbird.

MAGIC WORDS on an Inuit theme

In the very earliest times, when both people and animals lived on earth, a PERSON could become an ANIMAL if he wanted to and an ANIMAL could become a HUMAN BEING. Sometimes we were PEOPLE and sometimes ANIMALS and there was no difference -- all spoke the same, the UNIVERSAL TONGUE. That was a time when WORDS were like MAGIC. The mind had MYSTERIOUS POWERS, and a word uttered by chance might have CONSEQUENCES. It would suddenly COME ALIVE and what people wanted to happen COULD HAPPEN -all you had to do was SAY IT. Nobody could explain it. That’s just the way it was. It’s one of those old things that has been forgotten, LOST the way a pebble drops from the hand of a child. How can we find it again to make things happen that we want to happen, HEAL the sick, FEED the hungry, HOUSE the homeless, and HELP the suffering? How to find the syllables buried deep within us, the MAGIC WORDS, TO LIVE IN PEACE WITH THE ANIMALS AGAIN? —Edward Field

RFD 190 Spring 2022


Poet Edward Field and the Magic of Words by Franklin Abbott

Poet Edward Field will turn 98 on his next birthday, June 7th. He still lives in the studio he shared with his partner of over forty years, Neil Derrick, who died four years ago. It is in the Westbeth Artist Community in Greenwich Village, NYC. When I spoke with him this week we talked about his long life. He says, “I’ve done everything I needed to do.” He is working on his collected poems with his literary executor. He says, “last year I wondered if I would see the leaves in the trees again.” He was pleased to see another Springtime. Edward walks a mile every day and goes to a park where he says he stops to chat at every bench. He still maintains his home though he doesn’t cook like he did when Neil was alive. Neil was blind and Edward cared for him for years, “I was always so busy taking care of him.” He chose devotion over celebrity although he is one of our most celebrated living poets. Field was introduced to poetry through a volume of poems he was given while he was in the service in the Second World War. He flew over thirty missions over enemy held territory and says it was because of his skill at math he was the flight navigator. He has written about his experiences and been honored as one of the last distinguished veterans of World War II. He has written many volumes of poetry, memoir and with his partner, Neil Derrick, wrote the novel The Villagers about life in Greenwich Village. He recently narrated an animated film made by his niece about his time as a flight navigator, Minor Accident of War. His poem, “Magic Words,” was inspired by a book he wrote on the stories collected by Knud Rasmussen, the Greenlandic-Danish explorer and anthropologist who was the first European to cross the Northwest Passage by dog sled. Rasmussen was especially interested in the Intuit People who lived in Greenland. He learned their language and collected their stories and myths. Edward was hired to take Rasmussen’s translations and write them in English. He said several of the stories inspired him to write poetry. One of his favorites is the story that inspired “Magic Words.” I asked Edward what is a magic word. “Poetry,” he says, “for me all the words in my poems are magic words because they come from somewhere else. The way the first words come out is very significant.” Edward still practices yoga every day. He says 18 RFD 190 Summer 2022

yoga has an erotic component for him. To strengthen his legs, he does what he calls his “ass exercises,” modified squats while holding on to a chair. He says his life is full of ghosts, almost everyone from his generation is gone. And yet he continues to move through life, enjoy conviviality with neighbors, work on new poems when the magic words come to him. his books of poetry include: Icarus (1963) Stand Up, Friend, With Me (Grove Press, 1963) Variety Photoplays (Grove Press, 1967) Eskimo Songs and Stories (Delacorte Press, 1973) A Full Heart (Sheep Meadow Press, 1977) Stars in My Eyes (Sheep Meadow Press, 1978) The Lost, Dancing (Watershed Tapes, 1984) New And Selected Poems (Sheep Meadow Press, 1987) Counting Myself Lucky, Selected Poems 1963– 1992 (Black Sparrow, 1992) A Frieze for a Temple of Love (Black Sparrow Books, 1998) Magic Words (Harcourt Brace, 1998) After The Fall: Poems Old and New (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2007)

Photograph by Bill Maynes.

Words On a T-shirt by ronald madson

“Fuck you, you fuck,” emblazoned across a Tshirt, available on Canal Street, is not as controversial as it used to be. Words are power. “And the word was made flesh and dwelt amongst us.” Pretty clear that the Christian God is a word. Written or spoken, words have caused wars, suffering, murder, suicide, peace, comfort and enlightenment; even creation, “Let there be light.” Over my life, I have sworn oaths and curses. I have wielded words meant to confront, even crush. I have crooned words of healing, tenderness, love, devotion and seduction. The sexiest word in the world is “Yes,” the most crushing, “No.” Context is everything. Following are some words I have worn on my chest: “Remember That You Will Die,” written black on red fabric, the title of a 2010 exhibit at the Ruben Museum. The Buddhists make no bones about it. Wearing that shirt was an adventure in confrontation. Many of my friends found it off putting. People in the street who took notice were of two minds, a gasp or a smirk. I had to stop wearing it. I worried that it was dangerously invitational in this age of guns, thoughts and prayers. Christians love violence. Martyrdom being their favorite. But the two founders were not averse to urging its use. Jesus, in Luke 12:48 said the unfaithful servant should be cut in half. Opps, newer versions change that to ‘punished harshly.’ Paul hungers for his opponents to castrate themselves in Galatians 5:12. That is right up St. Augustine’s anti sex alley. They both probably magnetized it to their refrigerator doors. Now weren’t those pieces of scripture special. Read in a different context, they deliver a different message. Leviticus should be decontaminated with a new context. My teaching assignment of thirty years was at a feeder school for the junior high school a block away. A few years after I came out publicly, three students decided to harass me while I waited for the bus. They upped that to a death threat after a few days of being ignored. I finally recognized the leader

as a former student. He was so off my radar that I hardly remembered him. My then principal and I went through class photo albums until we found his picture. My boss decided to notify the parents in writing to leave a paper trail. We requested they speak to their son about respect and consequences to threats. His sister, one of our sixth graders, was asked to take the sealed letter home. Time was of the essence. I did not want to end up on a slab because of some stupid fourteen year olds. The next morning she reported her brother had been given a beating. She smiled as she told me. Was he a bully to her? Not the consequences I believe in but out of my hands. Too many of our kids, even today, are being damned by a parent, “I’d rather see you dead,” doomed to a living hell, being shunned, or sent to survive on the streets. A friend lived tortured by his father who scorned him after he came out. Another admonished by his mother not to touch his brother. Both fled their homes as soon as they graduated high school. Our children still have a homeless and suicide rate out of proportion to the general population. Before cell phones, if a teen had disappeared onto the streets they became a statistic. Many still do. Things are better. We have agencies and support systems. Our kids can see something of themselves in the present culture. Books, TV and movies value LGBTQ content. We no longer end up being dead or broken at the end of every story. Except for the religious, conservative zealots, parents are more ready to support and protect their LGBTQ children. Words put into action have improved our lives. “You have a right to clothing, food, shelter and medical care. Everything else is a privilege.” White poster, black letters on a powder blue Alcatraz souvenir T-shirt. When I read that to my brother in the spring of 1999 he laughed, “Sounds like home.” Home was a prison, verbal and physical volatility a daily threat. While things weren’t exactly as transparent as Alcatraz’s poster, the general gestalt was enough so that Steven recognized it immediately. RFD 190 Spring 2022


In 1977, my now lawful husband and I were together seven years. We had just bought our own home. We had decided it was time to make our orientation and relationship concretely clear to both sets of parents. Richard’s mom said she knew since he was two. His mother informed his father who remained his ever withdrawn self. My Border Line Personality mother deserves credit that when I told her I was Gay she said she had already discussed it with my sister. No negativity, unlike my father who said he didn’t believe in it. I asked him, “Am I a fiction, not real.” He said, “No, you are real.” My reply, “Then ‘IT’ is real.” He never said the word Gay. We moved on. After having told them in no uncertain words what Richard and my relationship was, I waited to receive a house-warming present, as had my three siblings. None came. You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make them drink. I retreated into our family method of dealing with hurt. I became loud about my siblings relationships getting all kinds of recognition because they could marry. The response to my ire was a check. While I believe in reparations, I sent it back noting we wanted respect not money. “If you’re not invited to a seat at the table bring your own chair.” Thank you Shirley Chisholm. When life is reduced to privilege, attention must be paid. Reparations were a factor in our suing and winning Domestic Partner benefits from NYC, the first step to Marriage Equality. Our friends with AIDS, especially Gene Sullivan, had been made outcasts. Their suffering and deaths laughed at or swept under the rug. They and we deserved recognition as human beings. We deserved compensation as a community. We deserved relief from criminalization. We deserved laws written in our favor. All humans are supposed to be created equal. If words have power, dead Ronald Regan is rotting in hell. Which leads me to: ‘’Do not think your rights are assured,” printed white letters on black cotton. That was back in pre AIDS late seventies. I bought that T in Key West. I’m pretty sure I still have it. Today, young people in particular are exploring non-binary and other ways of being. We/they can define ourselves in any way we want but must remember that we will be subject to binary laws enacted by bigots. Watch what is said and written. 20 RFD 190 Summer 2022

They mean to expand their harm to enhance their fascist power. Bible bigots and their purchased politicians still pound at our community especially our families. Texas is passing legislation to imprison parents who seek medical validation for their transgender children. Florida is so low they are going to war about the mere saying Gay in school. I have been very vocal about its harm to our kids and families. The historical precedent of initially devaluing families and children in schools has shown dire consequences for many communities around the world, throughout history. On two different Gay Senior sites, men have taken me to task for making too much of it. I thought we were past the time of minimizing the impact of bigotry. I thought we were past the time of fantasized safety by distancing ourselves; ‘kids grow up, I survived’. I thought we had educated our community past internalized homophobia; to recognize then resist the closet of second-class citizenship. WE HAVE NOT. Some would like to dismiss those minimizers for their age. Old dogs may not learn new tricks but human beings need to speak for a present that creates a better future for our progeny. Bodies may falter but determination for a better world should not. Trivialized or dismissive thinking perpetuates a system that codifies oppression. Our concerns are intersectional (A $10 word as I would say to my students). Our efforts are universal. If we make Black Lives matter, than Trans, lives will too. Like women fighting to help our sisters recognize patriarchal oppression, we need to work within our own ever-expanding definition of community to remind ourselves that No Ones Rights Are Assured. What is done to one community ultimately effects every community. What is done for one human being can be done for all. At the same time, even oppressed communities have branches that believe we are deserving of discrimination. Love the sinners, hate the sin is the biggest lie Christians tell themselves to mask their own Biblically encouraged malice. Christians are not the only ones who justify subjugation with ancient writings. My ex sister in law and my oldest sister turned conservative Christian and wall building Trumpsters. States have on their dockets legislation to allow doctors and hospitals the right to refuse to treat LGBTQ people. In the face of these ongoing and earlier attacks, I asked both women if they supported the politicians who advanced these laws, knowing they could bring death in the case of the medical refusal.

When my sister blocked me. I pursued her. I demanded an answer. Her response was that she didn’t want drama in her life. She would always love me. The wall she erected between us amplified that equivocation. The former sister in law, who I knew since we were teens, blocked me after I persisted in demanding an answer on her Facebook memes. My challenging her entreaties of love made her go over the edge. Silence has a loud echo in hollow hearts. The solution to their unwillingness to address our dichotomy was to avoid the cause of the conundrum by ending all discussion. Patricia and Linda’s protestations effectively are a later day rejection. Except I have assigned them the loss. Dwelling

"Write All Over," by Jim Jackson.

on equivocated love, an act with family history, had become too high a toll to pay. I didn’t always have that strength to let abusers go. I needed to rethink about family who profess love but value theocratic and political rhetoric over my human right to an unmolested life. Abuse takes many forms. So does healing. I’m a privileged, white, pagan, recovered-Catholic, male. The gift of being Gay has enhanced my awareness of what privilege means. My words have always been my weapon of choice. I want my epitaph to read, “I gave ulcers, I didn’t get them.” T-shirts are clothes. Their printed words are most powerful when the wearer joins them to action. Remember that;………..you too will die.

RFD 190 Spring 2022


Li Jun

by Stephen Othan

Grayscale thumbnail, a portrait of Li Jun in a raincoat hood. The stiff fabric drew sharp angles over forehead and one eye, made black caves either side of the unsmiling face. This glowing man amid a smattering of faceless profiles, my month’s free trial, Match.com. With the discipline of my capstone essays, I launched an online dating project winter break of senior year, six weeks at home that dark winter 2010. I surveyed Gay.com and Adam4Adam entranced, repelled, ruminated on the budding Grindr, which I could not try unless I ceased my ethical holdout against smartphones. Match seemed the old person’s gold standard, for the grown-up relationship I craved even while I probed that spring of young desire in my body. He studied architecture. This was his fifth month in the US. At the end of one of his brief, cold responses, he left in breathtaking caps and unadorned the one word, TOP. We met in the atrium of the U’s architecture building on a windy night. How tall he was and lamppost-thin, the hair (hidden in his profile beneath that raincoat hood) long and black with dyed waves glowing copper. He had been doing homework—“Just math,” he said, and we walked out. I fluttered like a bird with him, wove out elaborate questions to his quiet answers, and the nervousness of thinking he might hate me I called budding love. On the open bridge above the Mississippi, I asked about the sunsets that he saw on this, his daily walk from class, watched the dark river surging between blue ice banks and shook waiting for a hand against my back. He bought Gatorade and chips at a little grocery past campus, and on the final walk towards his apartment he asked his only question of the night: “Are you bottom or top?” My lips slackened. That porcelain-clear face gazed straight ahead. “Bottom,” and I felt his natural silence then press into me, my heart increasing, the cold air grown wet on my upper lip. As Li Jun transferred the groceries to one hand and settled his warm arm on my shoulder, I felt strength rise in me. “But I don’t want to do anything right now. Can we go slow?” and Li Jun held me possessively against him in a way that made me brazen, independent, wild bird launched from a sturdy tree. I left without kissing him, without embracing, bursting in my 22 RFD 190 Summer 2022

blood-red power. We met again, a Tuesday when he had no class in an art museum’s nigh empty galleries. Docents lounged in folding chairs while we stalked abstract canvases, a row of nesting woven baskets, enormous fiberglass statue of a bright white cartoon dog. I flitted, warbled questions that he didn’t answer, and his indifference confirmed the repulsiveness I feared within myself, that he would pass me by as he passed this art by. Then I brushed my fingers down his arm, and like a light switched on I next felt hands against my back, and then the video chamber where dark footage reeled and Li Jun pressed my clenched hand to his groin. I drove us across the city in near silence, and at Li Jun’s apartment block in the bright sun my heart opened with the rows of brickwork ivy-wound, snow-decked quiet and enclosed, and that beauty perfumed my fear and my unwieldly lust. I would do nothing with which I was not comfortable, and I knew just what would happen and I craved it desperately. The apartment was filthy, rank sweat stink, men lived here amid plastic packaging and fallen clothes. Li Jun had my hand, then to my left I saw another young man’s retreating back hurrying behind a door—“Is that okay?” My voice was hushed. “Should we find a different place?” But Li Jun pulled me past a half-wall partitioning the larger space to make a bedroom. I saw strewn papers and old food, a raised-up mattress bared of sheets. Perfect stacks of books draped with his clothes, a brilliant shining window with its blinds drawn horizontal so the sun raced through and revealed everything in bars. My host vanished and I sat childlike on that raw mattress. The contents of my mind collapsed into blunt categories (stay or flee, the pious prude, the man, the want and fear, the end of life), and the permeating body-smells already had begun in me the work of sex—you can decide. Breathe in, Stephen, and you choose—but I’m already here, and this is normal when you’re twenty-one, and no-sexbefore-love for other gay guys is reversed, and you’re more scared than you are principled, Stephen, and I replayed that roommate’s thin, receding back, him calling home at night complaining of Li Jun and of

the boys he cycled through at the front window, the latest fluttering fag, he looked damn scared. Li Jun worked silently upon my body, moved it one limb then another like a dog being taught to shake who does not know that he should lift the paw until the human tugs—the jointed leg bends here, lower the shoulders this way till they collapse. You trust this architect, you his armature, and you quiver from the cold and strain, Stephen, you pack down in the center of your body where you want a man to force you since you fear to go yourself, and I can see the hatred brewing in you even as you yield—that he was hairless and so less than a real man, pieces of his body delicate (although the glistening muscle was shockingly large), the way you wished E. coli on him in a curse until he vanished back to crouch by one of the piles on the floor and search it frantically. You traced his angles angrily persistent and the still blank face and knew that you could fall in love with him, that you could be the life that blossomed out from Li Jun’s solid soil, and he could build you shelters with that arched, brave body that revealed its silent soul. I held the shape obediently till he found the condom, gave it to me mute to do my bottom duty. With it I anointed him a little god and then reared back my neck to stare vertically into superior eyes. A bridge, two continents, penultimate movement of our dance the final eighteen, nineteen minutes we would spend in one another’s presence the remainder of our lives, but the anticipation done, already I felt separate. The mattress left quilt patterns on my body, and was it bare in an attempt to clean for me, or to keep his bedclothes clean of me, or for some other private reason that I could not name? I stared at books and clothes and the stale food, and you chose this, Stephen. Wild, free, and young means this, so love this, Stephen. Choose the good things to construct your memory. Feel into your body for the pleasure there in this cold room, in love with your own powerlessness, and then you feel inside a solid pop. The condom has popped. It has broken. Oh God. God, “Stop,” the first word spoken in that room in years. “The condom broke.” Li Jun fell back and I twisted like a dragon. Broken. Purple, wrinkles ironed smooth with the inflating blood, a transparent tube now open at both ends like cellophane packaging that comes away in terrible fragments at which Li Jun tugged now, rose to get another—“No,” I said, fear-dazed but still full with sick arousal. I reached out my blanched hand, took up my own too fully limp until I broke our common spell so that then rationality crashed

forward, reclaimed my limbs and mouth, and the little boy of submissive fantasies, the fluttering girlfriend, supple flower and the bird, these all left me then, and I was Rip van Winkle’s wife, cathedral-full of voices of old teachers, heterosexual sex-ed—“It broke. You hadn’t orgasmed. Was there precum? Do you make precum?” But I would have believed nothing that he said. “Have you been tested? Where is the paperwork? I need you to get tested again, today. You will do that and scan the result to send to me.” I was in my clothes, and how I hated him pulling on quietly his tight black underwear. I must be kind as well as firm. I told him, “Thank you.” I said, “I’ll call you. I’ll get a test too.” I would be fine. I had to be fine. I found that outside the apartment, the beautiful cold sun, the prim brick buildings ivyhung, nothing in the world had changed. I tore the car out from the curb. I could not stomach music. Fear’s energy bid me fly and scream, but on the highway rush hour restrained me, and I could only squeeze the steering wheel and blink to clear the visions of the virus in my blood—I shouted, “The risk is nothing at all. But look at what you did, the danger, you fool violating your own values,” and I planned my script then looped, refined, Mom, Mom, I had sex with somebody I didn’t know very well. The condom broke (and she would know then I was bottoming; I practiced bracing for that shame), so I need you to come with me, Mom, to the hospital. There’s something they can do, pap, or pep, I don’t know its name, and I was thinking of the morning five years before when she had driven me to the park (away from Dad whom I’d refused yet to tell), the disgust betrayed even as she affirmed she loved me, revealed to me with care a book wrapped in a white plastic bag—My Child is Gay. But with the grace of water, she blinked hard, reared up from the floor where I had found her sleeping. “Okay, let’s go,” and I dashed away before she could rise and hug me, quick minute’s research on the computer, then the car. I drove us back into the city, bypassed our suburban urgent care that I was sure could not have the exotic treatments I required, and at the hospital we waited in a room of people who knew not to look up each time a nurse emerged. It was after nine when they called us, and I found the panic of that afternoon had settled into a great sadness, the virus in my blood inevitable now, the bursting entrails of my white blood cells. “He hadn’t ejaculated,” I told the doctor, “but I worried. The precum.” I turned red. “And was your partner wearing a condom?” RFD 190 Spring 2022


“It broke.” How could he have believed me? And it recalls to me now a visit to another doctor, my family doctor I had known since I was eight, two weeks after this for STI testing (chlamydia and gonorrhea, HIV, and syphilis), how he had quite literally thrown his hands into the air, risen from his rolling stool, every bit of exasperation at another young person flouting common sense—“No!” I said. “We used a condom, but it broke,” and the energy of defending my dignity cost the remainder of my stores. I sunk down lower in myself. At the hospital, the doctor pondered what to say, and fear erupted then again that he would send me out with nothing. I sat straighter, shook. “I think I should have… pap. I don’t know the right word. Pap?” “A pap smear?” I reddened. I did not even know what a pap smear was, but I knew it was for women, and I sensed that I had become something like a woman, and the shame of that was the misogyny at the root of my self-loathing. It had been there on the fetid mattress when I cursed Li Jun, and in my demure messages on Match.com, in my demeaning of myself, the shame foundation of my foul desires. I could see none of that that day. To recognize and then to pick away at this old hatred, it has taken years upon the years—but now the medicine I believed I needed was jeopardized. Because of that unnamed shame I had not printed information from the website about HIV exposure, even written the name of the drug down, and that would damn me now—“No it’s pap, or pep, post-exposure—” That was enough. The doctor finished out my words. Or maybe it had nothing to do with me at all. Maybe he had been about to suggest it himself. I watched Mom taking notes on the pad she used for groceries, and I lowered my body into my knees. *** What was Li Jun’s world when he was young in China, and what had he lived in this other country? Who was Li Jun within himself, and what did we become in those brief meetings? These questions that I failed to ask—therein lies the deep unknown that I see now was everywhere in him. He was easy to rewrite, being so silent, and so I made him bad and beautiful and made him hate me as a proxy for myself, so that I see we both have used the other. With all my chirping questions, I hid my core. “Stop. It broke,” but there always was a barrier, I understand. 24 RFD 190 Summer 2022

A snowy night came in the last grim days of the old year. The whole family went together to a restaurant for my sister’s birthday, and we had left home without the enormous blue chalk pills that I was taking now each day. Through the long meal and the birthday song, the anxiety grew thick in me, the virus surging through the paper walls. I’ll wake tomorrow with the fever and the aching throat that I was checking myself for hourly. The roads were terrible, the driving slow, and my sister and I laughed there in the car like I was another person cast out of this polluted body. When we at last arrived, I raced into the house and downed my pill. I hid the bottle behind the microwave to not remind my parents what I’d done. Anxiety appeased, I dropped into my furious despair. I pulled back on my coat and boots and went into the snowing night. I walked streetlamp to streetlamp, watched the quiet stream of flakes through the orange light, and I asked God, God what do I have to do to not get sick? Please let me be safe. It was not difficult to believe in God in such a darkened mind, in such a beautiful winter’s darkening night. I understood that I believed in an essential badness in me. I believed that I was doomed to the disease, to loneliness, annihilation. In daylight, in the counsel of good friends, I could tell myself infection was nearly impossible, and that even if I were infected that would not mean death, because medicine forever was improving, and HIV can be managed well, and stigmas change (and you are at the beginning of challenging your own, Stephen), and I could live a full, long life regardless. But my certainty of doom would never heed the logically small risk. I insisted that I must get sick because I was the kind of person who deserved such sickness as the natural reflection of what I already embodied—you let the virus finish off the job, you queer, and when I later had the blessed all-clear, that doom sought out another target. Doom still tries to chase me down. I telephoned Li Jun day upon day. He would get his test on Monday, he said. “You can’t go any earlier?” Soon he stopped answering my calls. I never found out the results of his HIV test, and I kept screaming at a silent face. There was another doctor’s visit, at the end of the six-week diarrheic run of pills. I was back at school then, and on a Saturday I drove up to a sexual health center in the city. I felt stronger then. I could talk about Li Jun with an ironic laugh. I recognized the privilege to afford that medicine I had been overly cautious to request.

“One good thing that came of this,” I told the doctor, “was I found out his true colors. He’s not a person I want to be in a relationship with.” The doctor frowned. She was blond, tall, perhaps the same age as some of my young professors. “Don’t judge him too quickly,” she advised. “In my experience, people get really emotional about these issues. Wait a while and see. He might be as anxious as you have been.” I agreed with her, but privately I felt I knew. His architect, to soothe my pain I’d built a hatred for

"ONONONO," by Jim Jackson.

Li Jun with gray cathedral spires. I would send one final text when the result came through. Then we would have the end of one another. Years later, I realized we were connected still on Facebook. I read his few old posts one day. He had moved to New York. He had studied fashion. In 2015, his final post, I found sketches of sleek, modern dresses, shoulders that rose in spikes of fabric on a faceless mannequin. Someone had commented on one of these photographs: “We miss you, Li Jun!” and Li Jun had liked the comment, though he had not replied.

RFD 190 Spring 2022 25

Trick or Treat by Daniel Schoener

Halloween—Freddy hated it. All that plastic in front yards, pumpkin coffee, beer and hand cream, as if the world was running out of ideas of how to make the climate heat up faster through unnecessary commercial shit. He never liked kids either and now they’ll be coming to his door asking for trick or treat. Hadn’t had a trick himself in months because of the pandemic, why should he play along with that? Not to mention the risk of catching COVID-19 from one of these foul monsters. He comes back to the house after his neighborhood walk, takes his mask off, grabs a beer, sits down on the sofa, turns the TV on. A loud fart is the start of his dull evening program watching fox news and football. Jimmy is slightly amused, Tiktok has really geared up to be a Halloween parade of ghosts, gremlins and the living dead. The latest video of him drinking cranberry juice while dressed as a black witch with a broom on a playground swing with Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams” running just hit the 100,000 likes mark. Not that his self esteem depended on peoples validation of his posts on social media, but right this minute after a long work day he really welcomes an instant gratification fix. The finance world is again in turmoil, rising infections rates mixed in with the upcoming election provide for a toxic global wall street cocktail that not even the most experienced fund managers know how to handle. It’s literally been lunatic in the home office. He got up at three AM to confer with his colleagues in China and has been on zoom calls non-stop since. His boss at some point actually shouted at him in front of the team, because he had not been able to rebalance some of the high reward mutual funds before the stock markets took a 10% plunge. Yes, he could have seen this one coming, but that fast? He has another drag of his vape, flips to Uber Eats on his phone and is about to go back into the house to think about dinner. Something catches his attention. He sometimes couldn’t help but pay attention to the old grumpy neighbor across the street, especially when he was in the yard mowing the lawn or raking leaves. Despite his gray hair and long beard Mr. Smith seemed reasonably fit taking care of his garden in fluid motions. There was something erotic about seducing a grumpy old man into hot passionate love and bringing the kindness and tenderness to 26 RFD 190 Summer 2022

the surface that must be sleeping underneath. He’d often wondered whether he should just chat him up randomly, but then didn’t know how to handle the possible awkwardness and rejection that might ensue. The Trump sign on the lawn was certainly an obstacle, and Jimmy was anyway more of a thinker than a doer. Most of his Grindr chats lead nowhere because the conversations either died or became too complicated very quickly. Almost all of the windows across the street were dim but on the ground floor, he could see Mr. Smith in his living room watching television and slowly moving his left arm up and down while occasionally taking a sip of his beer with his right. Without knowing why he puts on the black wig that had been hanging of the door knob since last night and walks across the dark street heading straight to the window as if on autopilot. Ahh, there’s nothing better than a cold beer, the Patriots leading late in the second half and that nice feeling of an upcoming release after a long boring day. Freddy puts some more lube on his floppy but hardening prick and gently rubs it in to sooth the expanding electric itch. When the YMCA was still open before the pandemic he always loved to linger around the showers and the steam room showing off his sizeable parts while all of the young jocks were just pouring in from their evening workout. Occasionally he would catch one or the other of them eyeing at him carefully with slowly burning curiosity. Nothing ever happened but Freddy kept fantasizing about the soft skin on those beautifully tones bodied. He takes another drag of his Harpoon IPA hoping to kick the bubbly buzz in his head a notch higher, strokes a little harder and leans back ready to shoot a million white tadpole rockets to the moon and watch them fly. But suddenly something’s off, a strange vibe is in the air. A gust of wind knocks the shutters against the window and as he turns to it he sees a black silhouette outside peeking in and then disappear. Not even putting his pants back on he runs over to the window, his cock dangling from side to side like a baton as he moves. Adrenalin pumps through Jimmy’s veins and his ears are ringing in shock. He wasn’t even able to put his cock back in his house-pants when he stepped over into the shadows between the two windows.

Then the left one opens and his old neighbor looks at him straight in the eye and then down. There is no way to explain and no reason to - it’s simply not possible to hide his murderous boner as he is fighting for words “I, I, I. Mr Smith, it’s, ah, I am really sorry.”. Freddy just says: “Come in, boy, you must be catching a cold out there. And get that beast back

"meanders" by artboydancing.

into its cage. We’ll take care of that in a minute”. And this is how Halloween 2020 will always come up even years later long into their marriage when new friends are surprised that they are a couple and want to know how they had met. “It was Halloween 2020.” Jimmy will say. “Trick or treat.” Freddy will say and they’ll both shine with a smile.

RFD 190 Spring 2022


Two Words Changed My Life by Bob Henry aka Smiley

My first Radical Faerie gathering in 1981 was magical, as I reported in issue #188 of RFD. In the first half of the 1980s, I was in a group of twelve gay men in Tucson, AZ, which met every Sunday night for dessert and mutual support; similar to a Faerie Heart Circle. While everybody was interested in hearing about Radical Faeries, one man was very excited by the concept. A weekend gathering held at Madre Grande, CA in the summer of 1984, fit my schedule so I invited PB and his partner, DJ, to accompany me. PB was eager to go and persuaded DJ to accompany us. When PB and DJ picked me up to drive to the gathering, there was a fourth man in the car. With a pained expression, PB explained that he was one of DJ’s “Bunnies”. OK, that was no big surprise. But the Bunny was no dummy! During the drive, he railed about the failure of the federal government to deal with the AIDS crisis. Significantly, President Reagan had yet to utter the word “AIDS”. This was the era of Jerry Falwell, Anita Bryant and others on the Christian Right who worked to suppress the burgeoning gay liberation movement. At Gay Pride parades in the 1980s, it was common to see hecklers carrying signs stating “AIDS is the cure for homosexuality”. It did not help that the CDC coined the acronym, “4-H”, to identify persons who were most likely to get AIDS: “homosexuals, heroin users, hemophiliacs, and Haitians”. At the Madre Grande campsite, we set up our tents and prepared for the weekend. The next morning I had two unpleasant surprises! Across the meadow, I noticed several faeries hanging up their sleeping bags and nightwear to dry. I was puzzled because it had not been a hot night. Then I realized that these men had night sweats due to AIDS! HIV infection had not been identified yet in Tucson, but now I was in the midst of gay men infected with the AIDS virus. Because encounters at the gathering could become sexual, that was scary. Then I got my second surprise! DJ informed me that PB had “freaked-out” and driven to San Diego, with a promise to return at the end of the gathering. After dropping this bomb, he and the Bunny disappeared for the remainder of the gathering. After nearly forty years, my memories about the gathering’s events are faint- except for one! The 28 RFD 190 Summer 2022

Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence held a “Safe-Sex” workshop at twilight in a rocky area away from the view of non-participants. The Sisters’ “Safe-Sex” recomendation was mutual masturbation with no oral or anal contact —no kissing, no nothing! I knew this made sense! I was finally forced to accept that my— everyone’s—sexual activity had to change because this fatal disease was spreading silently among us. This Faerie gathering had become a real downer! On the last evening, I met a handsome, welldressed man with that 1980’s gay-clone look: very non-Faerie! He worked in the pharmaceutical industry and our conversation soon turned to the AIDS epidemic. To my surprise, he told me that there was a blood test in development that would detect antibodies to the HIV-AIDS virus in donated blood and plasma. It could also be used to test people to see if they were infected. It was called the “ELISA Test”. Wow! Those were words that I never expected to hear at a Faerie gathering! They were words that I believed would have a major impact on dealing with the AIDS epidemic. I did not anticipate that AIDS and the ELISA Test would have a significant impact on me. When I came out very quietly in 1979, I was a physician and faculty member at the U of AZ College of Medicine. I was also Chief of the small radioisotope imaging department at the Tucson VA hospital. One of my first gay friends, AO, recruited me to help him with an all-volunteer STD clinic he was trying to establish. Our patients were gay men who were unable or unwilling to obtain STD services at a private physician’s office or the County Health Department. By 1984, the clinic was called TALHA (Tucson Alternative Lifestyle Health Association) and was held every Friday evening in a South Tucson “free clinic” facility. TALHA was staffed entirely by volunteers but had substantial “behind the scenes” support from the Pima County Health Department. I scanned the news daily hoping for information about the peculiarly-named ELISA test (EnzymeLinked Immuno Sorbent Assay). On March 2, 1985, the ELISA test was approved in the United States for HIV-detection in blood. A week later the TALHA steering committee met and agreed that we could serve the local gay community by providing

the ELISA test at our weekly clinic. I met with the head physician at the Tucson Red Cross chapter and discovered that he was eager for us to take on this responsibility. Red Cross leaders were worried that high-risk people would donate blood just to learn their HIV status. Infected people gaming the blood donor system would further endanger the safety of blood transfusions! By summer 1985, at each weekly TALHA clinic, we drew blood on four persons and took the blood samples to the local Red Cross for anonymous HIV testing. We were limited to four a night because each person had lengthy pre-test counseling conducted by a trained volunteer before their blood sample was drawn. When the men returned a week later to receive their test results, the “positives” had lengthy post-test counseling. The testing counselor had very busy and sometimes stressful Friday evenings. In April 1985, Tucson Lesbian and Gay Pride Committee (TLGPC) volunteers met to plan a forum about AIDS Awareness to be held during the upcoming Gay Pride celebrations. One attendee was a frail young man named Newton-John Skinner, a professional actor from New York. Because he had AIDS, Skinner had moved to Tucson to be cared for by his widowed father. He was adamant that we do more than give speeches about AIDS prevention. He predicted that we would soon have many people in our community who needed support for legal, financial, transportation, and personal needs. He convinced us to let him make an appeal at our upcoming Gay Pride presentation. Skinner told the audience that he had AIDS and with his skills as an actor, his presentation at the AIDS Awareness forum was a stunner! It generated articles in the Tucson newspapers and mobilized volunteers who were eager to help! A week later, I met with a group of TLGPC members and others and the Tucson AIDS Project (TAP) was created with me as its “Director”. Over the following months, more volunteers with varied backgrounds and skills joined the project to raise money and provide services to people with AIDS. And provide services, they did! At the twoyear point, TAP obtained grant funding to hire an Executive Director, a Case Manager, and an Office Secretary, full-time for one year. I was very happy to relinquish the “Director” responsibility and take a position on the Board. The new Executive Director managed TAP for 10 more years until it merged with two other AIDS organizations to form the Southern Arizona AIDS Foundation. 1985 held other surprises for me. While telling Photograph courtesy author.

my elderly parents about my volunteer activity, I came out to them as gay. In response, my father shifted his monthly donations from Catholic charities to TAP. On October 2nd, Rock Hudson died of AIDS. The Tucson NBC-TV affiliate requested me, as TAP’s leader, to appear on the ten o’clock news, live from my living room. They requested I comment on how the death of this admired celebrity would stimulate the federal government to approve desperately-needed funding for AIDS research and treatment. I did it knowing that it was wishfulthinking—it took a LOT of LGBTQ activism on numerous fronts to break through the resistance of Reagan and his conservative government. Conservatives called AIDS “the Gay Plague”. Because of that trope, I assumed that my appearance in numerous AIDS-related TV-news spots and newspaper articles marked me as GAY to everybody in Tucson. I was OUT! My participation in AIDS and Gay community volunteerism in the 1980s was a period of huge personal growth! I discovered that I had organisational skills and that being gay and out really didn’t matter! I acquired a Masters in Public Health degree and moved up to higher administrative posts within the VA Healthcare system. Eventually, I retired but I’m still here, singing Bass with the Palm Springs Gay Men’s Chorus and volunteering at the Palm Springs Cultural Center! And lest I forget, I reunited with Radical Faeries at a Breitenbush Hot Springs gathering in 2004. I was back!

RFD 190 Spring 2022


The Word That Shattered the Wall by Caitlyn Fragosa

I didn’t notice the wall when I was a young child. knew I shouldn’t. I knew it was wrong. If I wanted to How could I, when it was just the way things were? be a boy, I couldn’t have any of that. You don’t notice that maroon, sepia, or aquamarine For some people, the realization can take years to are distinct colors until someone gives them names. sink in. Not for me. The first time I heard the word There was no reason to suspect that anything was transgender, it was as if a bell had goen off in my off. I was a normal five-year-old boy, as far as anysoul. That was me. That was what I was! Suddenly, one—myself included—was concerned. How was I all the things I had been feeling had a name. They supposed to know that nobody—myself included— weren’t just disparate faults that I had: the desire to could see me for who I actually was behind the be cute, to wear girl clothes, to have long hair, to be image they had pasted over me? a part of girly sleepovers. For the first time, I could I didn’t think that I had any trouble connectsee my experience as distinct from other boys and ing with people emotionally. It didn’t strike me as girls. And with that came the crushing understandodd in the slightest that I was much closer to my ing that I was not one of them. I was different and I mother and grandmother than I was to my father was isolated. or grandfather. That was normal, after all; women This was a time before the concept of transgenwere expected to be more involved in child rearing der people had become publicly well-known, and I while men were presumed to be distant. Nor did was too young to look for help on my own. I would it feel unusual that my closest have to tell someone: a parent, friends in school were girls. or a school counselor, or a docJust because boys were better— tor. “I’m transgender. I want to so everything had taught me to be a girl.” It would be the easibelieve—didn’t mean I couldn’t est thing in the world. In one I lived in this be friends with girls. I knew I moment my life would change, bubble, never wasn’t one of them and they and I sat perched on that mofeeling like one of didn’t see me as one of them ment for another twelve years. the boys but unable and at the time that didn’t seem I was terrified to say the like a problem. word out loud. My mental to be a girl. Nor did I have any reason to health got worse as I started doubt the person I wanted to going through puberty and be: a boy who lived up to all the watched all these other girls expectations placed on him. I get to be pretty and hang out was always very careful to toe the line; even though with their girl friends. They got to be seen for who most of my friends were girls, I was very careful not they really were. They knew how to act feminine, to do anything girly that could get me judged. I’d and how to relate to each other emotionally. But I learned my lesson when my parents told my fourcouldn’t say it. If my parents, or my school counselyear-old self that I couldn’t have long hair because it or, or my doctor rejected my claim it would destroy was for girls. And I was a normal boy, safely part of me. I was dead certain that anyone I told would rethe in-group, so I’d been taught how to act accordject my claim. So I lived in this bubble, never feeling ingly. like one of the boys but unable to be a girl. Come middle school, the differences between The very first hole in the wall, just barely large boys and girls became much more pronounced. enough for someone to see inside, came from my Suddenly, I wasn’t able to make friends with girls high school girlfriend. She knew I was depressed to anymore. For the first time, I felt stuck behind a the point of frequently breaking down into tears and barrier. I could watch the girls in my life be cute begged me to tell her why. I tried to tell her. I tried and happy, but I couldn’t get past the surface and be my hardest, but no sound came out when I opened part of that experience. For some reason, that made my mouth. Still, I was a writer even then. I scribbled my heart ache. I wanted what they had for myself. I out a note explaining my feelings and folded it 30 RFD 190 Summer 2022

up, handing it over and begging her not to read it until she was far away and I didn’t have to see her reaction. The next day, she returned to school and greeted me with a hug, promising to support me no matter what. I broke down in happy tears. Even if I couldn’t say it out loud, I had someone I could trust with the truth. She saw me for who I wanted to be. Not long after, my mother drove me to a secluded spot in the middle of nowhere and demanded to know why I was so depressed. I tried to tell her, but no sound came out when I opened my mouth. I scribbled out an explanation on the notepad she carried in her purse. Her support following that was only half-measures. I could have girl clothes, but wasn’t allowed to wear anything too distinctly feminine out of the house. And I was still too afraid of how the public would react to test the boundaries of that restriction. I had dipped my toes into girlhood but was too afraid to take the plunge. University was more progress, but even harder emotionally. I found the courage to dress like a girl in public, and to my relief nobody in the small, conservative university took issue with it. But when it came time to give my name and pronouns in front of class or as part of the queer support group, I choked. Every time. I don’t know why people thought I was in the support group, but no matter how many times I told myself to just say it the words never came out. For as hard as I hammered on the wall, I couldn’t get through. People still weren’t seeing me for me. I was never going to be accepted as a girl. The wall was weathering too slowly for my liking, but there honestly felt like nothing I could do. It was still years after university before I finally went to a doctor to ask about medically transitioning. It was still a struggle to say the word transgender out loud, even at a whisper. I told no one I had gone to the doctor, not even my family. All my voice training was done in secret, while driving to and from work every day. Slowly, I started replacing whatever clothes I could with feminine counterparts: skirts, pants, underwear, shoes, et cetera. Nothing too explicitly feminine at first, but enough to make me look androgynous. Finally, after a year of socially and medically transitioning in secret, the people working drive-through lines started gendering me correctly based on my voice, and it felt like I’d finally made real progress after so many years of stalling. I had always imagined myself to be the kind of person who transitioned swiftly, then cut all ties and went through the rest of my life pretending I had been AFAB all along. And I had gone this

far without telling anyone that I was transgender. Perhaps if my family had been more financially and emotionally supportive, I would have actually gone through with that plan. But even now that I could pass as a girl full-time, I still felt it: the disconnect that had followed me for my whole life. I wasn’t like cis women, I hadn’t been raised as a girl, I didn’t have the same experiences. That divide between me and them was simply never going to go away. No matter how big the hole in the wall, I could never step through. But suddenly it wasn’t hard at all to say, “I’m transgender.” All at once, the wall was gone. I was no longer neither a boy nor a girl. I had experiences growing up that cis women couldn’t relate to, and I had experiences as an adult that cis men couldn’t relate to. Moreover, I had experiences that only other trans people—whom I had grown to meet more and more of—could relate to. Right as I was on the cusp of being able to pretend that I wasn’t trans, I was comfortable enough with it that I didn’t want to. Only by being completely, utterly honest with my experience was I able to actually step out and feel like I belonged with everyone else. I was different without being separated in the way I had been for so long. I’ve believed for a while that anything forced on a person can be oppressive, but any of those same things—if embraced freely—can be empowering. I was always afraid of being labeled as the trans girl because it would be used to separate me from cis girls. And yet, I’ve grown to feel such a sense of pride in being transgender. It affects how I interact with people and whom I chose to let remain an important part of my life. Facing down the pressure to conform to norms that didn’t suit me helped me learn that I didn’t have to fit people’s expectations of me. By not hiding my past from people, I’m able to be a lot more authentic when describing my life experiences. I’m still learning what it means to be a girl in the world. The fact remains that I didn’t have the decades of firsthand experience that cis women get. But I’m not afraid of that fact being used against me, anymore. And, as someone who had to experiment to find what is authentically me, I do have a unique perspective on gender as a whole. I don’t want to trade in one pre-approved experience for another. If I had been AFAB (assigned female at birth), or if I had committed to pretending that I was AFAB, I can’t imagine feeling as empowered as I do now that I can confidently tell people, “Actually, I’m transgender.” RFD 190 Spring 2022


It Was Like a Watercolor All Over by James Champion

It was somewhere in the middle of the night. Leonard was twenty-eight, drunk, and sitting on the carpeted floor of the nursery room. Slowly, carefully, he was dismantling the baby crib he and his fiancé, Lucy, had been given (upon their engagement, his mom had insisted). He had taken off one leg and was working with a screwdriver on another. His impulses seemed delicious, excitingly foreign. His mind was unraveling backwards—a tightly-wound yarn ball coming undone. At times, between unscrewing and carefully disjointing, he would run his fingertips over the lush, soft carpet, and feel sentimental. His love for Lucy was like a stone when it was supposed to be a spear. Some things you just can’t help. Outside the nursery room window, the moon was a baldness buzzing, roaming. The sky was dark with clouds and bright with moonlight, a jellyfish skin, lit, then faded, over and over. Beyond the rows of housetops were shadowy outlines of mountains, echoing silence after silence. Three months ago, Leonard and Lucy stayed at a ski lodge on the outskirts of town with Lucy’s cousins, Charles, David, and Cassia. After they got back from the slopes, they went to the bar inside the lodge. Somehow they had convinced Lucy to have a drink, then two. In fashion with a first time drinking, she instantly was drunk. Leonard had to act annoyed and reluctant, like it was his first time drinking too. Lucy became flirtatious within twenty minutes, vomited within an hour, then turned in early. Charles, David, and Cassia decided that after they were properly disoriented, they would go to the outdoor pool and play chicken. Leonard obliged. It was twilight and the pool was surrounded by huge snowy hills, and further back, grey, jagged mountains. Steam rose all around from the turquoise surface. Charles was blonde, frail, and pensive. He went along with everything silently, a barely perceptible smile on his face. David was dark-haired, broadshouldered, and loud. He directed Charles onto his shoulders. Cassia, tall and redheaded, got on Leonard’s—they lost almost immediately. There was a laugh, a scream, a flash, then they were underwater. 32 RFD 190 Summer 2022

Charles had fallen into Leonard. Cassia had fallen backwards. Leonard felt legs. He opened his eyes underwater and saw Charles’ hand floating—they were so tangled he couldn’t locate the rest of him— just a single hand, it seemed to be proclaiming, palm upward. Leonard came up gasping. Cassia was splashing at David. David was laughing. Charles had somehow already gotten out of the pool and was jogging on his tiptoes to the dive board. When he got to the edge of the board he stopped, steam rising from him. Standing with his hand over his eyes, he surveyed the mountains. Leonard saw a hard outline wedged between Charles’ legs, and when his eyes reached Charles’ face, Charles was staring at him. One corner of his lip rose, then he dove into the pool. Leonard made his way back to the room later in the night. When he pulled the door key from his pocket, the plastic film from his cigarette package came out with it and floated to the floor. He picked it up and quickly shoved it back into his pocket. The bedside lamp was on, but Lucy was lying on the bed with her back to him. He sat down on it. “You asleep?” he said. “Where were you?” she asked. “At the pool.” He was trying to judge from her voice if she was still drunk. She turned over and peered at him, tenderly. She opened her mouth, then closed it, and squinted at him. “You look different,” she said, reaching for his hand. “What do you mean?” he said, laying down. He folded his hands over his chest and looked at the ceiling. “Just… I don’t know… different.” He laughed silently, a sharp inhale through the nostrils. “I don’t know what you mean. I’m still me. It’s still Leonard.” He leaned over and kissed her on her forehead. She smiled. Leonard had always noticed how her cheeks pushed her eyelids upward into two sideways parentheses. Her face was feline, sensual, blameless—sometimes he would look at her and feel his lips forming the word “bountiful.” “You love me. Don’t you, Len?” Lucy’s voice was delicate, almost a whisper. Leonard hesitated for a second too long. She

looked at the spot on the ceiling he was staring at, found nothing revealing in it, and turned back over, exposing her birdlike spine. He opened his mouth, but she started talking again, “Sometimes you pet me just like I’m a kitten. Do you know that?” “Lu,” he said, “You know I love you. Don’t you?” He stroked her neck, not, he hoped, like a kitten. She didn’t answer. “It hurts my feelings that you even have to ask,” he said, trying to make his voice sound offended, indignant. He turned over and tried to sleep. Now, on the nursery floor, feeling soreness in his tendons from unscrewing, Leonard could not recall what their room at the ski lodge had looked like. It was a photograph in his memory that had not developed correctly. The walls had been wooden. Had it been a cabin? There had been a painting hung precariously on the wall that, every time he’d got on the bed, was worried about knocking over. He didn’t remember what it was of. He took a deep breath and looked at the halfdisassembled crib. The nursery room was empty besides the crib, and neutral colored. A matte white, until they painted it blue or pink. It used to make Leonard grind his teeth. Now he found refuge in the neutrality. A month ago, Leonard woke up from a dream. Lucy breathed softly. Lust was not a sin. It was as human as eating, drinking, tiring. They were to marry honorably. Why had she never asked why sleeping on the same bed didn’t tempt him? He walked to the Civil War graveyard. An unkempt symbol of a country that had spent four years trying to kill itself. Shuffling briskly through the dewglossed grass, all things were fragile. Every time his foot crunched into a fallen leaf, he felt murderous. Leonard’s favorite gravestone to pay penance to was old, spear-headed, and had apparently never been repaired or replaced. There was a name, birth and death dates, an epitaph, but none of it was legible. The grass was a soft carpet. He kneeled in it reverently. He swiveled his head around. When sure he was alone, he closed his eyes. As he unzipped himself, the dead soldier’s name became visible, a headline in the sky: John Sturgis, William Lawson, Thomas Butler. He was a union soldier. He was a confederate soldier. Bled out through the thigh, bayoneted in the neck, shot through the eye. His body was irresolute. It evoked want. He wore a greyed uniform with a handsome tear in it. He was nobody.

He was every man Leonard had ever desired. When he touched himself, sometimes Leonard clutched too hard—he knew that draining his body of himself had to be painful. When he came, his cum soaked into the grass. A small death for a small death. Lovingly, tenderly, he was sacrificing his offspring to, or for, every soldier that died childless. Every time he did this, the dead soldier, his dead soldier, acquired a little more shape. Now, cross-legged on the soft carpet, every so often Leonard would stop what he was doing and stare confoundedly at the ivory-colored piece of the crib he had removed. He’d forget what to do with it. It was like he was holding a piece of his own body, one of his own bones. He remembered the night he proposed to Lucy, after the prodding and the pushing from his parents, sitting in some restaurant too expensive for them—she had been elated and started asking him questions she’d never asked before. Lucy was beautiful. He knew that. She was so beautiful it was like she wasn’t even born, it was more likely that she just wandered out of a sunny prairie one day and began living among them. Eyes dark and rich as tree trunks, hair golden as hay. The framed picture on their bedside table was of Lucy and him at their churches’ annual potluck, right after he had announced their engagement. Leonard’s smile looked like someone had stretched saran wrap over his face, a futile preservation of something false. Leonard winced silently at it every time he woke up and left their bed in the middle of the night. Weeks ago, in the middle of the night Leonard woke, looked at Lucy on the bed, and started walking to the gas station a block from their house. Halfway, he changed his mind and started for the graveyard again. It was more an impulse than a decision. His shadow ached eagerly ahead of him. The sky was a darkening grey canvas stretched thin. Distant lights shined above its fabric. Why did skies fascinate and impress him? Because they were empty. They had nothing to prove. He looked around. Under the streetlights and in the dark, as far as his vision could stretch were pine trees and mountains and hills and rivers—all swarmed in a grey mist. He wanted more. You couldn’t see all the parts separately, only how they melded and stuck together. It was like a watercolor painting all over. He hurried through the rows of headstones to his dead soldier’s. The dead soldier was becoming more real, growing a personality. He had blue eyes RFD 190 Spring 2022


now, a moustache. It looked wonderful, stately with his uniform. He was the kind of man, Leonard was sure, who was so in love with his own poetry that he would eat it. He was passionate. He could write propaganda he believed in. The headstone was a grey obelisk. It was sterile, heavy, phallic. The wind whistled around it. A stone that marked endless rot. It pierced nothing. He closed his eyes against the dim light. Every orgasm felt like shooting a gun. Into a hole in the sky. Into a sky in a dream. Into a dream that never ceased. A week ago, Leonard forced himself to walk to the gas station, fighting himself to not visit the graveyard. His gait loosened. His shuffle slowed. Inside the gas station, the creaking door pierced his ears. The flickering neon lights made him wince. Leonard walked to the back and looked at the beer. He could’ve read the labels all night. His mind was a starving snake writhing under shovelfuls of gravel. He lost track of time. He began to hate everything he saw—the bright colors on the packages, the whirring of the freezer, the clerk’s eager smile. He walked toward the counter, but stopped short at the rack with lip balm, ibuprofen, and condoms. He knew the clerk was watching him, and that for someone’s ego, staring at condoms any longer than a glance was too long. He decided to stare anyway. Twenty-eight years old, never used a condom. Shame, sweat, humiliation. After about a minute or so, the clerk said, “Getting laid tonight?” smirking conspiratorially. Leonard glanced at him, then back at the rack. He was just a kid, shuffling around behind the counter nervously. “They’re all pretty much the same,” the clerk said. His voice was warm, kind. He tried to do a polite little laugh. Leonard didn’t look at him. His mouth felt grainy, dry, as sealed as a tomb with hundreds of pounds of dirt over it. The neon lights buzzed an inconsistent whine. The clerk’s nervousness simmered, became more audible as he started needlessly rearranging cigarettes. Leonard reached for one of the condoms but put his hand back in his pocket before it touched the plastic package. The clerk was tapping his fingers on the counter. “Listen, man…” He waited for Leonard to make eye contact. When Leonard didn’t move, the clerk tried a more bold approach. “Hey, asshole,” but his voice cracked. “You gotta buy something. You can’t just hang out. I mean, c’mon. I gotta mop and stuff...” 34 RFD 190 Summer 2022

Leonard turned to him, fixed his eyes on his wrinkled collar. “You—you gotta buy something or get out,” the clerk’s voice retracted back into gentleness, but it was too late. Leonard approached the counter. “You’re never going to leave here.” His voice felt like steel wool coming out of him. “You’re nobody, you’re just like everybody. Let’s face it, okay? The only reason you’re here is because you’re not good enough to be anywhere else.” The clerk’s face froze into an expression of amazed indignity. Leonard walked out. He had forgotten cigarettes—he’d forgotten why he’d come. He had surprised himself. In the turbulent night breeze, he couldn’t catch his breath. Puddles on the sidewalk broadcasted the reflective yellow of the road signs. It was shocking anything could reflect at all in such darkness. Shivering, he didn’t know he was capable of such meanness. He had never hurt so intentionally. The pleasant-unpleasant shock of a pinprick. The humanness of everyone was unavoidable. It was stifling. Even if someone was high above the world singing to the birds in a hot air balloon, earlier that morning they had read the newspaper or asked for a lighter from a stranger while waiting for the bus. The six a.m. church bells were chiming, but they sounded slightly out-of-tune, eerily warped. To this music, the yellowed leaves did a hopeless, dazed dance, spiraling down through the air. Days ago, Leonard was sitting in church, holding Lucy’s hand like it was a brittle leaf he might turn to dust if he squeezed. He began crying soundlessly, tearlessly, a gentle inward weeping. The priest was reciting the Apostle’s Creed. When the congregation was supposed to repeat after him, Leonard could only whisper his own name. He hoped Lucy took his mutterings for piety. Hours ago, he had slept next to Lucy with overwhelmingly passionate dreams. When he woke, he gasped, as if his lust had stolen his oxygen. With guilt, he touched her sleeping face. She looked pristine, foreverish, like a porcelain doll. To be displayed, not touched. A prize pony. A beauty. She sighed and turned, sleeping the heavy sleep of the pure. Some things you just can’t help breaking. Gingerly, he lifted himself off the bed and opened the door. Silver-white light from the moon glimmered on the counter tops. The moon stole its light to make it more presentable, more beautiful. Was this natural?

He wandered around the kitchen like it was a museum. There was a pot of coffee half gone from the morning. A plate full of crumbs from dinner. A folded-in-half newspaper from before they’d gone to bed. His life was documented by a trail of used-up, abandoned things. Opening the cabinet under the sink, he grunted as he reached far into it and pulled out a pack of cigarettes from a wooden ledge in the back. After his cigarette, this next moment too would be made real in history. Absentmindedly, he flicked his lighter a few times. What if the flame caught the window shades? What if the house was unsavable? Some things you just can’t help. Smoking outside, the wind whipped him lovingly. The cigarette tasted like burnt soil. The dead civil war soldier waited for him. Leonard started for the graveyard. But he stopped himself, with effort, and went back into the kitchen. He took a pint of brandy from the same spot under the sink. Without knowing exactly what he was

Photograph by artboydancing.

going to do next, he drank it all, then wandered into the nursery room where he had begun dismantling the crib. Now, he gathered the pieces of the crib in his arms, like a bundle of firewood, and stood up. He dropped some. They clattered noisily against each other. He sat back down clumsily, desperately. He could hear Lucy stirring in the bedroom now. He let the rest of the pieces fall loudly out of his arms. He grazed the carpet with his hand, clutched a soft handful, and let go. The footsteps got closer, echoing in the hall. He stared at the ceiling, blinking slowly at the lights. The steps came to a halt and he could feel Lucy’s hand on the doorknob. Then, just before it opened, he remembered the painting in the ski lodge. It was a goose flying straight up, its posture was one of fatal determination, and its murky eyes suggested no thought of ever landing.

RFD 190 Spring 2022 35

The Power of The Word Faggot by Timothy Arliss O’Brien

I’m astonished that we as a collective species don’t acknowledge the power that words contain. From a young queer age, I dipped and dived away from the words of bullies. Being a fruity effeminate faggot I always knew I was different. From the boys trying to kiss the girls on the playground, or my preference to play with my sister’s Barbies over my cousin’s video games, late-night, Doritos, and sprite. “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt us…” I don’t understand why we say that. What a bullshit mantra. I think it just adds to the vast number of people who shame the victims of such bullying words. It makes one want to disappear into nonexistence to hide from the hatred in and the fear of the world. You’d be surprised how easy it is. I wander across this world with a light foot. Almost ghastly how the ground is never under toe. I think we all need a reason to exist. But perchance we refuse. We make ourselves a place away from the cruel world and just ask ourselves: Why exist at all when we can just step out of society. That is what we as queer people have done.

I can’t tell you where I was when the title came to me or on which day, but I can tell you that it hit me like lightning: Dear God, I’m a Faggot The power in the words, in that title. The power in accepting that word into myself. A word that has hurt me more than a thousand times. A word that has been hissed at me by those with pure hatred for their fellow human in their heart. A word that had driven me to the brink of suicide. A word that was now mine. A word bright and shining on one of the most vulnerable projects I had ever made. Since I released the book in 2019 I have had many queer people of all ages reach out to me and thank me for my words. Words that have helped them reconcile their faith and their sexuality. Words that have helped people see themselves, fully. Words that have brought people back from incredible darkness and saved their lives.

I was working on my first collection of poetry after my university shut down our gay-straight alliance. I was full of rage at them for silencing me and excluding me from the worship team because I was in a same-sex marriage, even though I was a theology major. I was furious and needed to talk about all my pain. Especially as a survivor of five years of electroshock ex-gay therapy.

Words have so often put us in a dark place, telling us that we are broken, and wrong, and shouldn’t even exist. But we as a community have the same inverse power to pick up all the queer people society has discarded and say: You are beautiful, You are worthy of love, You matter.

I had compiled most of my poetry into twothirds of a book and was starting to think of a name. The poems ranged from silly little anecdotes of me experimenting with psychedelics to deep resounding poems where I wrestled with the faith I grew up in and the sexuality I had come to embrace and love about myself.

I learned long ago during the electroshock ex gay therapy that heaven is when we create ourselves. When we spit out all of our insides onto the page of life. When we dare to look into the mirror and scream, “I don’t care what others may say, I will choose to radically love my whole being,

36 RFD 190 Summer 2022

You are important.

my self.” And not let anyone take an eraser to it. Our words. Healing words. Powerful words. Yes, but everyone has value to exist, everyone has something they are good at, learn from each other that’s what makes new friends But do we exist for ourselves or for the us others have perceived us to be? Mustn’t we let go to let the apex of the universe have its way with us and use us for the purpose that resides within our higher self?

"Trade," mixed media, plaster and print, by Wave.


Weren’t we born of magik and now must live for

Now there are no rules. I can fuck anyone I want. I can do any drugs that flirt with me. I can run through any creativity I see in the stars. God can’t stop me. He would have years ago. But I’m convinced he’s long dead and the throne is painfully empty covered in cobwebs and dried semen. Now I’m god and can do whatever I want.

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Keeper Huddled against moss, the keeper of the forest dampness pulls his feet from river bank mud. Time ticks out in currents. Small white flowers scatter from the canopy. This goblin king weaves nests for therianthropic song birds while waiting for glitter to biodegrade. The keeper of the forest dampnessnot brave but honest- is a tumult of static around the pure chords of love, seeking the way but not the path, wind that brings storms but never rain, fire that never catches.

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—Nicholas Alexander Hayes

Do You Remember When Words Had Power? With the right Word you could turn into a wolf or a bear or a hummingbird. With another Word, a skunk or a snake could turn into a human. In those days distinctions were not made. Do you remember when the Word could make a dream real, or the other way around? Do you remember when you shared your True Name only with your beloved because of the magic you gave away? Are those Words still out there waiting to be spoken again? —Michael Kiesow Moore

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40 RFD 190 Summer 2022

Painting by David Carter.

Those Words I sneaked through life like a soldier behind the lines. My demon whispered, “Spy.” I picked an orchard of ripe hearts, then boiled them— dealt out lies like cards. Strangers kissed me, then fled the flick of my tongue. Memories and visions swirled around me like flakes in a snow globe. Lonely ghosts were swimming through air. I could hardly think for the clink of chains. I could change forms, too— a black bull, a white fish, a green girl in a red dress. Till you, my love. Until you came and said those words, my love. Dead, I resurrected. Now my wrongs are racing for the cliff. —Ken Anderson

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Ode to a Flamer I set myself on fire Because I was afraid And I am gay. Programmed to loathe The murmurs of my soul I made my body suffer As a casualty of control. Tragic fables I was told Eyes falling on forbidden forms A yearning pursued as it was written Leading only to flames of destruction. A self arson. An incendiary heartbeat Deep within. A walking inferno Of ember skin. The air I breathed Feeding the flame Eating away All offers of grace. But as layers and layers peeled off The smoldering surface flaked away Smoke swept up uncertain sparks And a naked self remained.

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Molding the pain from all my trials Stimulating new growth Tempered steel finely cooled With endurance from exposure. In stories and songs Tapestries and manuscripts The scalding heat of living Always summons A scorching challenge Ready to burn Those on our fated path. But our lives become words And words can have power As voices unextinguished Surviving and thriving A catharsis of existence. So to all you other travelers Journeying your passions I wish you speedy recoveries And the best of luck When finding yourselves There amongst the ashes. —Nicholas Yandell

"Jax On His Knees," by Demain Martin.

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Toast to the Dead For Judy B Sylvia is boiling beans Marsha is snapping greens Christina pats her corn-rolled hair Nova, Estella and Marilyn, are fixing lashes Storme guards Heaven’s gate welcoming all who were sent up there and Judy and I are earth bound sitting amid an effigy for friends who have died a tribute to queer activism—so fitting; stone-cold hands hold warm, as quietly, we cry Gusts of sorrow drift within a pungent breeze touching our faces, noses, in Sheridan Square habichuelas are ready Rusty Rose, Sylvia remarks then calls to Judy—Ms. Thang, come sit by me in this chair! Amused by the familiar squeaky voice I shake my head and reply: Giiiirl! we are not ready to go, we still have a choice I turn to Judy and whisper, is it possible our friends can eat when dead? We gaze at their sculptured likeness and ponder: when we die will we be posed here with our friends? will the artist posture us proudly in dress, fedora, suit and tie for all our activist efforts? Will this be how we are honored at our end? Sylvia is serving beans Marsha is spooning greens Christina’s relaxed hair is in permanent bun Nova, Estella and Marilyn’s heels are ready to tear up the town Storme thanks us for coming; escorts us to the pearly gate he preaches: friends, there is much to do— have some fun, let down your hair— Rusty…Judy…toast us heartedly with a glass of gin recount stories of our time together—tell all— raise a glass for us in our favorite spot at the Stonewall Inn.

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—Rita 'Rusty' Rose

"Rusty Rose and Sylvia Rivera" photograph courtesy author.

Spoken Word For the wannabe poet who trembles in the audience at open mics who fears the voice whispered through quivered lips unable to amplify the voice shouted within I saw a poet unable to see the poem she recites from memory I saw a poet whose ears knew silence but whose hands roared sign language I saw a poet gesticulate his face to replace the hands he lacked I saw a poet crawl on stage before he falls to oblivion I saw a poet wheel on stage and roll away with the prize I felt a poet’s slurred, incomprehensible words vibrate their meaning to my body I heard a poet unable to read a word but able to recite a library I heard a poet whose computer talks but whose synthesized voice sings I heard a poet so sick she spoke her last rites into the mic But I have yet to hear you who trembles in the audience at open mics who fears the voice whispered through quivered lips unable to amplify the voice shouted within It’s so nice to see you It’s even better to hear you

—Andre Le Mont Wilson

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" I hate you for I love you (I)," by Jan Ziegler

lineage (or lack thereof ) You have no heirlooms. After cutting off contact with your entire family you will throw away everything they ever gave you because looking at the turtle figurine they got you in Florida just makes you think how you were sleeping in your car while they were in Florida after your mother kicked you out of the house for not cleaning the bathroom. You do not have possessions inherited— no golden edged leather bound bibles are resting on the top of your bookshelf, no handwritten cookie recipes are stored carefully in wooden boxes in your kitchen. Instead you have flashbacks: scars furrowed into the meat of your mind, burned impressions in your retinas of a hand beating time on your back, papers ripped from your fingers and flung on the floor, a belt swinging down over and over. You have no heirlooms, just memories, repeating endlessly like a record passed down through the years, skipping on the same carved indentations. —Emerson Gray

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Desert There is a desert between these words This desert you will wander Between these words There is a path you will make Crooked and turning back on itself You will fall in the sand like a drowned man embracing the sea Your tongue will swell over your teeth and your eyes will burst into dark pools The dust will fill your lungs and head and powder your skin as white as a funeral The desert between these words This desert you will wander —Duncan Hilton

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"Alejandro Teleworking #2" by Demain Martin.

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In the shadow of each decision lie unspoken words waiting to be heard The magic of it all stands in their understanding jumping out at you —SPECIAL— Most lack of communications lead to misunderstandings fuzziness At the end of the tunnel in the light exists that one person who happens to have understood Despite the circumstances Before you even opened your mouth They read your patterns // past and present They fathom your eyes Always It’s obvious Never Need to wonder This is Love A new bond comes with it The kind that defies anything goes beyond horizon exceeds what you thought you were capable of This is Trust —Bubbles

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A Rare Bird People are always telling me how hard it is to see me. How much I literally break their brains. “I’m trying” comes out “You’re hard to interact with.” “I’m sorry” comes out “Look how hard I’m trying.” It’s like I shimmer with static – signal not quite clear. If you tune me one way, I become masculine. No one cat-calls me anymore, clients perk up and listen. Tune me the other way, I become a child. Lauded for breaking ground, a reflection of my former self. Your TV only gets two channels: Categorizing me into safe/unsafe? Fuckable/not interested? Why limit yourself to these two mis-matched halves? I sink your preconceived notions of gender with a depth charge to A7. Direct hit! I am Schrodinger’s queer. Meow. Do Al and Allison exist simultaneously – next to each other – in alternative universes – depending how the observer is entangled with me? Does one or the other become true, but only under observation? Open the box – What do you see? A rare bird. A chimera-like patchwork. Galaxies of gender. It’s not about arrival on another planet. It’s about the journey. Second star to the right and straight on till morning? (nothing near that linear, but you get the idea) Where I started tells you nothing about where I am now, or where I am going. Come with me? —Al Cole

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"Dancer," by Dragon (Arthur Durkee)

TransLet me transmit to you how I translate myself You will be transfixed at my transfer There are some that would call it a transitory transaction I try to transpose and transvalue ideas about my transformation Make no mistake, though, it’s not a transgression What was once translucent became transparent Trans doesn’t always have to mean transgender It can also mean transcendent. —Al Cole

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Aflicker While not a doll or a shade, I am many other things: a pill, a wick and a flame, a patch of cloud, a minotaur in a labyrinth, my own system of urgencies and shame. I am no one’s. I still cast my own bewildering shadow, cure my own needs and expressions. Fear my agony, my radical heat, my freedom, my clarity. Love my empathy, my joy. One can have it if one can keep one’s eyes on it, if one can hold onto it, keep one’s tongue to it, muddle of sufficiency, medley of purpose. Design cut off from the beside. Cut off from the still waters. Cut off from the green pastures. Cut off from the dream but still pining to travel, still facing risk; while from the cave, blows the relentless call for MORE. —Scott Hightower

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More Berry Than Brine Holidays in marriage: Some years the nice times kick in early but don’t always stay. Maybe a longer glance, words more berry than brine before the door slam the silence broken by a sigh Why do such treacherous shoals skirt special days, their false treasures nested with dream dragons? Maybe you’ve given up expectations ages ago. But there’s always a live cinder to fan, the wrong word at the wrong time the good walk ruined. These confounded days To do nothing is to surrender Maybe you’re still speaking by lights-out. You squeeze the hand under the pillow that will be there next year. The snore is a soothe And the next day back to a quotidian simmer Maybe heat is life. Maybe the effort is the success. —Bruce E. Whitacre

The Foldout Couch His force thumps the entire divan against the renter-white wall, adding to the small dents. These are the good years. Galaxies revolve like the club door, powered by magnetism and mystery. Tossing cushions is foreplay, though sometimes here the fizz goes flat. A bicep in the red lava light, an ass in the veil of blue smoke, its globes green glitter-strewn and sweating. Heaving planets and stars call to the white light between the eyes, the fire in the throat as you take all he’s got. The collapse, the caress, the clip of the spring through the mattress. Another notch in the floor. Counting down the security deposit. —Bruce E. Whitacre

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"Stump Grinding" and "oink oink" by Chris Moody.

Narcissi, We Drown in Our Own Eyes I love you like a leisurely country drive, the curves, the gradients. Coffee steams the windshield. We lean into the radiance. We were gangly colts, our love on first feet. Remember how we teetered toward radiance? My shoreline dissolved into yours, a safe blue harbor the years of tides and breezes polished our beaches to radiance. I love you like a contract I negotiated with myself. You are my clauses, my deal, my counterparty radiant. I love sliding under your chassis to see how you’re made. Your grime anoints my lips with its radiance. I love you like an old oven crusty with drippings of the problems we braised, oozing with radiance. As the checkered flag waves around the bend I love your hand on my shift in this radiance. After forty years, I am your Bruce, setting another table, breaking bread and feasting on our radiance. —Bruce E. Whitacre

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Forward From Today (Wedding Song)

Just saying our names out loud takes steel. We know too well All the wounds the world can work; telling truth takes courage. Sometimes, seizing our chance to change the world, we call On that courage, to shout, to forge a sword, to build a bridge. Nights we sang alone, we murmured, marking time. As we joined to sing together, we heard the unsought voice. Now, embracing that song, our melodies entwine. Divining genius in another’s voice, we discover grace. And here, remembering those gone before, today we stand, Nearly touching, weaving our way through the lives they wove. Dancing in each other’s arms, linked by passion’s hand, Reaching across all that divides, we live in love. Even as you have so far, may you live your lives this way: With courage, grace, and love – together – forward from today. —David Milley

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Faggot I own the word like you own your name, let it roll off my tongue and grate you like cheese. Faggot. I said it. You heard me. It’s the word you want to use against me, pour over my body like boiling water. Baby, I can handle the heat. The word I once used against my cousins: Anthony. Faggot. Brian. Faggot. Lamar. Faggot. It even tried to haunt: Dustin. Faggot. But I, I deal the word like a shark in Vegas. —Dustin Brookshire

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"the magic of words for sex in other languages," by Dragon (Arthur Durkee)

Play It By Ear Half in light, half in darkness, the calendar consumes the numbers, the clock wastes the hours, sun awakens another dawn. Without staff, without notes, without music sheet, keyless, without strings, without fiddle-bow, daily life conducts a new waltz. Half in light, half in darkness, I dance with the melodies of life. Some are silent, some are loud. For every thorn I find a rose. Joy and sorrow hide my fears. Happiness and grief hold my tears. The sky can’t be always clear. I’m used to playing life by ear. —Aldo

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Not afraid Camellia flowers lie startled on the earth. Doubt in sticky accumulations as aching candles overspill heavier hurts. Childish, wildish, almost silly, some fallen together, some apart. They could at any moment be caught up by any of their branches, if a one could bend so far, welcomed home with lanterns, rough laughter and still believing. Ruby blue on a mossy underglaze the hymn keeps repeating. A robin, unseen before, witness, celebrant of then this is left. The leap inward. And fresh stones standing when the tide has at length gone out. —Qweaver

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queer is a magic word sissy is a magic word gay is a magic word transgender is a magic word

dance is a magic word song is a magic word translucent is a magic word magic is a magic word

lesbian is a magic word genderfluid is a magic word fey is a magic word they is a magic word

pride is a magic word protest is a magic word ritual is a magic word trance is a magic word Words by Franklin Abbott / "Juxedo" by Michael O'Boyle.

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Issue 192 / Winter 2022


Submission Deadline: October 21, 2022 www.rfdmag.org/upload

So please consider times when you’ve said “Never Again”, reflect on your actions—heck show us your actions through words and images. How do we take a negative reaction like “Never Again”and shift it to a purposeful change rather than just an awful experience.

“Never Again”, is a common phrase we use in everyday life like a prayer or a vow to reflect not wanting to repent an experience, a mistake or misguided decision. But it’s also a political slogan for many movements such as anti-nuclear, anti-war, abortion, Queer and Trans rights, Black Lives Matter or other forms of reaction to racism, genocide, and the list goes on.

This can take the form of simple things—not leaving plants out after a frost warning, ways we are taking efforts to live healthier and safer lives, protesting and organizing for change, reviewing our choices and actions, and most importantly how we are shaping our lives after something unsavory.

With the crisis on many fronts facing our lives— racism, homophobia, transphobia, religious bigotry, violence against women, and economic injustice— we’re all trying to shape responses to those “Never Again” moments which we’ve been facing all too often. “Don’t Say Gay” laws, abortion bans, “Bathroom bills”, and the many laws affecting how we can vote, policing, and simple issues of bias which We are asking you to consider ways of contribut- we face. Reflect on y(our) history and tell us and ing to this issue which is about addressing “Never show us the story of how we can move ahead. Again”. How we have to repeat our efforts to Our community often is involved in many fronts to make something change, how we re-direct our engage for change so delve into ways being LGBTQ personal life to try to make a change, and how in other causes we’d love to hear about this as we try not to be numb to the constant effort of well as the personal, engaging and funny aspects facing the battle of “Never Again” moments be they in our personal lives or in the social climate of “Never Again”. we want to live in.

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