Last year it was one of the best for Felice Picano on Lambda Literary’s website, this year it’s on the Indie Reviewer’s website for Best LGBTQ fiction. I’m very proud and thank both readers and editors.
Two poems selected by Adrienne Cassel, Guest Editor for Flights. My thanks to her and Jamey Dunham for their inclusion of Los Angeles to Las Vegas, 1958 and 90th and Lexington to Newark, NJ, 2011, which are part of a suite of poems called See America.
90th and Lexington to Newark, NJ, 2011
In the hour before my vacation ends I meet
a young man who’s heart is as seared
as mine has been these last few years.
We open each other up with everything
we have: our lips, our eyes, our hands.
After, in the cab, he says he’s Googled me.
I’ve been opened up like a book
it seems, like so much Information,
my story spilling forward
from this man who’s researched the
man he’d loved for just an hour. After
our kiss in the cab, the Indian driver,
watching in the rearview at 44th,
discreetly turns. When my hour’s love
has gone, I ask the driver where he’s from.
“Calcutta,” he says. We talk of India’s beauty,
our families, the selfishness of Americans.
I remember the love of Indians in 1981,
in the pre-dawn glow of the Taj Mahal,
the love of the man who’s picture I took
with his wife, hours earlier, Indians both, and
his insistence that I be photographed
with his love before a museum housing
ghosts of the world’s artists – the work
of grace’s fleeting moments.
Is this not the point? To love?
Even for an hour?
For 1/60 of a second?
Or on a cab ride,
our lives speeding forward,
creating love with a kiss, a picture,
a hug with a cabdriver at departure’s curb?
Los Angeles to Las Vegas, 1958
It’s the bird I’m thinking of,
this thing of flight, as
I’m driving my girl to Vegas.
The one thing she wanted,
its cage propped against the seat,
wind whipping its feathers,
a few days ago in Playa del Rey
where we met blind.
We’re minutes away from marriage
and this white bird comes to mind
who lives inside a cage,
while she takes my hand
at the Chapel of the Bells.
With this ring I lift the latch,
and the bird flies free.
We will live our consequences:
this thing in her belly,
a seed that bird
might have eaten as a
blessing before taking flight.
We will lick the wounds and
secrets of youth’s folly.
We will drive home
to the Playa and our
feathers will be full.
I have a thing for trains. This much is true. I love the romance of them, the way they lumber through the world’s countrysides, towns and cities. I’d like to believe that our country could build high speed rail lines from one end to the next, up and down our coasts. But I’m sure it won’t happen in my lifetime the way things are going. Our country is too reliant on cars, wasting energy, and not thinking ahead. Once, my friend Drake and I rode a train in Taiwan, our feet dangling from the open cargo door, tickets already sold for all of the regular seats. It was an extraordinary journey thirty years ago. I was a little in love.
Under every light and banner of night,
trains thrum, sound rises to
meet the day, bouncing back and forth
from earth to sky until it reaches
an ear trained for something else altogether.
Absence makes the now palpable, unforgiving.
Tracks wind into distance; a boy sure of his love
jumps the car to find it. Sharp pangs
drive him toward the one thing he needs.
And every folk song ever written,
guitar strum and wailing voice,
reaches back in time through the night.
Whistles for loved ones the train’s iron knows nothing of.
Nothing but steel wheels, locomotion,
steam rising in clouds.
Going forward is it’s own reward.
The leap, the air, the heart.
GuerrillaReads recorded me reading 90th and Lexington to Newark, NJ, 2011 from the See America suite of poems at the West Hollywood Book Fair. My thanks to them for including me!
Watch it here! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H1HGSGH5oNo