In the Southern Baptist
town where I grew up
there was nothing weirder than being poetic
or gay. I’m still not sure there’s a difference,
but, hating all things Southern and Baptist,
I aspired to be both poetic and gay.
This largely entailed my wearing outrageous clothes,
conspicuously composing poems, forming rock bands,
and listening to music deemed faggish
by powers that were.
In other words, I wore tight pink and yellow shirts,
my hands smelled like mousse, and I mail-ordered
underground European pop records.
Eventually, my perverse investigation
led me to the Smiths,
an English band whose singer changed my life.
Here was a man not only effeminate but also
ferocious in mind and spirit, whose voice and lyrics
and dancing were born of a rage for love.
Once I found this man, I listened to little else,
for years. Because my step-dad wouldn’t allow
my music to be played at a level audible to others,
I was forced, deliciously, into headphones,
where I could savor my savior’s every suggestive
inhalation. In my massive beige and brown brainwashers,
listening to the Smiths, I forgot to rebel, and if you knew
the step-thing that raised me, you’d find that impressive.
So when, years later, while living in Hollywood
and donating my flesh to the sausage of popular song,
I spotted Morrissey in an overpriced “British pub”
and he pushed past my girlfriend’s chair as if to pee,
my heart skipped sixteen years and sang me back
into my vast, gay love for him and how he showed me
there was a way to be a man that isn’t cretinous.
That I lamely exclaimed, “Cheers, Morrissey!”
or that he winced when I said it and looked at me
as if I were not what I am is beside the point.
What matters is that he came across the room
and stood, for a moment, near my open ears.