THE BONES OF YOUR BACK

From the bones of your back,

I have forged a sturdier spine.

When we met, I had never told my parents

I was gay. But to be with you was to be

out and proud. I knew that. I told them

the next time I saw them.

"Every day we must come out," you told me.

You are my inspiration, my idol.

From the bones of your back

I have forged a sturdier spine.

Our first Pride Parade together seven years

ago we walked down Fifth Avenue with Dignity

New York. You stop in front of St. Patrick's

Cathedral, in front of the police who wear

helmets, hold guns. Hands raised high,

"I'm here, I'm here, I'm here," you say.

The rest of the group walked ahead. I stood with you,

watching, amazed, thinking they would kill you.

But you kept on: "I'm here, I'm here, I'm here."

Then I knew I loved you.

CHARLIE CHAPLIN

I keep seeing the picture from the

memorial service, the one of Matthew

Shepard, squatting, hugging his own

knees, wearing baggy pants, uncombed

hair, the toes of his sneakers pointing

out over the edge of a precipice.

He stares off into the far away sky

with sad child's eyes, like Chaplin.

He seems perched there, inches from

death, a small bird ready to take flight,

holding himself, balancing himself like

on a skate board doing a dangerous

stunt. I saw him on the subway today,

girlish pink skin and lips blowing

bubble gum into luminous sugar-

orb membranes. He breathes softly

into them. I expect to see something

form inside, an embryo, and float away.

I expect two punks to walk up to him

and beat him senseless, splattering him.

I'm sure he was left-handed. Everything

he touched was backwards. Just walking

seemed more of an effort, with oversized

feet. There he is crossing Eighth Avenue,

a laughing carload of bullies swerve at him,

just miss him. As they scream, "Faggot,"

he trips and falls. His eyes dart back and

forth, making sure they are gone, before

he brushes himself off and shuffles on.

"NINO" SCALIA

What happened, Nino?

Where did your hatred

grow from? What blinded

you? Blessed are

those who do not see

yet still believe. Do you

believe me, Nino? Do

you believe I love Jesus?

Do you believe Jesus loves me?

God the Father loves me because

I'm a friend of his Son?

WWJD? Jesus would take your

finger and push it into His side,

into my ass, then gently put it

over your lips and whisper,

"Shhhhh...." Like a father trying

to comfort his tortured son.

ORCHIDS

Orchids stand

suspended in air like six

white birds following

air currents south.

Their stems would stoop

downward, white petals

flutter toward earth as if

embarassed by their own

beauty, like a child's white

hands, petting the air, or

eyelids in slow motion,

closing and turning away,

moving from loud voices,

strong winds. But we have

propped them up with stiff

bamboo sticks, craning our

necks to see their undersides,

to look into their eyes.

From October to March,

they have exposed

and yesterday, I noticed

the oldest bloom lower

its head, wrapping its

face, collapsing and

turning from a bird

to a butterfly and

I suppose, later to a

worm, and then to dust.

WALTZING WITH DAD

I'm five feet ten. I've always been six feet. I'm

shrinking to Dad's height. We move toward one

another. I'm dancing with my father. We merge,

like two x-rays, waltzing. We hug each other so

long when we see each other, and part. I kiss him

on his cheek and he on mine. When I see him asleep

in the overstuffed recliner, he looks so small, like a

child, his arms, or mine, holding him, holding me.