Daily Archives: November 15, 2008

18 posts

Moving Past Prejudice

One of my favorite bumper stickers… “I support gay marriage, if both chicks are hot.”

I live in what I often refer to as the “northern tip of the bible-belt.”  I grew up in a catholic family, was sent to a catholic school for eight years, and live in a town where high-school football is god and homophobia is considered the norm.  Needless to say, as a youngster, I too thought “gay” was “wrong” and “not the way things are supposed to be.”  I wasn’t ever as hateful as these so-called “love thy neighbor” religious types, but I was homophobic enough that I would never have been able to have a conversation with someone I knew to be gay.

Back in the days when Usenet was used for more than pirating DVDs and porn, I was involved in a conversation about graphic novels and comic books that could be used in a college course.  The lists people posted included the usual “Watchmen” and “The Sandman” and the occasional “Lone Wolf and Cub.”  One other book kept popping up on people’s lists: Howard Cruse’s “Stuck Rubber Baby.”  Then one week I was picking up my usual stack of comics and I saw a hardcover copy of “Stuck Rubber Baby” on the shelf.  “Yeah, Diamond (Distributions) shipped that here by mistake.  You can have it for five bucks.”  Sold.  I hadn’t noticed the words “Gay Literature” on the spine of the book.

It sat at the bottom of my book pile for a while, until late one night I wasn’t tired and decided to start reading it.  That was when I noticed the words on the spine.  “What the hell is this?”

I decided to read it anyway.

It is one of the best damned books I have ever read.

I quickly found myself relating to and empathizing with Toland’s experiences.  The book begins with a young man growing up as the civil rights movement of the 1960’s is underway.  As he becomes more involved with the movement, he is also confronted with his own homosexuality.  As he travels his life’s journey, he discovers and accepts who he is.

I am not going to write a full review here, but I will repeat: It is one of the best damn books I have ever read.  (And if you know what I do, you KNOW I’ve read a lot of books.)

As I closed the book after reading the last page, I noticed that the sun was already up.  I’d read it cover to cover in one night.  I wasn’t able to read anything else for over two weeks.  Every time I tried to open a book, my mind just went back to “Stuck Rubber Baby.”  I’d found myself relating to and understanding the emotional journey of a man discovering that he’s gay.  If I could relate to it, it couldn’t be “wrong,” it couldn’t be “not the way things are supposed to be.”  It just simply was.  It wasn’t something someone chose, it was simply the way nature had created them.

That’s not to say I was cured of all the homophobic tendencies I grew up with.  I was confronted with my own knee-jerk discomfort the first time someone submitted an erotic poem to The Poet’s Haven that was clearly written by a man to a man.  After clearing my brain and thinking past it, I did publish the poem.  As the years have gone by, it has become easier to think past it, to the point where it is no longer a conscious effort and my thoughts just adapt when they need to.  It doesn’t bother me to see two guys holding hands or kissing in public.  (As a straight man, it has NEVER bothered me seeing two women kissing in public: Hence the bumper sticker quote at the start of this essay.)  I still get very uncomfortable in a situation where a guy is hitting on me or flirting.  (Strangely, or sadly, though, while I can count the number of times a woman has hit on me or flirted with me one one hand after an accident with a power saw, I’ve lost count of how many times a man has hit on me.  I’m a large, scary looking dude who grew up in the world of auto racing.  This has never made sense to me.  Then again, writing that out, I’m a large, scary looking dude who works in the world of art and poetry and listens to bands like The Cure.  So maybe it does make sense.)  But the discomfort isn’t that different from what I felt when an underage girl was stalking me.

What this nation needs to get us on the path to proper, equal civil rights for gay folk is a generation of people who can move past their own unease like I have.  The generation that follows will be the one that progresses past all the hatred.  The civil rights movement of the 1960’s succeeded in getting equal rights under the law for African-Americans.  The laws that made this so were passed by white dudes who were able to look past their own knee-jerk reactions and see what was RIGHT.  That generation’s children (and, yes, grandchildren) have elected a black man as PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES.  There is still racism out there, but with each new generation of citizens, it grows smaller and smaller.  Now it is time for a new civil rights movement.  It is time for marches in front of government buildings demanding that legislation be passed ensuring that people of all races, genders, and ORIENTATIONS have the same rights under the law, including the right to a state-issued marriage license.  It will be a long battle, but it will eventually be won.  The question is whether my generation has the courage to put us on the right path.

“Dinner @ Grandma’s ” by Todd-Michael St. Pierre

Dinner at my Grandma's can drive a kid to fits,
The last time she fed me pig poo and olive pits!
This time was even worse; she cooked a big brown snake!
The food was a nightmare, though I was wide awake!
Caterpillar cornbread, a sliver of liver,
Bumble bees mixed with peas! How can I forgive her?
She force-fed me spiders, a hedgehog and a half,
"Eat those sweet lizard feet," she told me with a laugh.
My eyes ran out of tears, from all this child abuse,
She even made me drink a glass of onion juice!
Poison ivy salad that made my insides itch,
I'm starting to believe that grandma is a witch!
I begged and I begged, but of all the twisted things,
For dessert she brought out some buttered beetle wings.
Dinner at my Grandma's can drive a kid to fits...

It's better when she feeds me Goat Guts and Garlic Grits!

from Todd-Michael St. Pierre's book "A Woolly Mammoth on Amelia Street: Read Aloud Poems4Kids"

“Treehuggers” by Todd-Michael St. Pierre

Children of the fragile Earth gather around,
Where bird-song seems to be the loudest sound.
A place called Summer, green as you could please,
A place where we all proudly hug the trees!
Hug trees for their walnuts, apples and limes,
For the shade they offer in these warm times.
For giving squirrel and crow a place to live,
For the priceless gift of oxygen they give.
Follow me there across a woodland floor,
Beneath the tall and ancient sycamore,
Under redwood, under tall blue pine,
Come with me and form an endless line.
Join the boy whose name is simply ME,
Take your turn and hug a mighty tree!
A wish we cast upon an August breeze,
A dream to cross the seven sacred seas.
Release it now, just like a big balloon...
A prayer to reach the mountains of the moon!
To citizens of Earth at last we say...
Go find yourself a tree to hug today!
And if a grownup says "Don't be a fool!"
Or... "Is that what they're teaching you in school?"
Just find this poem and read this simple rhyme...
It's cool to HUG a TREE from time to time!
Children this is how the world can be....
Making Earth plan A and not plan B!
And start by
Hugging a tree!

from Todd-Michael St. Pierre's book "Put the People in a Zoo & Set the Animals Free: Read Aloud Poems"

“The Jacaranda Tree” by Todd-Michael St. Pierre

~Here's the wisdom shared with me... by the Jacaranda Tree~

pronounced [za.ka.ran.da]

A friend of the wind...
I sway and I bend...
I'm the fifth season...
A poem without end...
The oldest of new...
Blue Jacaranda...
More lilac than blue...
The rain forests, rich...
With hills of deep green...
I'm far and I'm near...
I'm here in-between...
The loud, silent voice...
Both heard and unheard...
The whispery shouts...
The unspoken word...
My flaws are perfect...
I'm plumpish and lean...
My roots drink from clouds...
In the month: Thirteen...
The moon of morning...
A flame's frozen heat...
The all and nothing...
The bitter of sweet...
The sun rising West...
A dim shade of bright...
An empty fullness...
A wild, wingless flight...
Blue Jacaranda...
I'm mystery and clue...
The universe, vast...
I live inside YOU...
The distant always...
The steep upward fall...
The bloom and the wilt...
I dwell within ALL...
I'm the dusk of dawn...
I am bound, thus free...
Humans have crowned me...



from Todd-Michael St. Pierre's book "Put the People in a Zoo & Set the Animals Free: Read Aloud Poems"

“Bipartisan???” by Todd-Michael St. Pierre

You say that you're conservative...
I hear your words and yet...
You have NO moral high-ground!
You spend us into debt!
Your so-called "Grand OLD Party,"
Has fallen short indeed...
You cater to the wealthiest...
Too proud of WAR and GREED!
You ask if I'm bipartisan...
Forgive me if I'm crass...
But I will HUG your Elephant...
If you will KISS my ass!

“Pulling Habits Out of Rats” by Todd-Michael St. Pierre

I'm no genie or Houdini,
I'm The Famous Rob Kabob.
Hocus-pocus I must focus,
I must think to do my job.
First I get in this position,
While the rat sits very still.
I'm part Shrink and part Magician,
And it takes a secret skill.
People ask, "Rob what's your job?"
But they figure I am joking,
When I tell them I help rats
To stop drinking and stop smoking.
Some rats are such nail-biters,
Still others tend to overeat.
I wave my magic wand 3 times,
And PRESTO my work is complete.
I no longer miss my old job,
Pulling RABBITS out of HATS.
I'm The Famous Rob Kabob,
I pull HABITS out of RATS!

from Todd-Michael St. Pierre's book "A Woolly Mammoth on Amelia Street"

“Marilyn Died” by Todd-Michael St. Pierre

Set aside your quilt and pride,
Make room inside your heart.
Rise above with grace and love,
This is your brand new start...

In the Church of Norma Jean,
In the Temple Of The Blonde,
I believe in The Beautiful
And the great beyond.

Go witness to the lonely,
Share the good news with your friends.
New evidence implies that...
Marilyn died for your sins.

I woke one night to blinding light,
I heard her sacred voice
"You must escape the mental rape,
My child, you have a choice!
Cast out your indecision,
Follow me, I know the way.
Come share the mystic vision,
Black and white, both straight and gay."

Marilyn died at the hands of opression
Calling all victims of circumstance
Send her your prayers and your silent confession
Marilyn died but there's still a chance
Marilyn died at the hands of opression
Hollywood killed her, oh it's sad but true
In this world of greed and self obsession
Marilyn died, but there's hope for you!

In the Church of Norma Jean,
In the Temple of the Blonde.
I have faith in deliverance,
And the PEACE beyond.

Believe and receive new life,
As fear and chaos ends.
She died and through her suicide,
Empowerment begins.

She died that you may live,
As self esteem descends.
She died, prehaps not FOR,
But BECAUSE of our sins!

Those ballistic-voyeuristic-egotistic-un-realistic


Amen and Blessed Be!

“Nursing Home Eyes” by Todd-Michael St. Pierre

Look into my window,
Observe synthetic flowers
Swaying to a ceiling fan breeze,
And a wallflower, wheelchair- bound at that.
For hours I look out
I see concrete, undernourished shrubs,
Cars and bikes rush by
And they keep me company.
Faded draperies
Speak for years that have fallen behind me.
Suddenly a slave to nostalgia
And withered memories.
Do you see the photographs on my vanity?
Notice how they stare back at me
With abstract smiles for the elderly.
I know they are too busy.
Everyone has his own life to live.
I understand!
Hey... would you look into my world?
Share a thought?
I know you have no time to visit.
Yes I am still here,
Alone, but alive.

“Quarter Daughter New Orleans Our Lady of the River” by Todd-Michael St. Pierre

Many have tasted her bittersweet wine
Laveau and Lafitte, the districts of red
Mardi Gras madness and pleasures so fine
She worships the gods of bottle and bed

A clever chameleon, a lethal rose...
Befriend and betray is her secret game
Brazen, half-naked, down Bourbon she goes
Understand that Lady is not her name

Collecting herbs for a black magic spell
In century-old French Market style
Disguised as a fragile, virginal Belle
She makes men out of boys, with just a smile

“A Before & After Glance” by Todd-Michael St. Pierre


(September 16, 1968)

I remember the day before I was born...
The sand castles and azure skies
I watched with wide impatient eyes
I yearned to lie in seaside grass
Blue-green days where lovers pass
Envying waves that touched the shore
I wanted all the LIFE in store
Palmettos swayed and seagulls praised the morn
I remember the day before I was born
I was one with rain and waterfall
With canyon echoes and redwoods tall
The moon and sun in celebration
September birds in V formation
Gazing upon the Earth below
So much to feel, so much to know
Between Earth and Heaven, untouched, unworn
I remember the day before I was born


April 30, 1994

I remember the day just after I died...
A river-town with nectarine skies
I watched with tired but patient eyes
Relieved I was to shed those bones
As new colors replaced earth-tones
Flesh it was a familiar bond
And yet I craved this world beyond
Endless space is as black as it is wide
I remember the day just after I died
The wind and rain, the graveside mass
Dirty headstones and yellow grass
The moon and sun in hesitation
I rose to join a V formation
Gazing upon the Earth below
So much was felt, the fear and woe
From Purgatory I heard as he cried
"Twenty-five years young and now suicide?
Damn you are selfish! What was in your head?
(A gun in your mouth to paint the bathroom red)
Damn you and your pain, Damn me and my pride!"
I remember the day just after I died

“The Green Outstanding” by Todd-Michael St. Pierre

I am the four-leaf clover,
Not all that unusual.

Unique? freak?

Still plucked and prized for the wonder
That I am.
In this sea of common shamrocks.

I am the emerald spectacle,
One in every patch (at least)
And in your own back yard.

To poets I am beauty,
To winter just as fragile,
To bees and birds no different,
To scornful eyes too queer.

I am the hidden strangeness
Cloaked among the normal,
Seemingly of three leaves
And hard to recognize.

I am the green outstanding,
Rare with no apologies
Proud and easily spotted
In an open field.

I am the jade fantastic,
A natural phenomenon
As I was meant to be.

“Thrust” by Todd-Michael St. Pierre

Don't make me dance with grace and joy
Exhaust my last good nerve
Lead me, need me, work me, jerk me
With a skill I don't deserve

And perhaps I could collapse
into your arms, just shake me
skip the tender sweet surrender
I promise you won't break me

Dance me into dizziness
And rock me as you must
No slow dance / Romance
I want your mammal THRUST

“From a Living Poet” by Todd-Michael St. Pierre

I long to be a lyrical-miracle
With sound substance, yet somewhat satirical
A wizard of words, stirring and stewing
Breathtaking rainbows while storm clouds are brewing
I'm the midnight son, I'm a cold desert rain
Blending smile with tear, mixing promise with pain
I'm the moon at high noon and Pandora's box
I'm the self-appointed prince of paradox.
To delight or disgust, for sneers and applause
To mimic and mirror, to stand for a cause

I please, I provoke, I keep their hearts pounding...

But, not until DEATH are Poets ASTOUNDING!

“Eye Fetish” by Todd-Michael St. Pierre

was in his eyes
gleaming eyes dreaming
eyes beaming eyes
shy unashamed hungering
that had seen so few tears

brown & boyish
wide & questioning
raw & uncensored
that promise
sex without touching
rape you gently
your nakedness

eyes that wrap their light
like legs around you
beckoning go deeper...

beyond the irises
sensuous soul

“Richie (Azure is a colour of BLUE)” by Todd-Michael St. Pierre

Azure is a colour, (alone is alone not alive)
a strange and icy BLUE yet laced with deeper promise
Azure is a birthmark, lover why is it I strive
with the hopes of Angels and the doubts of Thomas

How well I know the indigo, the pain of emptiness...
The wanting & waiting, Like the blue is in my Genes
within your eyes the bluest skies yet still I do confess
The blessing & the curse are ONE, tell me what it means

"Cross my Heart" You know I have "My love, my valentine"
I taste your lips and I remember your tender song to me!
"In all the world you'll never find a love as true as mine"
In vain I try, Blue Butterfly...you don't belong to me

Let me live and breathe you now, for you my spirit sings
Know that you have touched me with raw & uncensored things
However slanted your halo, however singed your wings
Let me live and breath you now, to you my spirit CLINGS

Baby blue, Navy blue, in Midnight blue I wait for you
with Too high expectations, with longings so obscure...
Alone is not alive, so lover why do I strive
For a permanent shade of, I guess I'm made of...

Obscure Azure
For certain and for sure!
but I shall endure
I don't want the cure
there is such allure
in pure

“In Broad Darkness” by Todd-Michael St. Pierre

Tonight, a torch song is burning,
on the levee in Gramercy,
a bonfire, a distant always,
as hot as nineteen sixty-three.
After church we walked in silence,
beneath the tangled oaks, I knew,
and fancied Satan was upset,
when i sold my soul to you...
For a moon you never owned,
for a night of stars and bliss,
baptized in broad darkness,
hey, did we invent the kiss?
Divine and human, all at once
it went beyond blood brothers,
before we knew the sin and shame
imposed by peers and christian mothers.
Southern closets grow damp and cold
with fear and condemnation dealt
to boys who did not fit the mold
they beat us with the bible belt.
Tradition ruled, all else was odd,
redeemed, i sought a life with god,
through prayers for grace, my soul confessed...
plum naked was your sunday best!

“Arbeit Macht Frei” by Hemmy

Work will set you free. It does indeed, but not in the way they preached it. We thought we were coming to something better. We thought we were coming to a bed, decent food, a roof above our heads. We were mistaken.

When we left the train, the air was full of promises; we learned they were only lies. My wife and two daughters were led away from me with an assurance that we would be reunited soon. It was the last time I ever laid eyes on them.

A physician inspected every man that was in our queue, and many were led away. We dared not speak a word. The air of promises was fading fast. Work will set you free. It was the first thing we saw arriving, those words. At the time we didn't know what they meant.

My small congregation, about 300 of the thousands that left the train, were thrown into a barrack with only about thirty bunks. The officers left one by one, and as the last one was about to shut the door, one of our own stepped forward. He started telling the officer about all the things that were supposed to be getting. The officer took out a pistol and shot him in the head.

He laughed, "Is that what they told you?" he chuckled. "You are sadly mistaken. You are nothing but vile beasts. You will work; your work will set you free. Welcome to Auschwitz. There is no hope for you here."

And with one last bark of laughter he locked the door. The night was frigid. In our very first night, with only thirty blankets to go around, our numbers dropped from 307 to 298.

We were awoken at daybreak by a blaring horn. It was the day of our "integration into concentration life." Our "Integration" was to stand in the yard, stripped of our garments for a day and a night. Our numbers plummeted by 56 in those hours.

When our torture was over, an officer announced we were to go to a building to the west of us for new clothes. We were each given a striped jumpsuit with a number stitched on it. Then we were led to a shed where they etched the number on our clothes onto the inside of our arm with blue ink. We were never again called by name, it was the first step into the destroying of our dignity, the only thing we had left.

Having not been given any food since before we arrived, we thought it was a relief when breakfast was announced. We arrived at the end of a line which we didn't reach the end of for two hours. When we got there, we were each given a bowl in which an officer dumped a ladle-full of white sludge with black specs. We were apparently expected to eat it. I sat down beside a man who seemed to have been there for a while. He was eating his "porridge" with a fair amount of disgust.

"You better eat that soon," he said. "It's more than we usually get. At least it's somewhat solid."

I took a mouthful. It tasted of sawdust and rot and I spat it up. "I'll take my chances," I replied, and set the bowl in the muddy earth.

It was more or less the same torture for weeks. I learned to consume whatever I could get my hands on, and hunger became one of my closest friends. During the day they kept us hard-pressed with work, for any maintenance or construction that had to be done in the camp was done by us.

When there was nothing to be done, or it was being done by someone else, we were forced to perform grueling acts for the officer's amusement. Their personal favorite was to make us run in circles in the yard, falling down in the mud and filth, only to get up and do it again. Many of our batch were also taken away by the SS physicians, not many returned, and anyone who did didn't last long. During the night was no better.

We had no proper facilities, and our barracks were repulsive at the least. Any one who couldn't work was condemned to die in their own filth. At my best guess many months past, but I stopped caring about time a long time ago, and out of the 307 that came here from my train only thirteen of us remained.

On what I learned was the 295th day in that hell I refused to get up. Many of my fellow captives tried to rouse me, I didn't answer to any of them. I lay there for many days, not eating, not thinking. I died there, like so many others. I died in my own filth with all of my dignity stripped from me. My work did set me free, but not in the way they preached it.

Saturday Night With The Poet’s Haven – Episode 12

01     intro
02     Young Magik – Automatic Love
03     Jen Pezzo – The Curse of Mr. McMurty, Phil Did Not Excell at Being a Vampire, The Scary in the Forest, The Mysterious Voice, It’s Dreary
04     MUSICAL GUEST: Blackwell – Lost but Found featuring Tosca Abigail
05     Geoffrey A. Landis – A Glimpse of Splendor
06     Mary Turzillo – If You Loved Me
07     Geoffrey A. Landis – Illusion’s Lure
08     Mary Turzillo – Daddy Says It’s Not a Dragon
09     Geoffry A. Landis – Still On the Road
10     closing


Parental advisory: This episode contains adult language.