Thursday, January 27, 2005

Damn Fag

C Dale's recent post got me riled up little about homophobia, and it being one of the few remaining 'acceptable" prejudices (my words, not his). Here's a poem . . .

Damn Fag

I’ve heard his story before. How a car
accident broke his spine
in three places, but the x-rays
and MRI don’t show it.

How he’s tried rehab, counseling, physical therapy.
How all he wants now is some Oxycontin
and I’m not giving it. Then we’re
through here,
he says, and I close his file.

Damn fag he mutters
as he exits the exam room.
The words sting. Even in my white coat,
shielded by my stethoscope and tie.

Two words and I am in high school again,
backed against a locker,
coat collar clenched.

I’m in residency and the attending
surgeon is holding court over the open abdominal wound
of a young man with AIDS,
saying — for my benefit: When cattle
get an infection like this
we put them ALL to sleep.

Damn fag. How did he
know? Was it written
across my face?

Even after all these years.
Why am I ashamed?

(appeared in Prairie Schooner, Winter 2004)


C. Dale said...

Peter, I read this poem in Prairie Schooner while standing around in a Borders not long ago. I was struck by it because I was convinced it is a situation many readers will find exotic and interesting yet is something many of us must deal with all the time. For years I shied away from this kind of subject matter, but as time passes, it gets harder and harder to avoid it.

A.R.B. said...

Dear Peter,

A touching poem. So well controlled. Perhaps you can explain a little about how the poem came about, your thoughts, feelings, technique—what you were after. (I’m too curious, I know.)

The homosexuality issue is something I have never learned to understand. I am not homosexual, but why should it bother me that you are? (It doesn’t, of course.) Where does all the anger come from, all the scapegoating? I don’t get it, Peter, and I’m so sorry that it happens. I think that we are all responsible for allowing ignorance / prejudice to sustain itself. Just the other day my son—six years old—said in front of a group of adults that when he grows up he’s not getting married. He is going to stay “single” and live with his best friend, Ian. All the adults laughed and said “maybe you got a flower boy in your hands”. Prejudice starts early so that took some explaining to do later to a six-year-old. Why the negative reaction from the adults to a child’s innocent remark? Why would they care?

Un abrazo,

Peter said...

Hey Alberto:
What a great story about your son. If only there were more hetero people like you in the world.
I bet you are a great dad. If you were here I'd give you a big hug.

early hours of sky said...

A truly beautiful poem, though truth is a horrid beast at times.

Kells said...


RE: one of the few remaining 'acceptable" prejudices --

Thanks for posting your poem. Incredible and well-written as always.

I've been thinking about this recently because on PBS they will not be airing show from the children's TV show "Postcards from Buster." A show about a cartoon bunny who travels the US with his video camera. The reason they aren't airing this episode is because Buster travels to Vermont to learn how they make maple syrup and the women who teach him how to do this are a lesbian couple.

Now, given what I know about PBS, I doubt these two women are in bed together or fondling each other, but the show is not being broadcast for one reason, because they are lesbian. I was so angry when I heard that. (I do think Boston will broadcast it as they were the city that produced it.)

Because of one women from the education department (I believe), my child will not get to see an episode that not only shows how to make maple syrup (a skill we should all have) ;-) but to positively show our diverse world, the America that is happening despite people wearing their prejudices as a veil.

I can still become amazed in 2005 that we have to deal with this. I'm sorry that you as my friend have to deal with it personally, and I'm sorry that people are so involved in their own fears they can't look out their window and see all the good in all of us.

Peter said...

Thank you Teresa and Kelli:
Lesbians in Vermont making maple syrup! Ohmigod, the very foundation of America is at risk! LOL
But seriously, I believe people will look back 100 years from now and just think it was all so silly, this bigotry about sexual orientation (and many other things).

Anne said...

I love how unapologetically plainspoken this poem is. Thank you for posting it.

And in light of the previous comments, I'd like to move that real maple syrup be named an Official Homosexual Delicacy. Because why should bigots get to enjoy anything as lovely as maple syrup? And then there'd be more of it for the rest of us. Of course good-hearted straight folks who aren't afraid to be seen enjoying the occasional Homosexual Delicacy are welcome to partake as well. ;)

A.R.B. said...

Dear Peter,

Ian, my son’s friend was over the house today. Funny that I should think about you because Ian was over the house today. But I did. The children played in the yard and, yes, I yelled at them because the paint was fresh on the fence and they kind of didn’t know that. (The day was long. Mo painted the fence while I tried my hand at pruning the pear and cherry trees.) But Ian was over and I thought about you, watching those children, the best of friends (I heard the word “brother for ever” I don’t know how many times) and, yes, I thought, again, what if they are gay? My lovely little son. His lovely friend. Would I ever take that against them? How foolish and how wrong.

My wife had tears in her eyes reading “Damn Fag” tonight. Her tears mean a lot. They always do. It’s a matter of heart. Why go on.


Peter said...

Anne & Alberto:
Thank you for your warmth.

Molly said...

So good. So frustrating to hear these things--as a teacher, the kids ask me, "Why does it bother you?" Because I have a ring on my finger? What does it matter? It could have been the other way--they just never know it.

Thanks for sharing this. I am reading back-posts of C Dale Young's lovely blog, and I think I will come to yours when I am done. :)