Christopher Michael, gay, gay poetry

Who Will I Be

Journey into Gaydom

II

who am I? asked Jean Valjean, il ne fut meme
plus Jean Valjean; il fut le numero 94601
I am not he, certain that I have a rap sheet
a number branding me for life, a number
neither proudly worn nor contemptuously disdained
who am I? amongst the vast hordes, pondering
methinks, the wrong question
were I Latino, I could brazen like la Raza
defying loudly the Christ in angry protests
rebellious anger mocking
la Iglesias de nuestra señora la reina de los ángeles
but I am not

were I black with 70’s anger still my mantle and
my cause, defiant lest I be chastised my gay blackness
my machismo questioned, subservient no longer
my cause célèbre
violence instilled in my veins, shouting confusion
with violence, slaves and enslaved by unwanted
curse of Mother Nature’s cruel joke, born gay
and black in the right era
but I am not

nor velvet-skinned gaysian boy with sloughing
pre-labled computer nerd or geek or
flavor of the month
darting lithe and lovely through this dance
outsider, yesterday’s enemy, remembering Pearl Harbor
now an ally, though jailed in American concentration camps
humiliated but not annihilated
but I am not

I come from a line of Russian shtetl’s stock
immigrants from Ellis Island, landed in Philadelphia
circa 1918, grandson of Molly and Leon Needleman
born circa 1890’s
if not orthodox Jews than certainly more devout
than I could or shall ever be
that lineage stopped cold and dead decades ago
is that it? is that my stock, my answers?
but I am not

I am not vain enough to pretense a modern-day
gay prophet, seer and spokesman of my clan
I was in evaporated confusion pre-Stonewall
I didn’t even know til several years later I’d been liberated
I don’t even know where I was
I didn’t march in parades, climb buildings and hang banners
Act Up during the onset chaos of HIV, though
there handing out pamphlets gay/straight alliance
on CSUN’s campus, shamed but willing to be outed

who am I now is a question unanswered, a journey
not a destination, a quest travelled alone and
separately with my peers
dodging bullets, taking hits, and asking, as
Peter, Paul and Mary asked, When Will They Ever Learn?

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