Gay Bingo at a Pasadena Animal Shelter
My bingo cards are empty, because I’m not paying attention.
I can’t hear the numbers, because something inward is being given substance.
Then my mother and father appear in the bingo hall and seem sad and solitary.
They are shades now, with pale skin, and have no shame showing their genitals.
This is before I am born and before a little strip of DNA—
mutated in the 30s and 40s, part-chimpanzee—overran the community
and before the friends of my youth are victims of discrimination.
I resemble my mother and father, but if you look closer,
you will see that I am different, I am Henri.
“Don’t pay no mind to the haters,” Mother and Father are repeating,
and I listen poignantly, not hearing the bingo numbers called.
I think maybe my real subject is language as an act of revenge
against the past:
The beach was so white; O, how the sun burned;
he loved me as I loved him, but we did what others told us
and kept our feelings hidden. Now, I make my own decisions.
I don’t speak so softly. Tonight, we’re raising money for the shelter animals.
The person I call myself—elegant, libidinous, austere—
is older than many buildings here, where time moves too swiftly,
taking the measure of my body, like hot sand or a hand leaving its mark,
as the bright sunlight blurs the days into one another.
Still, the sleeping heart awakens,
and, once pricked and fed, it grows plump again.