Although published before Proposition 8 passed, Aaron Smith's poem "Open Letter"(found in David Trinidad's issue of MiPOesias) can be read as a near-perfect encapsulation of the way in which some gay men felt after they were betrayed (once again) by the American people, their heterosexual counterparts through that law.
Here in its entirety is the poem "Open Letter":
You are a boring man. Your wife is boring. Your children are boring. Even your dog: boring. When you walk to the train and your socks fall down in your boots and you bend down to pull them up, that is boring. Your choice of socks is boring. (So is the way you walk!) You eat boring bagels with butter (not cream cheese) and your breath reeks with boring, boring coffee and morning-stink. Your coffee is black and boring and the hand that holds the cup is lonely and boring and lonely. Boring. You are too boring to hate and your family is too boring to die by disaster or murder.
Would anyone else other than a gay man be so obsessed with a "boring" marriage that he describes their morning ritual with such eerie acuity? No doubt this spectacle is "boring" but there's no way a gay man can turn away. It is an uninspired reminder of what he has been aggressively denied.
Smith's comic illustration of gay male stagnancy after yet another overt denial of their humanity addresses the more heartbreaking and debilitating consequences of Proposition 8. It's too easy ignore, as much as gay men have joined public demonstrations, the fatigue of fighting a county who does not have their best interest at heart.
This heartbreaking poem does something courageous. It discloses gay male exhaustion.
How long can we continue to be active when time and time again we're forced to view what we do not have, and perhaps may never will?
This understandable boredom with an endless struggle for equality is one of our best kept secrets. We, as gay men, feel the need to keep it undisclosed; how can we expect other to rally if we admitted our own fatigue? Smith exposes this fact in light of how some gay men may consider such an admission a defeat rather than a necessary catharsis.
The unimaginative, generic "open letter" obviously requires no elaboration. The "letter" needs no formal introduction, no explanation of its intent, no desire to make those sentences active, or be active in and of himself. The gay man is too unsurprised to frame the predictability of what's occurred. As described in the last two sentences, the gay man can't even summon the justified anger at the nuclear family's inability to break their boring routine and see his suffering.
So much gay male suffering has continued as a result of Proposition 8: the potential refusal to be at your partner's bedside if he's sick, the lack of financial protection etc etc. Having to enumerate those denials with robotic precision is undoubtedly boring. I, too, am bored with my need to make everything clear to those heterosexuals (and sometimes homosexuals) about why they need to help us with something they take for granted.
Undoubtedly, heterosexuals feel a similar ennui; they don't need to hear us whining. Our letters to them go completely unacknowledged; they have their morning routines with their spouse which is so taken for granted they can continue with aggressive, federally protected boredom.
(Sidenote: I had the honor seeing Smith read the poem, and he did so with flawless deadpan delivery.)
New poem in The Cortland Review
5 weeks ago