I wrote the following poem last night while waiting for Andrea Gibson to come on stage at a local theater. My buddy and I have passed by the landmark brick building all of our lives but hadn’t entered since it became a theater in high school. I’ll admit I’ve long associated it with bands I don’t recognize and shivering goth/emo/queer teenagers waiting outside.
In trying to show up on-time early, my buddy and I unwittingly showed up two hours early and were some of the queers waiting outside in the rain. My buddy was excited to see Gibson and nervous about the possibility of seeing their ex with her new girlfriend. I was tired, unsure about an evening where I might run into FKS, and bleeding from my vagina. We were soon joined by their girlfriend whom I met for the first time and her two friends. I was humbled that they were all kind, warmhearted, and easy to talk to. Upon obtaining entry to the theater and collecting wrist ink, we still had an hour to kill before the opener. There was a bar accessible to everyone but me; in walking to the theater, I’d forgotten everything but my journal, pen, and PANSY at home. I waved off the others, leaned against the sound box, gazed around the dark theater, unsuccessfully squinted at a couple of pages of PANSY, then opened my journal and let my pen race. It had been a long day, and week, and month.
The new version of anxiety is lucid dreaming
of wooden deck chairs tattooed onto the big toes
of an old friend and the first girl I ever fell for
at a dinner in a formal sun porch dining room
of my house which was not my own—
she and her friend at the table, and a man
my dad’s age having a heart attack and me jumping,
running to the landline, not thinking
of my cracked but still croaking iPhone on the table
in front of me or the other smart phones in the room.
I guess I just needed some tether to the land to hold
one week after surgeons cut open my dad’s chest
for open heart surgery.
Last night, I woke up with pressure in my chest
several times, a dark curtain descending.
At work this morning, a coworker said it could be gas—
I wondered how the air knotted itself so high
in my chest cavity.
And I write this from the blue light periphery
of the sound box in the teenagers’ Hawthorne Theater,
waiting alone in the nonbar section, which is the main section,
which is not, of course, the main section,
with my journal for my friend and their girlfriend and friends,
and headliner Andrea Gibson,
and perhaps the girl who ghosted me and took a minute
to apologize and admit she was ghosting me
and perhaps her ex-girlfriend who could have retired the
e and x, and perhaps the departure of these gas molecules,
I look around. I wish I had a wooden deck chair beside me.
After writing this poem, I gave my buddy my stuff then ran the .7 miles home in the rain, where I switched rain jackets, grabbed my wallet and keys, went to the bathroom, lay on my floor for thirty seconds and yelled/laughed to my brother (“my gas is so bad”), took two aspirin, went to the bathroom again, then ran back to the theater—outpacing a far more sensibly-dressed man running with his dog. I made it in time for the opener, SOAK, with minor menstrual storminess. Both SOAK and Andrea Gibson were wonderful. I didn’t run into FKS, but my buddy and I did happily share hugs with P, who ended up being there with a friend. In that fishbowl of queers, I think my buddy and I were both relieved we avoided any interactions with exes/folks with whom things might not have been as comfortable.
Also, maybe you already read this from wherever you are, but Gibson dedicated PANSY to you. The dedication:
“With gratitude for the art and activism of Leslie Feinberg who died of Lyme Disease on November 15, 2014.”
And your quotes:
“Gender is the poetry each of us makes out of the language we are taught.”
“I do not believe that our sexuality, gender expression and bodies can be liberated without making a ferocious mobilization against imperialist war and racism an integral part of our struggle.”
A fitting tribute, Les. I hope you are well, wherever you are.