A Fairy Tale of Blackboyhood

When I say Black, what I mean is the curl of my hair is tight enough to snag the teeth of a wide-tooth comb. So, I don't comb my hair when I'm in the comfort of my home. This comfort is the standard by which I determine who, what, where is home. I rarely feel home in my father's home.

When I was 21, my father kissed my forehead and this was the first time he ever kissed me. My father’s lips recall a different story. But this is my tale of a boy whose hard head grew tender from his father’s kiss. The words I love you, boy seeped into my newly-softened skull. For just a moment, my father returned my boyhood so he could feel the gratification of kissing his son goodnight. It had to be that way.

The only way to rake my hair into a neat brush of manageable coils is to first wet it thoroughly. Before I leave my home, I sometimes—most times—tame my hair with water to allow it to floss the teeth of the comb, to bear the brunt of its bite. I sometimes long for watered-down brown tresses that know to bow to the comb's might. I sometimes wish my hair would grow into an impenetrable forest, endless and black as starless nights.

When I say Black, I mean my father's hardened bosom has left me disheartened—desensitized to all but the snatch of a fine-tooth comb. I've been taught a man must be made a boy before he can receive a kiss from another man, and such ancient magic must be sparingly used. Sometimes—most times—I sleep with one eye open and hope to reunite with the strange magician who makes boys of men with forehead kisses. On these nights, I lie in bed and wait for him to cast his spell. As I sleep, my father combs his fingers through my hair and plants his lips on my eager forehead. On these nights, I wake floating above my bed in boyish bliss. On these nights, I feel home.

Related Poems

Homosexuality

After my mother and father fight, my father takes my hand and we walk down to the Mississippi where he smokes Camel cigarettes. He flicks his ashes away from me. He rarely says my name. All day on TV, I watch monks in Saigon douse themselves in gasoline and light their saffron robes on fire. When they ignite, they do not cry out. I study their silence to comprehend how a tongue turns into flame.

My Son Wants to Know Who His Biological Father Is

My son wants to know
his name. What does he look like? What does
he like? My son swims
four days a week. When my son swims
underwater, he glides
between strokes. When he glides underwater, he is
an arrow aimed
at a wall. Four days a week, his coach says,
Count—1…2…—before
coming up for air.
My father had blue eyes, blonde hair,
though mine are brown.
My father could not speak
Spanish and wondered, How can you love
another man? We rarely touched.
When my son
is counting, I count
with him. I say, I am
your father, too. 1…2…

Queer

Lie to yourself about this and you will
forever lie about everything.

Everybody already knows everything

so you can
lie to them. That's what they want.

But lie to yourself, what you will

lose is yourself. Then you
turn into them.

                 *

For each gay kid whose adolescence

was America in the forties or fifties
the primary, the crucial

scenario

forever is coming out—
or not. Or not. Or not. Or not. Or not.

                 *

Involuted velleities of self-erasure.

                 *

Quickly after my parents
died, I came out. Foundational narrative

designed to confer existence.

If I had managed to come out to my
mother, she would have blamed not

me, but herself.

The door through which you were shoved out
into the light

was self-loathing and terror.

                 *

Thank you, terror!

You learned early that adults' genteel
fantasies about human life

were not, for you, life. You think sex

is a knife
driven into you to teach you that.