"Brock, Phoenix, AZ" *somewhereX a gay Mormon portrait project because we exist! 72" x 72" oil on canvas

"Brock, Phoenix, AZ"
a gay Mormon portrait project
because we exist!
72" x 72"
oil on canvas



We passed as straight
strode right into the winery
to meet his work friends,
I kissed them on both cheeks and
didn’t curse, told all the funny stories I’d planned in advance
drank an extra glass of red on my way to the bathroom
sat on the toilet in drunk silence, nodding to myself
This could be my life

“You have a beautiful lady” one suited man said  
perhaps the same kind of person who argues on Facebook
about not wanting my boyfriend to use the men’s room
I wasn’t mad that he didn’t say you are a beautiful lady directly to me,
but to my partner, as if I were a tie or a pair of shoes,
I felt affirmed
I wanted to be a good beautiful lady
And didn’t know how deep that desire ran

I felt adult, an actor in my own body in the best way
We drank with our straight rich friends
Told stories and laughed politely, rested hands on one another’s thighs
I ran to refill his drinks, bonding with the other women
over our subservience
Balanced on him in the heels that I dared not wear alone
Carried the only designer bag I owned

In the cheap Mexican restaurant
that didn’t serve alcohol
my body pulsed for more, more beautiful-lady feeling
But got bad lighting, stale chips, peeling wallpaper, no margarita  
and the waiter looked at us weird

And by the car ride home the magic had dissolved, replaced
by his testosterone-
fueled road rage
I turned up the music to drown out my fear of him
The sirens behind us sounded like music
Until the voice on the loudspeaker
There was no shoulder so we just stopped
I licked my purple wine teeth so I could flash a smile

“Sir do you know what a yield sign means?”                   silence
flashlights on each side of the car                                     heart in throat
officer, I’m so sorry, we’re lost                                 license and registration
can’t catch breath                                                                tears brewing

I’m going to reach for my license, okay?              He knew what to say
I reached for a PBA card, it didn’t occur to me not to
this was all so foreign and the flashlight was jammed into my face
I screamed
and the officer laughed

He scanned the license
but we weren’t threatening; we were a joke, entertainment
dehumanized in a different way
that made us unreal, non-people
“Do you ladies need directions?” he said  

and like that—

my illusion shattered
like a kid forced to stop playing house, called upstairs to dinner
a punch line
I became hyperaware of privilege, sex, skin

and I didn’t correct the officer
and Nik’s voice rose a few octaves and squeaked a thank you
we drove away without putting the music back on
and he drove the speed limit
and when we got home we didn’t talk
and when we got into bed we didn’t touch
and when I got up to pee in the middle of the night
he was still awake



Mouse Guts

Do you remember when we got lost in East Harlem and
you bought cigarettes to look tough and
the pizza man let us in even though he was closed and
we ate an entire pie even though we weren’t hungry and
we saw a guy dressed like a fairy and quietly trailed behind
He led us to the venue and
we walked in on Regina’s sound-check
Instead of excusing ourselves, we stood in awe

You unabashedly held my hand (a first)
while she said she pictured New York as a place
where everyone had a pet tiger and
she drank her water bottle with two hands and
the hipsters were nice to a couple of queer teens
fumbling to light Newport’s
You with pierced eyebrows and bound breasts and
me with fat squeezing out of a cheetah corset
We lost our tickets on the curb outside the venue
and they let us in anyway

You always smelled like laundry detergent and
your mom was always drunk and whenever they came looking
we taught each other how to hide

I brought a Ziploc bag full of strawberries and celery to the lunch room
because some kid on the bus called me a whale
And you ordered us fries and egged his house  

we recounted 1-3 on the way  
and I didn’t complain when you smoked and
you didn’t complain when I had to pee every half hour
we arrived at the wildlife preserve, our hands
dangled close while we walked through the trees
bare/impossibly tall
I took you to see my favorite owl
“Samson. He’s gentle,” I said
We peered into his cage, something I had only done alone
Expecting my gaze to be met with lonely eyes--
Instead, a mouse, dismantled, its guts shining in the sunlight,
Large intestine unraveled around claws
The mouse head, still intact, like a toy,
Neither of us spoke, our hands at our sides
still daring to touch, riskier now.
We did nothing--
What was there to do?
But keep on staring, as if we could
stare it back to life,
stare the owl back to “gentle”
The blood almost sparkled
its light reflected and
bounced off my sunglasses
Was the flip in my stomach disgust or arousal?
I felt your breath on my neck as we observed
the museum of insides
Why do the most terribly real things look fake?
I thought you might kiss me but
we were mesmerized,
by the ruin
by the amazement
by the pleasure
the terror
by the unconscious dance of our hands
by the death
the disillusionment
the truth



Get Over It

A student said “I can’t relate to a disabled woman”
Another said “it’s harsh, but rape victims need to get over it”
Another said “why did you only assign women writers?”
I wanted to say, because almost every class I took as a student
taught male writers only
Every narrative novelist playwright and poet
And we are taking it back

I wanted to say that learning to put your hair up
when you have no left hand
is a radical act
That she is a warrior and a revolutionary,
the best teacher literature could ask for

I wanted to say how dare you think you have nothing to learn from a                     disabled woman
She can teach you strength and she can teach you combat

That The Old Man and the Sea would be less boring
if it were the Amputee and the Pony Tail

Why are we reading women writers?
Because to you, equality feels like oppression
Because not being able to relate to others is what got us here in the first                place
Because women are grabbing back, demanding space,
Because they matter, and this is our revolution

Her wheelchair is an army tank
And her essays are rally cries and her rally cries are essays   
And if she wants to be called a victim, then she is,
And if she wants to be called survivor, then she is
And if she wants you to stop calling her anything but her name, then stop
And if you can’t relate to her, try harder

But instead, I said sorry,
offered up some male writers,
held my tears until the elevator doors closed