Antinous for Everybody

I worship a dead gay teenager and you can too

Archive for the tag “poetry”

In honor of John Donne

Donne is a saint in the Anglican tradition, not a Sanctus of Antinous, but he is always going to be a revered ancestor for me. I was introduced to his poetry when I was fourteen and a precocious early college student, and his blend of wit, eroticism, spirituality, and angst made perfect sense to me even then. Today is the date of his death, so I’m going to share one of my favorite of his poems, one of the Holy Sonnets.

Batter my heart, three-person’d God, for you
As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
That I may rise and stand, o’erthrow me, and bend
Your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
I, like an usurp’d town to another due,
Labor to admit you, but oh, to no end;
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captiv’d, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly I love you, and would be lov’d fain,
But am betroth’d unto your enemy;
Divorce me, untie or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.
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Ariadne

Theseus gave me two wedding cups
made from the horns of my dead brother
and that’s when I knew it would never work out
between us. He was my brother, you know.
Locked up in the labyrinth like the idiot child
in a home, like the junkie teenager left in rehab,
the embarrassment, the black sheep of the family.
A bull with hooves and horns. A boy’s intelligence
in his eyes, human emotions in his bellowing.
I thought perhaps he might follow the thread
out, once Theseus was dead.

I knew it would never work out, but I left
with Theseus because what else was I
to do? It’s not like my parents deserved
a dutiful daughter. My father thought to
cheat the gods; my mother thought to
cheat my father; it was all ruined, all
wrong. So I left with Theseus and pretended
to sleep while his men carried the supplies
on board, drew up the boats and then
the anchor, sailed away.

I woke at sunset and looked at the night sky.
That’s when he came out of the shadows
toward me, a slender figure limned in light.
He had ivy shoots and grape vines for a
crown, but the crown he offered me was
twined of stars. It glittered in his hand far
brighter than the stars above, if not as
brightly as the stars above. He smiled and
then I took his hand. “You remind me
of my brother,” I said, and smiled.

A ballad of spring flowers

Flora wears a pretty gown
but her feet are in the mud.
Her hair is twined with flowers
but there’s shit between her toes.
Without manure and mud
her flowers will not grow.
She waters them with blood
if nothing else will flow.

You may dance with Flora
but she’ll outlast your art.
Her feet can never tire
unlike your mortal heart.
But she will not forget you;
she’ll bring flowers from your grave
and wear them when she dances
in her next immortal rave.

Do not curse the goddess
for she is not the cause
of deaths that have no answers
and anger without pause.
The Fates ordained that flowers
should come from shit and mud;
but Flora will weep over them
when they have sprung from blood.

A war on the imagination

I’m forty-eight, and my joints frequently hurt. I hate crowds, and I am pretty much useless if I get fewer than eight hours of sleep. And I feel vaguely guilty, in a useless sort of way, that for those and other reasons I will not be on the streets by night, protesting the police brutality, the routine and indeed almost systematic destruction of black lives by white cops.

It disturbs me that no one around me is talking about Ferguson. My co-workers, whether black or white, are not talking about it. Baltimore’s population is a little over sixty percent black, thirty percent white, with ten percent Asian and others. I’ve never not lived, worked, gone to school, taken the bus with black people. And Baltimore’s cops, forty-percent of them black, are as trigger-happy as any police force nowadays, even though you don’t have the Ferguson situation of a mostly white, highly militarized police department vs. a mostly black populace.

My co-workers aren’t talking about it. I sensed that my family wasn’t talking about it, on Thanksgiving Day, mostly because it’s unpleasant, and we were all very pleasant and having a good time. People on Facebook aren’t talking about it, except for my pagan and polytheist friends. My folks on Tumblr *are* talking about it, linking to Twitter and news articles and blog essays in between posts on magic and the occult, or Chris Evans and Benedict Cumberbatch, or birds, butterflies, mushrooms.

A lot of pagans aren’t talking about it. There may be a perfunctory mention, like the old public service announcements on broadcast tv (I hope at least some of my readers remember those), and then it’s back to our regularly scheduled self-promotion. A lot of pagan blogging right now seems to me like just advertising a blogger’s product, no more no less. It’s reminiscent of the really early days of live television where one program had a single sponsor and every commercial break, performed live, featured General Electric or Proctor and Gamble.

I am a writer, and my words are my product. My words are what I have to offer. Specifically, I am a poet and a storyteller; I have always seen my writing as a form of service to the Divine, whatever my current understanding of divinity, and my job as imagining how things could be different. I write poetry, blog essays, and erotica with a science fiction or fantasy bent, sometimes fanfic, sometimes original (insofar as any fiction is “original”). I look at people like Ursula K. LeGuin, who recently won the National Book Award, to remind myself why the kind of writing I do is important. I look at Cecilia Tan, who also writes and publishes erotic speculative fiction, as an example of the writing I want to do; I look at Star Trek, Star Wars, Babylon 5, the rebooted Battlestar Galactica, as examples of the influence that science fiction stories can have. Every time I write a story in which two men, perhaps characters who are presumed to be heterosexual, have loving and emotionally meaningful sex, I am striking a blow against sexism, against homophobia, against narratives that privilege violence. Every time I write a story that helps someone feel sexual pleasure, I am striking a blow against capitalism, the Protestant work ethic, the condemnation of the body and its pleasures.

I don’t know much of the work of poet Diane Di Prima, but I do know this poem, which I first came across many years ago:

 

THE ONLY WAR THAT MATTERS IS THE WAR AGAINST

THE IMAGINATION

 

THE ONLY WAR THAT MATTERS IS THE WAR AGAINST

THE IMAGINATION

THE ONLY WAR THAT MATTERS IS THE WAR AGAINST

THE IMAGINATION

ALL OTHER WARS ARE SUBSUMED IN IT

 

There is no way out of a spiritual battle

There is no way you can avoid taking sides

There is no way you can not have a poetics

no matter what you do: plumber, baker, teacher

 

you do it in the consciousness of making

or not making yr world

you have a poetics: you step into the world

like a suit of readymade clothes

 

or you etch in light

your firmament spills into the shape of your room

the shape of the poem, of yr body, of yr loves

In the war against the imagination, I am on the side of life, peace, equality, eros, friendship, creativity. I am on the side of the protesters in Ferguson, Missouri, and their fellow protesters in other cities. I am on the side of socialists and anarchists like Rhyd Wildermuth, people who smash gender binaries like P. Sufenas Virius Lupus, people who embrace all of life’s buried chaos like Sannion. And before I give you my hand, much less buy what you’re trying to sell me, I want to know which side of the war you’re on.

Possibly a mission statement

I’ve written devotional poems for several deities now, but writing one for Antinous proved surprisingly hard. I think, however, that this poem definitely belongs at the head of this blog.

Antinous for Everybody

I am grateful to have you in my life,

Bithynian Boy: So grateful that I find

I don’t want to keep you to myself.

I want to share you with everyone

around me, anyone who might be

as hungry and thirsty as I was.

I want to be your Ganymede

and hand you round like the Holy Grail,

so that everyone who tastes you

can drink of their desire.

Antinous for everybody!

Drink of the boy turned god,

the one who comes

and meets us more

than halfway, the new interpreter

of gods to mortals and likewise

mortals to gods.

Drink of his eyes that

look deeply into yours

when you look at him;

drink of his listening

expression, his soft and

silent mouth. Taste his abundant

curls, his broad sturdy

shoulders, his perfect buttocks.

Antinous for everyone!

Drink deeply, friends, for I

am drunk with love and want

you to be as drunk as I am.

 

I want to give you away to old ladies

who have no one to listen

to them and no one to carry

their groceries to the kitchen.

I want to share you with

the misfit teenagers

who think no one else

has ever felt as they do,

who call themselves

bi or pan or ace,

boi or gurl or queer.

I want to take you out

for drinks and show you off

to all my fag-hag friends,

dressed in low-rise jeans

and boots and a henley

stretched across the muscles

of your chest. Take, eat,

enjoy the Beautiful God,

lovable and lovely, amiable

but fierce, both benevolent and just.

I want to take you to all the churches

that punish people in Jesus’ name

so you can tell them Jesus loves them

no matter who they fuck.

 

Then when I’ve introduced you

to all the people who need you,

all the people I think would love you,

take my hand and walk me home,

and with your smile, Antinous,

remind me that nothing shared

is anything lost, and that your love

stays with me though I give it away.

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