Friday, September 18, 2015

Secret Message

On July 7, 1984, in Bangor, Maine, Charlie Howard, a gay man, was killed by three teenage boys who threw him off a bridge. They pled guilty to manslaughter and served approximately two years in prison. (Subsequently, one of them spent some time speaking to young people about why homophobia is bad.)

In 1984 my family was living elsewhere in Maine. We heard about the killing that summer. Later on we moved to Bangor. The murder of Charlie Howard is only a prelude to my story about the Bangor Public Library. Consider it a reminder of what I, as a queer person, had to look forward to.

It was a nice little library. I haven't seen it since Stephen King donated huge amounts of money towards its renovation. I'm sure it's still nice. When I first started going there, I hung out in the young adult section. Then at some point I discovered the adult fiction room, which was downstairs.

One day I was browsing the shelves and I found a gay novel. Or possibly a lesbian novel. I don't remember exactly which book it was. But I quickly realized that someone had chosen to purchase this book for the library and put it on the shelf. This book and others like it. My recollection is that I had been exploring the adult fiction section for some time - as much as a year - before I found this book. Either I hadn't noticed it before, or conceivably someone had suddenly made the decision to start providing these books. Someone put them there for us to find.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

On the Full Moon of August 29, 2015

“It was completely silent . . . all you could hear were the fire alarms in people's houses dying away, the burglar alarms dying away.” Charmaine Neville, on the aftermath of Katrina*

Oh moon
for such a long time you've been with us
Oh moon
for thousands of years people have said
Oh moon
when you look down on us
what do you see?

Oh moon
the battery in the fire alarm ran out
the battery in the burglar alarm ran out
the 'uninterruptible' power supply ran out
Oh moon
when do you run out?

Oh moon
please stay with us
in all your faces
dark and light

* I am trying to find a source for this quote. I saw it on TV. Right now all I have is this audio track, with reference to the fire alarms around 21:08.