Poems to Come Out with

Oscar & Walt

On thee & thou terms

It’s Coming Out Day! When I was an undergrad at Smith College, this was one of our beloved campus celebrations: the night before, anyone who wanted to (i.e., almost everyone) went around with sidewalk chalk and decorated every inch of chalkable surface with messages of coming out or of supporting those who do. One of my proudest college moments, which I hope is still as legendary among Smithies of a certain age as it used to be, was when my friends and I set out to correct a backlash chalking the same week. Some jerks had gone around doing, basically, “straight pride” chalkings all over. (Straight people, I love you, but you get 364 days for declaring yourselves, you know?) Some friends and I grabbed our pail of chalk and did some guerrilla activism on them:

Smith, Go Co-Ed –> By day, Ed Smith. By night, Go-Go Ed! (with cartoon of disco dancer)

Dick Rules –> Dick III Rules England, 1483-1485

And so on. It was rad.

Anyway, now I’m a grownup, and I don’t go around chalking my neighborhood, though I really should. Instead, I chalk the internet. So in honor of Coming Out Day, here are some poems that celebrate queer-ass love.

Anne Sexton, “Song for a Lady”

“The room is so cold with rain” you said
and you, feminine you, with your flower
said novenas to my ankles and elbows.

Adrienne Rich, “(The Floating Poem, Unnumbered)”

your strong tongue and slender fingers
reaching where I have been waiting years for you
in my rose-wet cave

Mark Doty, “Homo Will Not Inherit”

I have been an angel
for minutes at a time, and I have for hours
believed—without judgement, without condemnation—
that in each body, however obscured or recast,

is the divine body—common, habitable—
the way in a field of sunflowers
you can see every bloom’s

the multiple expression
of a single shining idea,
which is the face hammered into joy.

Marilyn Hacker, [Didn’t Sappho say her guts clutched up like this?]

Although I’d cream my jeans touching your breast,
sweetheart, it isn’t lust; it’s all the rest
of what I want with you that scares me shitless.

 Walt Whitman, “A Glimpse”

Of a youth who loves me and whom I love, silently approaching and seating himself near, that he may hold me by the hand,
A long while amid the noises of coming and going, of drinking and oath and smutty jest,
There we two, content, happy in being together, speaking little, perhaps not a word.
Happy Coming Out, you beautiful people. Uncle Walt’s got your back.
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