This week in history: National Coming Out Day celebrated in poems
The original National Coming Out Day logo, designed in 1988 by Keith Haring.

This year is the 30th anniversary of National Coming Out Day (NCOD), an annual LGBTQ awareness day observed on October 11. Founded in the United States in 1988, the initial idea was grounded in the feminist and gay liberation spirit of the personal being political, and the emphasis on the most basic form of activism being coming out to family, friends and colleagues, and living life as an openly LGBTQ person. The foundational belief is that homophobia thrives in an atmosphere of silence and ignorance, and that once people know that they have loved ones who are LGBTQ, they are far less likely to maintain homophobic or oppressive views.

NCOD was founded by Robert Eichberg and Jean O’Leary. Eichberg was a psychologist from New Mexico and founder of the personal growth workshop, The Experience. O’Leary was an openly lesbian political leader and long-time activist from New York, and was at the time the head of the National Gay Rights Advocates in Los Angeles. As LGBTQ activists, they did not want to respond defensively to anti-LGBTQ action, but maintain positivity and celebrate coming out. The date of October 11 was chosen because it was the first anniversary of the massive 1987 National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights.

People’s World is proud to introduce a fresh voice in American poetry. Jubi Arriola-Headley is a poet, storyteller, and first-generation American born to Bajan (Barbadian) parents. He’s a 2018 PEN America Emerging Voices Fellow, and a first-year student in the Creative Writing MFA program at the University of Miami. He is currently working on his first collection of poems, titled Original Kink. He and his husband divide their time between South Florida and Guatemala, where he hopes to eventually pick up enough Spanish to figure out what his in-laws are saying about him.

Here are four of his recent poems:

A Prayer for Grown Folks

I pray that blood keeps sewering
through my veins like rats in New York,
invincible; that my thickened thighs
don’t sprout tender shoots of varicose veins;
that my limbs don’t wither & shrivel; that I find
the grace to greet the patrolman’s gaze without
Crenshaw in my eyes & catfish on my tongue;
that on any day, take today, the sight of two
black men holding hands in these soiled streets feels
familiar to me as my morning piss, or school shootings;
that I learn how to walk in the world @ dawn,
or on a Tuesday, or before or after work or church
without scanning for my silhouette rendered in chalk
& framed in caution tape; that I’ll know whether it’s better
to die after everyone I love, or before; that I not be forgotten
until after I’m gone; that I’ll always be blindsided
by that burst of fuchsia in flowers & the hidden folds
of a lover & cotton socks peeking out from pantcuffs &
the throats of children & the guts of a birthday cake.

 

Zero Gravity

weightlessness
What                                                   it must be
to presume                  life.
To presume                 tomorrow.
To sense the breeze at your back & presume
tailwind,
not
pursuit.
To presume no.
To presume                                                     mine.
To presume                                                     first.
To presume beauty.
To presume                                                     mirror.
To presume                                                     us                                & them.
To presume
God
looks like you.

 

This is not a “Dear John” letter.

Jubi Arriola-Headley. | David Daily

I have a confession, America. I will never
consider suicide. I love rainbows, sure,
but what I’d really miss is carrot cake.

(& cum)

I’ve planned your murder a million times—
just a tiny little death, America. I’ve pitchforked
you until you geysered my birthright all over me.
(Was it good for you too, America?)

I’m freak, America, a peeping
Tyrone. I fashion a fetish
out of outside looking in.

I’m a schoolgirl, thirteen going
on gutted, all sass & curves &
possibilities.

I’m a cowboy, thirteen going
on gelding, all swear words & swagger
& shirts versus skins.

I’m a symphony of breaking bones.
I’m shredding skin on concrete canvas.
I’m a teaspoon of history whisked into a pound of lies.
I’m original kink, I’m the shackled serpent,
I’m Jesus to your Judas. Yes.
I’m the patron saint of probable cause.

(What do you think, America? Does this poem earn me an FBI file?)

This is not a manifesto, America.
This is not a ransom note.
This is not a “Dear John” letter.
This is not an invoice.

This
is a dare.

I dare you to love me, America.
I dare you to love me like it’s legal.

 

Red

Come sundown, between my soul, and the stars, the sky…erupts, a billion variations on vermilion, from papaya to pitaya to persimmon, from cherry, to ruby, to tail-light, yeah, that unremarkable red of tail lights on cars, that harsh, everyday red whose absence (on the right, not the left) got me pulled over last night, that self-same red or lack of it that got Walter Scott pulled over, once, and Philando Castile, once, at least, once is enough, you see, it’s only once that matters, in the end, for either of those souls, for any of us, and brothers get gone for so. many. reasons. But say what you will, tail-lights don’t seem like a fair trade for blood.

Come sundown, though, feels like every somewhere on God’s green earth turns a sundown town for black and brown. And red? Huh. Call it vermilion, or magenta, or rouge, or cinnabar, or whatever fancy name you want, red is just…red. I guess.

Historical source: Wikipedia.


CONTRIBUTOR

Special to PeoplesWorld.org
Special to PeoplesWorld.org

Peoplesworld.org is a daily news website of, for and by the 99% and the direct descendant of the Daily Worker. Published by Long View Publishing Co., People’s World reports on the movements for jobs, peace, equality, democracy, civil rights and liberties, labor, immigrant, LGBT and women’s rights, protection of the environment, and more.

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