For LGBTQ Pride Month: Poetry for the season
From left, writers Audre Lorde, Meridel LeSueur, Adrienne Rich, at a writing workshop in Austin, Texas, July 15, 2007 / K. Kendall (Creative Commons)

LGBTQ Pride Month 2018 presents its special challenges, many of them brought on this year by the backward thinking Trump administration. No doubt a good portion of the anti-LGBTQ backlash comes from Vice President Mike Pence, who has made a career out of homophobia.

Homophobia has taken control of the wheel in the White House, which failed this year to issue an LGBTQ Pride Month declaration, has erased questions about LGBTQ identity on the 2020 census form, has dropped references to LGBTQ students from the Dept. of Education website, has sought to kick trans people out of the U.S. armed forces, has chosen a Supreme Court member who promptly voted for a baker to refuse service to a gay couple. The list of offenses and backpedaling goes on, not to mention Trump’s assault on every other minority community, healthcare, women, immigrants, labor, ad infinitum. Our work is cut out for us!

We often seek relief, solace, wisdom and solidarity in poetry. We hope these selections from Gay & Lesbian Poetry in Our Time, an anthology edited by Carl Morse and Joan Larkin (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1988), provide some fresh and welcome perspective.


By Maurice Kenny

And in their holiness made power
For the people of the Cheyenne Nation.
There was space for us in the village.
The Crow and Ponca offered deerskin
When the decision to avoid the warpath was made,
And we were accepted into the fur robes
Of a young warrior, and lay by his flesh
And I knew his mouth and warm groin:
Or we married (a second wife) to the chief.
And if we fulfilled our duties, he smiled
And gave us his grandchildren to care for.

We were special to the Sioux, Cheyenne, Ponca
And the Crow who valued our worth and did not spit
Names at our lifted skirts nor kicked our nakedness.
We had power with the people!

And if we cared to carry the lance, or dance
Over enemy scalps and take buffalo
Then that, too, was good for the Nation,
And contrary to our stand we walked backwards.

*Sioux word for male homosexual.

Political Relations

By Audre Lorde

In a hotel in Tashkent
The Latvian delegate from Riga
was sucking his fishbones
as a Chukwu woman with hands as hot as mine
caressed my knee beneath the dinner table
her slanted eyes were dark as seal fur
we did not know each other’s tongue.

“Someday we will talk through our children”
she said
“I spoke to your eyes this morning
you have such a beautiful face”
thin-lipped Moscow girls translated for us
smirking at each other.

And I had watched her in the Conference Hall
ox-solid   black electric hair
straight as a deer’s rein   fire-disc eyes
sweeping over the faces
like a stretch of frozen tundra
we were two ends of one taut rope
stretched like a promise from her mouth
singing the friendship song
her people sang for greeting
There are only fourteen thousand of us left
   it is a very sad thing   it is a very sad thing
   when any people   any people   dies

“Yes, I heard you this morning”
I said   reaching out from the place where we touched
poured her vodka   an offering
which she accepted like roses
leaning across our white Russian interpreters
to kiss me softly upon my lips.

Then she got up and left
with the Latvian delegate from Riga.

Tree Marriage

By William Meredith

In Chota Nagpur and Bengal
the betrothed are tied with threads to
mango trees, they marry the trees
as well as one another, and
the two trees marry each other.
Could we do that some time with oaks
or beeches? This gossamer we
hold each other with, this web
of love and habit is not enough.
In mistrust of heavier ties,
I would like tree-siblings for us,
standing together somewhere, two
trees married with us, lightly, their
fingers barely touching in sleep,
our threads invisible but holding.

A Chinese Banquet

for the one who was not invited

By Kitty Tsui

it was not a very formal affair but
all the women over twelve
wore long gowns and a corsage,
except for me.

it was not a very formal affair, just
the family getting together,
poa poa, kuw fu without kuw mow*
(her excuse this year is a headache).

aunts and uncles and cousins,
the grandson who is a dentist,
the one who drives a mercedes benz,
sitting down for shark’s fin soup.

they talk about buying a house and
taking a two week vacation in beijing.
i suck on shrimp and squab,
dreaming of the cloudscape in your eyes.

my mother, her voice beaded with sarcasm:
you’re twenty six and not getting younger.
it’s about time you got a decent job.
she no longer asks when i’m getting married.

you’re twenty six and not getting younger.
what are you doing with your life?
you’ve got to make a living.
why don’t you study computer programming?

she no longer asks when i’m getting married.
one day, wanting desperately to
bridge the boundaries that separate us,
wanting desperately to touch her,

tell her: mother, i’m gay,
mother i’m gay and so happy with her.
but she will not listen,
she shakes her head.

she sits across from me,
emotions invading her face.
her eyes are wet but
she will not let tears fall.

mother, i say,
you love a man.
i love a woman.
it is not what she wants to hear.

aunts and uncles and cousins,
very much a family affair.
but you are not invited,
being neither my husband nor my wife.

aunts and uncles and cousins
eating longevity noodles
fragrant with ham inquire:
sold that old car of yours yet?

i want to tell them: my back is healing,
i dream of dragons and water.
my home is in her arms,
our bedroom ceiling the wide open sky.

*kuw fu: uncle; kuw mow: aunt


Special to People’s World
Special to People’s World

People’s World is a voice for progressive change and socialism in the United States. It provides news and analysis of, by, and for the labor and democratic movements to our readers across the country and around the world. People’s World traces its lineage to the Daily Worker newspaper, founded by communists, socialists, union members, and other activists in Chicago in 1924.