You don’t get to be a fag hag with clout
in this city until you’ve danced in a crowd
at the Moby Dick and cackled
like Joan Rivers when a queen explains
why your shoe soles are sticky.
“It’s all that dried semen, honey.”
Coming of age is a stroll
down the happy trail dotted with
peace, love, and men
the spittin’ image of Tina Turner or Cher.
It smells of Djarum cloves
and tastes like Caramel Latte
and wonton soup
and pesto pizza
and Double Rainbow
Tutti Frutti ice cream.
Among ten thousand souls
at the vigil, slim candles
burn in Dixie cups.
The cups prevent the breeze from snuffing
them out like the lives of Milk
and Moscone. It’s been ten years
but it’s yesterday tonight.
Even in fury there is humor.
A billboard on the way in:
“San Francisco Home
where you can get away with double homicide
if you eat enough Hostess snack cakes
and one of your victims is gay.
And this in
the beckoning city where
manicured lawns and pastel houses
of a vast neighborhood pulse
with show tunes and swaying hips.
And men hold hands with men
and kiss! In the light of day, kissing each other!
A beautiful vacuum, this “Boy
in the Plastic Bubble” world of how it should be.
Everyone’s free and loves freely.
There is dancing
to George Michael and Duran Duran
in clubs where lights strike
mirrored balls and swirl
along the walls and floor
like a square dancer’s skirt.
It’s also Black Flag seared
industrial pierced guitar riffs
and coffee so long on the stove
it hurts to breathe.
At night, drag queens meander
down the yellow brick road.
Tina’s smeared her lipstick
and Cher’s stocking has a run.
Walk through the door of life
with guileless eyes and a heart
as open as a window in springtime.
The cumulus clouds, puffy
part, revealing the truth –
life’s not lollipops and rainbows.
A shadow follows every living, dying thing.
This is evolution.
Debra McQueen is the author of the poetry collection Bad Girlfriend (Singing Bone Press, 2015). Her poems have appeared in The Legendary, Neon UK, rogueAgent, and the anthology Revolution & the Discontent, forthcoming from Poetry in Motion Publishing House, among others. WORK Literary Magazine published one of her many scathing resignation letters and, in spite of this, she still has a job teaching special education in Soda City, South Carolina.