L. Lamar Wilson illustrates the challenging intersection of childhood, homophobia, and race.
My nephew waltzes beside his father,
the man who was the boy who made Faggot!
a reason not to flinch. His neck a merry-
go-round, our boy rears back, waves
his pointer in my face, jabs his other fist
into his hip & wails: Watch yo’ mouth!
Watch yo’ mouth, Miss Effie White! ’Cause I
Don’t take no mess from no second-rate diva
Who can’t sustain! In my brother’s eyes, I see
the pain of remembering when I crooned―Don’t
tell me not to live. Just sit & putter. Life’s candy
& the sun’s a ball of butter―& made him grimace.
I scan the wall of plaques in Mama’s den,
the remnants of home runs & aces that gave
him hope then, all dusty now. Teeth clenched,
he smiles at his dreamboy & nods in disbelief.
Harrumphs. Lashes flittering, he offers me
the only penance he can: a sheepish grin.
We applaud & feign heartened laughter.
My nephew sees beyond the veil shrouding
his father’s eyes. Realizes this isn’t
how brown boys win favor. Searches
my eyes for answers. Mirrors
a sadness no song can shake.
Appears in Sacrilegion (Carolina Wren Press, 2013).
Originally published in Rattle.
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