Wednesday, October 1, 2014


By James-Clifton Spires (copyright 2000)

"Stand Still," I shout, against my will,

as the rambling rose in her cotton clothes

walks down Main Street,

freshly gowned in a new clinging frock,

her body refusing the still, pastel prison,

moving with ripples of flesh

and heat beneath the thin fabric.

The wind which caresses the material against her skin

calls out to old men like me in our passing cars,

our front steps, our cigarettes

burning to for-a-moment forgotten ashes

as we watch this dancer

pour down the street

in streams of strolling rhythms all her own.

"Do you like my dress?" she says,

without words, knowing the answer:

"Oh, yes! We love it all!"

Women shimmer

in spring and summer dresses,

their exposed natural shoulders most beautiful

when reflecting, in their size-14 fleshiness,

sweaty shadows of delight

in their collar bones underneath spaghetti straps,

in their breath, in their wide smiling mouths
uplifted to catch the possibly

of humidity in the air, suddenly, hopefully

becoming  thunderous rain.

Grown women --- Janes and Marilyns ---

in sun dresses of flowing light,

laughing like unformed twiggy school girls

pretending to be mature,

Like the treasured waifs flat-walking on their runways

in the latest lightweight fashions

hanging limp on human coat hangers,

doing a dance without life.

No, the treasures are the women,

the soft, rounded children of substance

who know best how to dance in the spring.

Their free exposure of just enough of their scenic routes,

their blossom-bursting child-like souls,
spinning, flowing, sending sauce over heir shoulders,

soft self-love that invites us all

to shiver at their loveliness,

to marvel at their thick completeness,

that astounds the observer

at the beauty which dances

in the first week of spring.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

No Gay Child Left Behind GAY CHILD LEFT BEHIND

By James-Clifton Spires
Copyright 2000.

Several years ago, in a small southeast Ohio town, the best baton twirler around was a boy named Reggie.

Reggie, you must understand, was not one of those high stepping, athletic drum majors who lead college marching bands down the football fields like Teddy Roosevelt charging up San Juan Hill. Reggie twirled his beribboned batons like a majorette, like the second runner-up in a state beauty pageant, with swiveling hips, sashays and flairs and a big smile that could only be described as ... sweet.

He would go out and practice on the front lawn of the local high school with the other baton twirlers--- all girls. When he would walk down thhe street, his rear end swaying like Marilyn Monroe in the 1954 movie Niagara, he was subject to jokes and catcalls behind his back.

Reggie never was ashamed of himself and never was afraid. I always wondered why. Then I met Reggie's parents.

At the time, I was editor of the town's twice-weekly newspapewr. Reggie's parents came in to see me after we published an article about their son. Two nights before, when Reggie was walking home alone, two good ol' boys carrying tire irons drove up and beat him unconscious in front of a gas station.

When he woke up in the hospital, his nose was broken. His jaw was wired shut. Some of the scars on his face became permanent.

Reggie's mother and father seemed to be a little older than the parents of Reggie's peers. They were quiet, almost too-ordinary people --- as if they were trying to provide a counter-balance for their flamboyant son.

They showed me some Polaroid pictures of their badly battered son, in his hospital bed. They asked me to publish them the next time I wrote about the men who did this to him.

I hesitated. The photos were graphic, too strong for our paper's readers. I also was concerned that playing up the story might spark more trouble for Reggie and his parents.

"It doesn't matter," his father said. "Reggie's never coming home again. We won't l;et him. It's not safe for him here."

About 12 years ago, one of my two sons told his mother and me tthat he was gay. To be honest, we had suspected it for some time and were prepared to hear it, but just the same, it was an emotional moment for all of is. We knew how hard and how important it was for him to tell us. We probably should have been more serious, but we wanted him to know that his sex life just wasn't that big a deal for us. (Disclosure: I few years later after my son came out, I also came out as a gay man to my family.)

In the end, we shrugged and joked, "So what? We still expect grandchildren. You go figure out how to provide them."

But everybody who has a gay child handles it differently. I'm struck by the contrast between two political families --- the Gephardts and the Cheneys. Former U.S. Rep. Dick Gephardt of Nebraska openly embraced his lesbian daughter when she came out to him at the beginning of his unsuccessful campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2003. On the other hand , I don't knbow how long former U.S. Vice Presidenbt Dick Cheney was aware that his own daughter, Mary, is a lesbian --- he only first acknowledged it publicly in the summer of 2004, when he was campaigniing for re-election with George W. Bush, and for a long time, did not really seem comfortable with discussing it.

Of course, Cheney's reticence could be considered understandable--- he was in the awkward position of working for a boss who was an active opponent of gay marriage, as well as being a member of a political party with a history of including opposition to gay rights in its national platform.

All politics aside and personal history aside, my feeling is the only proper response when one learns his child is gay or straight or even asexual is, "I love you, period." When we become parents, we should commit ourselves to loving our children, from the womb to the grave --- whether we agree with them on everything they do or not. For anything else to take precedence over that love --- politics, religion, social status, health --- is just dirty and wrong.

Which brings me back to the story of Reggie, who survived his injuries. He lives in Columbus, Ohio, and works as a cabaret entertainer. He won a drag queen beauty contest one year and reigned as Miss Gay Southern Ohio, or some such title. He likes the makeup, the pretty dresses --- they cover up the scars from his beating.

And he really enjoyed the talent competition--- his batons flamed brilliantly --- just like him.

And when they're in the audience, no one applauds louder than his mom and dad.