“. . . No longer needed there, love is folded away in a drawer. . .” (Chase Twichell)

Every gay boy's dream?

Every gay boy’s dream?

Today is the big day.

When I was in 9th grade, my parents’ friend Emily Wilks and I were having a conversation in the basement of the parsonage where she taught our junior high Sunday School class. (Our Baptist Church’s new building next door was not quite finished.) She asked me for whom I would vote if I could, John F. Kennedy or Richard Nixon. I told her that, of course, I’d vote for Nixon because Kennedy was a Catholic.

Emily’s husband Lowell was a sheep feeder who made lots of money buying thousands of lambs in the spring and selling them in the fall. He was the first “capitalist” whose business I ever understood. Both of them were graduates of the University of Missouri and about the smartest people I knew. She was on the city School Board, and she drove a new Lincoln Continental every fall. The one she was driving that year was the first car any of us knew about that cost more than $5,000. Her son told my brother that, and every other senior at the high school.

Mrs. Wilks asked me if that was a good reason to choose our President. I knew she was a Democrat—the only one on the School Board—so I figured she was just trying to proselytize me. What neither she nor all the Republicans in my life knew was that I was secretly in love with Kennedy (what gay boy in Nebraska wasn’t?), and that I probably would have voted for him.

Is it odd that I remember that conversation from 54 years ago? No. It was, in point of fact, one of the most significant conversations of my life. Mrs. Wilks gave me permission to think about rational reasons for choosing whom to vote for rather than gut-level emotional responses based on irrelevant criteria.

Every Tea Partier's nightmare

Every Tea Partier’s nightmare

Yesterday on the ever-liberal and intellectual NPR, John Hockenberry, host of “The Takeaway,” made a joke that, even though President Obama has not been invited to campaign much for Democrats, he has managed to play 200 rounds of golf during his Presidency. John Hockenberry! I guess NPR is knuckling under to David H. Koch, who is now their singe highest donor.

That is now the level of thought that goes into one’s choice for candidates in this country. It makes voting or not voting for someone because he is a Catholic look like highly erudite and rational thinking.

(Just for kicks, you can find out how many vacation days Presidents are wont to take. President Obama is by far NOT the most self-indulgent President. In point of fact, Ronald Reagan, the [I assume] favorite President of voters who will vote against Democrats today because President Obama plays too much golf, is hands-down the winner of the “day off” contest for Presidents.)

I will be extremely lucky (or unlucky) if I live another 10 years. In the most unthinkable of terms, according to genetics, I could live 27 more years if I reach my father’s age when he died.

I’m not going to get into details about the idiotic reasons people are choosing whom to vote for all across the nation today. I can’t say that my parents’ and most of their friends’ reasons for voting for Richard Nixon in 1960 were much more thoughtful than voting for Joni Ernst because she’s castrated a few pigs. Or voting for Sam Brownback because Paul Davis went to a strip club 20 years ago. Or voting for Greg Abbott because he’s part of the good-ole-boy network that’s been running Texas since 1994.

Or voting against any number of candidates because President Obama plays golf (code for “that uppity N****r”—how dare he play the white man’s game?).

Well, even if I live 27 more years, I can probably count on a small remainder of some semblance of freedom and order in this county. Probably not much, however. More likely, I will die before George Orwell’s society of 1984 has taken over. We’ve always had our fair share of Newspeak (Weapons of Mass Destruction, anyone?). And Big Brother is watching us—watching you reading this (and it doesn’t even take the NSA).

My direction in this writing is not clear. I don’t have a clue what my conclusion is.

I’m not contemplating my death. I’m not suicidal. I don’t want to die. But I do want to live, not to be pursued by capitalists, not to be watched by anti-terrorists, not to be deprived of my rights as a human being by self-absorbed Tea Partiers.

I don’t want to live in some silent future where love is no longer needed.

And I’m afraid our body politic is caroming out of control to a place where the choices are armed, vicious, bloody revolution or where the Ministries of Peace, Plenty, Love, and Truth are devoted to War, Famine, Hatred, and Lies.

Oh, my. How did this end up so dark?

“Inland,” by Chase Twichell (b. 1950)
Above the blond prairies,
the sky is all color and water.
The future moves
from one part to another.

This is a note
in a tender sequence
that I call love,
trying to include you,
but it is not love.
It is music, or time.

To explain the pleasure I take
in loneliness, I speak of privacy,
but privacy is the house around it.
You could look inside,
as through a neighbor’s window
at night, not as a spy
but curious and friendly.
You might think
it was a still life you saw.

Somewhere, the ocean
crashes back and forth
like so much broken glass,
but nothing breaks.
Against itself,
it is quite powerless.

Irises have rooted
all along the fence,
and the barbed berry-vines
gone haywire.

Unpruned and broken,
the abandoned orchard
reverts to the smaller,
harder fruits, wormy and tart.
In the stippled shade,
the fallen pears move
with the soft bodies of wasps,
and cows breathe in
the licorice silage.

It is silent
where the future is.
No longer needed there,
love is folded away in a drawer
like something newly washed.
In the window,
the color of the pears intensifies,
and the fern’s sporadic dust
darkens the keys of the piano.

Clouds containing light
spill out my sadness.
They have no sadness of their own.

The timeless trash of the sea
means nothing to me—
its roaring descant,
its multiple concussions.
I love painting more than poetry.

Mrs. Wilks' new car

Mrs. Wilks’ new car

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