notes on exile no.3: arete



Previous: Notes on Exile no.2

Bus company lanyards dangling over gingham or knock-off Ralph Lauren or Red Sox  swag, slack-jawed tourists gape. You’d think they’d never seen a drag queen.

Martha, look at that, pointing to a t-shirt: ‘I Love My Two Dads.’ Laughter. Nervous. How about that?

I had two dads. And two moms. It’s complicated.

Rick says I’m a good person to think with. He means, I think, I’m good at traveling with an idea

The men I’m attracted to are bad for me.

The spring I finished driver’s ed, I coached girl’s softball. My friend, Kim, wanted to coach but she wasn’t sixteen, which was the rule, so, knowing nothing about softball, or baseball, and not liking those games, I became the coach on record.

The other coaches, mostly moms, were condescending, which confirmed something I knew, but wouldn’t admit in any other context: older people generally suck.

Which is to say something about power.

Some data: Obsession allows us not to be lonely, which is why I spend so much time mourning. I’m claustrophobic, literally, but more figuratively. Dense enclaves allow us to find kindred souls. This enclave is dense with a thing that’s not me. Which is no cause for critique, but to maintain presence, I cultivate absence.

We won, they won, the championship.

I still can’t hit a ball. And I don’t know how to throw. Which is to say I throw like a girl. Which is wrong because those girls could throw. Which is to point out the abject stupidity of homophobia. And sexism.

Mostly, we helped coordinate eyes and hands. And we had fun while practicing, never talking about winning.

I teach a lot of shit I don’t know.

It’s ‘International Talk Like a Pirate Day’ and I awoke with Kim David Smith’s version of ‘Pirate Jenny’ in my head. Even thought it’s raining, with the ultimate revenge fantasy as my earworm, I know it’s gonna be a good day.

Cabaret is deceptively seductive. Watching performers achieve transcendent narratives—not being, as Joey Arias told me, a clown—I want to transpose myself onto their bodies. I imagine it, but don’t know the words.

Kurt knew something I only now understand: I’ll never be one of those bodies on a stage.

Don’t say it. I know.

Fifty isn’t dead. But I refuse to buy into that self-help bullshit. I don’t have ten thousand hours for piano and dance and voice and song writing and acting camp when I was thirteen.

Bobby paid me a compliment as he introduced me to Dane: He’s a good painter. I was surprised and reflexively wanted to brush it off, but I caught myself and thanked him.

Will I ever be happy in the body I have?

You heard right. The gay bohemian estate is a new fourth estate. It’s 1914 or 1764 or 1939 or something, at least Astrologically, and the shit’s about to get real.

There’ve been a lot of Ryder nights, moonlight projecting behind clouds, blue-black and gold. I posted something about this on Facebook and Mike made a joke about archival materials. But I corrected him; the night’s a lousy technician.

Ryder obsessively built paintings of transcendent beauty, thought those who immediately followed him, making him America’s first Modernist. But they fell apart, almost before he did. We’ll never know if Ryder achieved his goals, just that a few people thought he did. Which should be enough.

Arete is an ancient idea of excellence bound up with fulfilling function: the act of living to one’s potential.

Older people taught me not to openly anticipate, kicking passionate joy from me. I hardly have exclusive claim to their damage. So I try to teach what my body doesn’t know (or just vaguely remembers).

How do we get better?

Three endings to the poem (for now):

One: Vulnerability protects everything the artist doesn’t want you to see. There’s limited virtue in naming what every body knows.

Two: The day before Bobby’s compliment I complimented (a different) Chris for his productivity and he returned the compliment. Oh no, I said, I’m the most inconsistent painter ever. And I believed it.

I’m a writer now.

Three: The gay bohemian estate in Truro has lots of bedrooms, and a big space to work. And gardens.

Which I’ll tend, waiting for you.


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