Forgotten Thoughts

upon hearing the news
i wondered
had i wished for this?
voices echoing in my head
“be careful”
“be careful what you wish for”

him
johnnie walker johnnie walker
absent eggs & bacon, coffee brewing
morning smells
his breath was johnnie walker

and her
better get an A
spirit broken — nervous
better get an A
i’d work to keep her home
no trouble, i’d be no trouble
i’d get that A
ashamed i wished them dead

the best they could
they had done
the best they could
and for that
i wished them life

i left
trying to protect you
into the night
severing my tongue
afraid to disappoint
to protect you
i could live this lie
hoping you would die
before i’d get caught

what about your brothers
would this hurt your brothers?
she asked
he says
this is not the dream i had for you
had they wished me dead?

upon hearing the news
pregnant with desire father of dreams
my veins filled with poisoned liquid
my eyes now veiled
i remember at sixteen on a bridge i wanted to jump
getting the news
cysts and discharged fluid
hardening on the breast i once suckled
she cut and stapled in one day in the same week
he was cut and stapled
after his river of life refused to flow

i remember
at the side of the grave
children lowered
wailing mother
_______ “oh, Lord, why?
_______ take me, i have nothing now
_______ please, take me”
i had thought
“those that have given life
should not have to lay it to rest”
i remembered
upon hearing the news
what i had wished for.


© B.Michael Hunter 1994

Written at Bread Loaf Writing Workshop, Andover MA

1994-The-News


Beginning The Day

I begin the day massaging my mind
Knowing I’ve walked this winding road before
Gospel rings out of every pore of my body
Like a wrung sponge full of spilt milk
Which would have been ice cream
Had we not the night before been so in love
I’m really daydreaming unable to start today because of yesterday
Could life be the smell of french fries
Like the sweetness of your dreams
I could love you like tomorrow
A testament to your copper skinned beauty
Are you sure
Will we swoon?
Our dancing fluid or will it become an abrasive?
Will we stay in love
Life is often a winding road, it can be sexy and strange
Inspiring your heart to beat and attracting your mind to breathe
I begin the day massaging my mind
On my way to tomorrow.


© B.Michael Hunter 1994

1994G11-beginning-the-day



But You Were Yves (for Assotto Saint)

Calm fragranted air
How in all this stillness, this splendor
could grief be so great?

I’ve paced the floors of my mind
I am visited by old friends
Will you see them there?

I pictured trees and forest and motion
Are you a circle?
Was the shade you cast so broad it stunted the growth of others?

From time to time I wonder
What is to be learned from this
Death
Begs the question

I’m to write A SAMIKA
Seven lines with sight, sound, taste, touch, smell, ending with a couplet on how I feel.
A direction like so many I cannot follow
How does one duplicate brilliance?
The words you so eloquently wrote in A SAMIKA

Holding you one of six* —
to your final resting place
to decay on the love of your life
Did you die of a broken heart?
The ritual seems so ordinary


© B.Michael Hunter 1994


*Reference to other Black Gay male writers who died relatively close together in the early 90s: Craig G. Harris (1991), Donald W. Woods (1992), Roy Gonsalves (1993), and Marlon Riggs (1994).

Inquiry

I wonder what one has to do
to become an “American interest”

Something vital
which needs protection

What does a Black man
in this country
have to do to become
something vital to America
so that America would take an interest in him

What must I
a Black Faggot
do
to become
a vital interest
a vital American interest
that needs protection

What must
PWA’s, Women, Senior Citizens,
Lesbians, Working Poor, Adults who need help with their
reading, Men/Women/Children/Families in the streets or hungry,
Asians, Native Americans, Latins, Arab-Americans
do
to become vital to America
to be of interest
to be a vital American interest

which needs protection
you know
like oil in the Persian Gulf

1993-Inquiry-MACT-10th-Anniversary-Journal

Introduction to Sojourner: Black Gay Voices in the Age of AIDS

Sojourner is about beginnings. For many of us, it is the beginning of our search for ways to face the day after the wakes, the funerals, the memorials of yet another friend-lover-family member. This journal is about those who are HIV-positive, have AIDS, are Black, Gay, HIV-negative, surviving, or any combination of these and other identities, those we claim and those we don’t.

This project was started as an effort to revitalize an organization severely damaged by the onslaught of HIV, AIDS, death, internalized and externalized homophobia. It was conceived to marshal the energy of a collective whose membership has been and is heavily involved in every aspect of HIV/AIDS, but no longer had the energy to plan another literary reading, attend another writing workshop, board meeting or strategy session. This journal was to be a marker in this age of AIDS. These pages were to house memories, and assist in telling our stories and those of our predecessors. These pages were to remind both the Black community and the Gay white community that Black faggots are infected/affected by HIV/AIDS! We do not get the attention of infants born to infected mothers, we are no seen on Broadway stages, nor are we invited to address major political conventions. For the glaring absence of a Black Gay face-voice-presence in the national consciousness, one could surmise we had somehow been spared this scourge. We haven’t.

I now question whether it would have mattered if this journal achieved its original intent. Creating it has, indeed, aided in healing the organization and the membership. The writings and visual contributions represented here, more importantly, act as lifelines across this country and beyond: New York, London, Seattle, Cincinnati, Toronto, Oakland, Detroit, guiding us out of isolation and silence. To my knowledge, this is the only journal in the world dedicated to exploring how Black Gay men are living in this age of AIDS.

I managed the bulk of this project and chose the writings and visual images, in consultation with genre editors, as an affected member of the community. I was affected because I adamantly refused to be tested for HIV. I have since found both the compassion and sensitivity to be tested. Now, putting the knowledge of my own seropositive status in perspective, I am sure if I were to start this project today, this book would be different.

Sojourner opens with a tribute to men we have named as ancestors. Most died of AIDS-related complications. Most of them were Gay. Most share in the legacy of the African Diaspora.

Many people will find themselves or someone they know within the lines of these pages. My brothers in Other Countries and I can take comfort in that knowledge, as well as in knowing we have served our community well. Still, any satisfaction we might derive from this publication should encourage us further in telling the stories of those who will not see themselves, or a familiar face, in these or any other pages.

~ B.Michael Hunter, Managing Editor, Spring 1993, New York


© B.Michael Hunter 1993

Untitled News

Every time a brother I know
Dies from AIDS
My dick gets hard.
Now I know that seems
Like a contradiction,
But it ain't.
I mean, my temperature rises,
My blood boils,
And my dick gets hard.

Actually, it only gets hard
If I knew the brother
Was sex-positive
And gay — well, gay.
It's sort of an anger thang.
I could have, and will continue to march,
In the streets, during Gay Pride,
African-American or Puerto Rican Day Parades
And anytime to 
Stop The Church
"O'Connor says don't fuck!
We say fuck you!!!"

But when my brothers
Transcend this life —
Their flesh and bones
Turn first to ashes and then to dust —
I feel it's my moral duty
To testify on their behalf.
I get spiritual,
Wanna start signifying like Angelou
"I hate to lose things."

It's a metaphysical,
Political, mental,
Psychological, demographical,
Kind of thang.
You know, not a regular hard.

Okay, maybe it is a regular hard.
I become more like my name
Than ever before hunting down trade.
My nose reels in the scent,
Like a male dog in pursuit of any bitch in heat
I sniff any and all glutei maximi, derrieres,
Behinds, or booties.
I sniff SNIFF SNIFF
I smell ass!
I lick and poke
All in an effort to claim my right
To do the nasty the way I want to — the way they did.

Like the time L. had gone
(I'm only using initials to protect the innocent,
You know, the boy's lover who didn't know what was going on)
Well, when I heard L had passed away,
I went hunting,
Cause L. was a Fenway-creeping, bathhouse —
"No, you can't spend the night" — versatile diva.
And I did the best I could in his honor:
I went to the closest X-rated movie house
I could find and carried on.

And when M. left, shit, that was a challenge!
Cause he was a bicoastal, international —
"Show-me-yours-and-I'll-show-you-mine" kind of guy.
Well, I had to buy a plane ticket.
The point was you couldn't do it in the city where you lived.
And if I don’t know their sexual histories,
Well, I do a little solo job.

Now you can sit and judge or laugh if you want to.
We all gotta do what’s right for ourselves.
And honey, I’m not just like this when they die.

I was sitting at the ice cream store
On West 4th Street
When my boyfriend, lover, friend,
Relationship for that week
Told me, right in the middle of my double fudge 
Mint chocolate chip sundae,
That he found out that day
He was positive.
He then proceeded to tell me, and I quote,
"I’m gonna die."
Shit! we finished those sundaes, paid the bill,
And I marched that man right back to my apartment,
Straight into my bedroom.

I ripped off my clothes and his,
Leaned back, threw my legs in the air,
Grabbed the tube, tore open a condom,
Slapped that bad boy on his dick,
And demanded to be fucked.
"You gonna fuck me!"

It wasn’t about roles.
I wanted to prove to both of us
That we didn’t have to give up
The lust that lives between lovers.
I had to make sure he could 
See my face, look into my eyes
See my love.
I needed to be sure he could hear me whisper.
YEAH, YEAH, FUCK ME,
FUCK ME GODDAMNIT!

You see I —
Brrring, brrring!!!
Excuse me, someone's on the phone.
Hello? E? What?
You just got over a bout of PCP.


© B.Michael Hunter 1993




Where’s Your Baby Gone (for Donald Woods)?

On June 25, 1992, B.Michael lost one of his dearest friends, Donald Woods, to HIV. One week later, on the occasion of Donald’s “A Celebration of Life,” hosted by the Brooklyn Children’s Museum, he and Colin Robinson shared the emcee role.

A converted cassette recording of the ceremony, a powerful and moving send-off, can be heard in its entirety below. At the 4:23 mark of Part 1, B.Michael offers a song that he wrote for Donald and enlists Christopher-Dana Rose to perform it with him. His lyrics appear below.

Donald’s obituary appears in the ceremony’s written program, which features a cover portrait by photographer Robert Giard. A few days prior, Donald’s family of origin held “A Going Home Celebration.” This program is also included.

A Celebration of Life – Donald Walter Woods – 25 June 1992 – Part 1
A Celebration of Life – Donald Walter Woods – 25 June 1992 – Part 2

Where’s Your Baby Gone?

Yes, Mother dear
Yes, Mother dear
I know that your baby’s gone

Yes, Mother dear
Yes, Mother dear
I know another baby’s gone
Your baby’s gone

Tested so
Why must they be
Tested so
Why must they be
Tested so
I ask the One above
Why must they be
Why must they be
Tested so
Mothers shouldn’t have to be
Tested so
No, they shouldn’t have to be
Tested so
Burying their baby
Their baby

But the waters keep flowing
The rivers keep flowing
They keep going
Feels like
A heavy load

The waters keep flowin’
And you must take
The good with the bad
You must take
The happy with the sad
But keep the waters flowing
Flowing

And you want to stay
Safe
And you need to stay
Safe
But you can’t stay
Safe
No you can’t
Safe

Everybody, everyone
Everybody, everyone
Everybody, everyone
Give thanks
Give thanks
Be grateful
Be grateful
That you get to meet
Good folks on the way
Lucky folks on the way

I … know
Aché …
Aché …

Yes, Mother dear
Where’s your baby gone?
Gone, gone
Gone, gone …

In remembering and celebrating Donald’s life, I wanted to use this because Mother is literal: We are fortunate enough to have his mother here with us today. But Mother is also a metaphor for many things. Sometimes we say Mother Earth, sometimes we use Mother as a symbol or metaphor for life. This is a ceremony of life — it’s Donald Walter Woods’ life. And I like to think of our friendship as something that was given life, that was mothered and nurtured by the two of us. And I’d like all of you to remember the part of Donald that was for you and he and continue to nurture that while you live here, so we don’t have to ask, Where’s your baby gone?

Gone … gone
Gone … gone
Gone … gone
Gone … gone … gone


© B.Michael Hunter 1992

1992F25-donald-woods-funeral-cards

Four Voices ACT UP

i. The Doors Will Open!

For Keith Cylar

Unlock the doors
untie my hands
chains round my ankles
the voice within

I forgive you FATHER
for you have sinned.

After he laid his beloved,
one of New York’s finest,
to rest.

The courage to be true
found sanctuary on his lips.

Keith, like a panther black,
a militant vanguard in the fight.
Could no longer sit,
watching,
lives needlessly lost.

Peeling back layers of deceit.
Remembering lessons learned.
The heat of Cleveland flames on his boyhood face,
comrades marching in the Chocolate City,
his own calling (A worker for social change,
a social worker).

Would not allow him to
contribute to the hospital conspiracy,
to keep the public blind.

His own calling, would not allow him to
see people’s rights not taken seriously.

Watching Cleveland burn
marching in the Chocolate City
seeing life snatched
too quickly
too soon
too often
from
too many
too close
too intimate
too young.

Life’s lesson
would not allow him to
sit
and
Watch.

Like any panther black,
he armed himself with
the reality of the day.

Took to the streets,
wanting whole truths.
Not partial truths,
misalignments,
misquotes,
misrepresentations,
not media truths.

But truths found when the world’s majority moves in concert.
Truths found when the world’s majority ACT(S)-UP.

A town crier, messages simple.
Brothers and Sisters
Black
lesbians and gays are real.
AIDS is real.
Through truth we can arm ourselves.
Truth without defeat.

Brothers and Sisters
What you gonna do?
What you gonna do?
Help me–Help me–Help me–Help!

Keith finds comfort
taking AIDS to task with force
frontline
Harlem
frontline
the steps of City Hall
frontline
On the wall with bulls.

Keith draws strength and is humbled,
by the many everyday men and women,
(s)heroes,
who won’t give up their will to live.
Remaining human,
enjoying life, regardless of disease.
Doing what needs to be done.

LORD LORD LORD
Seem like a heavy load,
has been lifted.

ii. Un Día de Octubre

For Robert Garcia

One October day
a day of symbols
Robert
on the street
unknowingly
took a turn left

On the ground
at the nations capital
native land of his ancestors
laid before him
pieces of cloth
the catalyst for change

He walked
ever so slowly
and it seemed as if the cloth
transformed his feet into needles
holding threads
each step a stitch
every sense awaken

As he stepped / stitched
this October day
his eyes filled with
colors of cloth telling stories
cloth for memories
cloth for lives

His eyes filled with
the lovers, friends, and families
people whom the cloth had also
transformed to needles

As they all stepped/stitched
his eyes filled with
tears
and he wept
in a circle
with friends
wept
a cleansing
for he was sure he had
recognized himself amongst the cloth
sure he heard his end song

10-11-87
numbers
no longer background noise
each step/stitch
he was certain
he had heard numbers

16 his 1st sojourn for $99
to the city of 7,000,000

6 the members of his family

1 the oldest boy a sister delivered
among queen of angles

3000 for the miles he was from home

2 the lesbian couple who took him
away for 3 days
building trust

548 Hudson the address of the gay and lesbian
bookstore where he worked
political lessons for free

At 25, 2 years after following the love of his life
back to the city of forbidden fruit

The numbers all added up

That
which he refused to own
chose
to own him

With no words spoken
you could hear him ask
“Padre porque me niegas mi lengua?”
“Father why take my tongue?”

With no words spoken
you could hear him ask
“Mother why deny me my culture?”

This son of the Navajo nation
this son of Mexico
who found himself gay

With no words spoken
no words
you could hear him scream
“OH GOD DON’T LET MY FRIENDS DIE!”
“PLEASE DON’T LET ME DIE OF AIDS!”

Choices made
he was ready
a ship with sails
catching the winds
to wherever they blew
ready for battle

The first gust landed him at the doors of
Sloane Kettering who had not used the money they
received for AIDS research

Then to the doors of ACT-UP
the wind strong transformed the
ship to tape fast forwarded

All the while
rocked in the bosom of his
lesbian sisters teaching
connecting the ism’s

He sat
central
to those whose anger took them to the streets

He sat chair of majority action
“Dealing with issues of all communities with AIDS.”

He found himself on the street of financial walls
chanting
“No more business as usual!” “No more business as usual!”
they locked him up

The word out his purpose
he works to get the word out

Robert is sex sex sex sex sex sex sex positive
his brothers keeper
trying to unlock the doors
looking for answers
questioning his passion
“Why me?” “Why me?”
“Why can’t there be more?”
“What will it take to move this mountain of ignorance and fear?”

Robert will show you everything
will talk about it

And like every Navajo code talker
who does battle
they too will say of him
“With a courageous heart you have fought!”

iii. Been On This Road

For Allan Robinson

allan
journeyman
wanderer
sage

first stepped on the road
a brown harlem baby
when his daddy and mama
sat him on clinton’s hill
to see the view

didn’t matter there were no
other brown harlem babies
they’d come
and it was always understood that
allan, having already seen the view
would tell other which way
on the road to go

change significant change
people making change
in ‘68 brought him to his first demo

they done gone on and killed
the prince of peace.

change significant change
“War no more!” “War no more!”

change people making change
got angela free

in ‘71 scented rooms filled with tea
the aftermath of man’s quest for love
posed a question which needed to be
answered and steered him to the
arms of friends in league who soothed
the rite of passage
he emerged a popular boy
full full of himself

allan
journeyman
wanderer
sage
on the road

in ‘82 was in court at
the first forum on aids
seemed like a temporary crisis
a good time for a spiritual creative sabbatical
hiking in the mountains
he went hiking

in ‘83 he had traveled much land
had even seen san franciscans lite
candles in vigil
he came home
to new york city streets

streets where he has been
a popular boy
and friends were
missing
or moved
and there were
waves of deaths
so shocking
no sickness nor lingering illness
just waves of death

all he could do was break down and cry

at a bar with two friends
trying to find humor in the horror
he suggested he write a play
titled “The Gay Dogfood Company.”
simple plot
they would ground up all the people who really
fucked with them
the medical establishment
racist gay bucks koch & reagan and turn them all into
canine and feline food
they thought it was a good idea

he went home and for the salutation wrote thirty words
no thirty names
but it read for hours

journeyman
wanderer
Sage

understanding co-factors
angry
frustrated
hungry for energy
registered his body
his eye on the mark
an advocates militant
understanding bridges that
had to be built and crossed
acted up
no locks could stop him

he acted up
even though his own body fluids
tested
could negate the reality of the day

what matter will we build this house?
a central question
what matter will we build this house?

and without even noticing the passing of time
he grew weary
limp like fallen leaves
after a winters storm
and that which was his birthright
life
he thought to take
wrote out in letters a farewell
no no this in no end for a journeyman
wanderer
sage
so he dreamed dreams
new realities
remembered trees
the joy of physical things
himself as a child

He let go of stuff which didn’t belong to him
envisioned himself a 80 year old man
stunning
surrounded by men in love
yes
he stay on the road

iv. H.E.A.L.-IN

For Cliff Goodman

Cliff
a good man
woke up one mornin’
angry

Realized
direct action had to be done

Cliff
is a quiet, quiet man
powerfully peaceful
Woke up
angry

Wanted to be counted
look at me
Was gonna make a difference
Cliff was angry

Wasn’t waitin’
Wasn’t waitin’ for no Supreme Court decision
Wasn’t waitin’
Wasn’t waitin’ for no Frederick/Malcolm/Martin/Jesse
Wasn’t waitin’
Wasn’t waitin’ for Lincoln/Kennedy/Dinkins
No three hundred years

Was gonna start
Heal-in’
Heal-in’ his soul
Wasn’t waitin’

Took to the streets
a member of the majority
ACT-IN’ up

Demanding
Better hospital care, housing, access to drugs
Demanding
dignity
Took to the streets
a black star shinin’

Wasn’t waitin’ for no back room dealing
Wasn’t puttin’ no faith in the government
Wasn’t waitin’ to be called on
Puttin’ African-American issues on the agenda of life

Cliff
a Goood-Man
Won’t sit while Wellcome wants to give AZT
to Black Wimmin – Latin Wimmin
and their babies
feels like more
Bad Blood
running through the veins of
our sisters
our mothers
our daughters
our lovers
us

no no wont no Burroughs be Wellcomed

Cliff
ain’t thinkin’ about diein’
is angry
on the streets – in Harlem
on the streets – in Bedford Stuyvesant
on the streets – in Newark

Is peaceful
Believes in true informed consent

Cliff
will tell you
______ call on Jesus
______ call on Buddha
______ call on Allah
But only if you callin’ to talk about livin’

Cliff will tell you
go to the doctor – but don’t stop there
go to the herbalist – but don’t stop there
go to the acupuncturist – but don’t stop there
don’t stop at nobodies door
cause you gotta keep movin’ – to keep livin’

Cliff
is spiritual
uses anger for therapy
is on the street
COUNTED – BLACK
COUNTED – GAY
COUNTED – PEACEFUL
COUNTED – HEAL-IN
COUNTED – ACT-IN’ UP
COUNTED – ALIVE


© B.Michael Hunter 1991

When You Crossed Over

WHEN YOU CROSSED OVER
I CRIED
I CRIED SIMPLE TEARS
MORE FOR ME
SO MUCH MORE FOR ME
CAUSE YOU HAD GONE ON
GONE ON
I’M HERE STILL HERE
LIVING
LIVING THE EVERYDAY
EVERYDAY
AND IT SEEMS
DAYS CAN’T GIT NO LONGER
AND YOU WELL
YOU GOT A PLACE TO GO

WHEN I HEARD
YOU CROSSED OVER
I CRIED
SIMPLE TEARS
MORE FOR ME
SO MUCH MORE FOR ME
SO MUCH MORE FOR ME

WHAT TO DO
WHAT DO I DO
NOW THAT YOU’RE HOME

WHO WILL I TURN TO
WHO WILL I SEEK
ALL THE PAIN/JOY WE SHARED
I’M TRULY THANKFUL
SO THANKFUL
THAT YOU HAVE FOUND YOUR PEACE

BUT I STILL CRY
SIMPLE TEARS
SO MUCH MORE
SO MUCH MORE FOR ME

SO MUCH TROUBLE
TROUBLE IN THE WORLD
HOW WILL I DEAL
WITH THE TROUBLE IN
THE WORLD

I’M THANKFUL
SO THANKFUL
THAT YOU HAVE A PLACE TO GO


© B.Michael Hunter 1991