“caramel colored men . . .”

B.Michael (“Bert”) received inspiration for one of his poems, “The Photograph,” from a framed image he had prominently displayed in his living room. William (“Bill”) Wesley Hansard, Jr. [b. August 16, 1937, New York NY; d. May 30, 1989, Boston MA] and Lester (“Les”) Howard Bunyon were both Black gay men and close friends of Bert’s who died of HIV/AIDS prior to 1993.

[L-R] Les, Bill, Bert, most likely in Boston, Massachusetts, some time between September 1981 and July 1987.

Les at Christmas, Bill with Bert. Both pictures taken some time between 1981-89. Both photos, which had been foamcore-mounted, were most likely special to Bert.

B.Michael’s Photo Album (Mostly 1980’s-1991)

Think old-school, three-ring binder (11.5″ x 11″ x 3″) with a glossy, gold-trimmed cabernet-colored cover. Inside are removable, double-sided, cardboard inserts with light adhesive to keep photos in place beneath fold-over plastic sheaths.

Each block of photos below is an album page that was curated by B.Michael. His rich, joy-centering life wove family of origin with chosen family, commuting readily between his multiple roles of son/brother/nephew/grandson/uncle/cousin/godfather and friend/lover/brister/organizer/activist/community member.

The binder includes a dozen or so blank pages that he didn’t get around to populating. N.B. The pics are not necessarily in chronological order, and the dimensions of an image in this digital setting sometimes vary from the actual size of the corresponding print image that appears in the album.

Click on each photo for more context. AND, more importantly, if you know who/when/where/why details about an image, we encourage you to contact us here!

[Many more photos to follow. Stay tuned!]

When Mommy Breaks Down

when mommy breaks down
nervous
you scour the bathroom
scrub the floors
wash the windows
do the laundry
dust the living room
change the light bulbs
when they burn out
clean the kitchen
buy the food and cook
for yourself and mommy broken

you walk through the house
quietly
trying to be air
as if the floors were hot coals
broken glass
or a bed of needles

you speak at a volume just right
tone emotionless
watch the news
late-night talk shows
the late movie
listen to the radio
at a volume so low you could hear
mommy’s breath in the next room
and you read about history
about triumph
about life

you go to school
on time
late or not at all
but you always do well enough
so mommy would not have
to leave the house
‘cause you know mommy shouldn’t leave the house
and when she does
you are always by her side
at the bank
(you wonderin’ where
she got the check to cash
in the first place)
at the doctor’s office
the pharmacy
some relative’s house
by her side
always
she needing
to lean

when mommy breaks
you break
into fragments
but if you are to survive
your blood must become glue
‘cause you must pull it together

you look into her eyes
around you and guess
guess if she needs a blanket
something to eat
the tv channel or radio station changed
or it turned on or off
any sign of life
while all the plants in the house die
or try to
but you can’t let them
so you take care of them too
you answer the phone
“oh she’s not in”
or “oh she’ll call you right back”
or “oh she’s sleeping”
or “oh she’s…”
you leave your friends
at the door
and it doesn’t even matter
what you tell them

‘cause teenage noise
would certainly disturb mommy
or you
or the stillness
and someone
something should explain
the quiet

“why is mommy…”
who cleaned the house
worked every day
raised four kids
single-handedly while going to college
bought food
gave you and every one
such good advice
“why is she so broken”
so you go through the house
looking for clues

you find papers
you read them all
between and behind every line
you uncover
pictures books pieces of the puzzle
secrets <