I knew when I thought it might be a short piece
that you might say, “I don’t do no short pieces”
but then I’d have to remind you
just cause you big and pretty
don’t give you the right to discriminate.
Big and so damn pretty.
Smile that sly smile
just once more
so I can go home
and remember it.
That’s what I be missin baby
That’s what I be missin.

© Bil Wright 2017

Bil Wright
Bil Wright

Bil Wright is a novelist and playwright. His is the author of Putting Makeup on the Fat Boy (Lambda Literary Award and American Library Association Stonewall Book Award), When the Black Girl Sings (Junior Library Guild selection), and Sunday You Learn How to Box (New York Public Library Choice for Young Readers and Coretta King Celebrating the Dream List). His plays include Bloodsummer Rituals, based on the life of poet Audre Lorde (Jerome Fellowship), and Leave Me a Message (San Diego Human Rights Festival premiere). He is the Librettist for This One Girl’s Story (GLAAD Media Award nominee and La Mama Playwriting Award).

No Space at Forty-One

Have not defined old
But they all agree
Once you’re over 40
You are no longer young

Older men
I used to prefer them
Now I’m one of them

Remembering cheers
From liked poets
Lines delivered
Haunt you

Dancing in clubs
Hearing music
Knowing all the lyrics
Remembering the first time
The artist performed at Club Car Storage

All your primary references are now retro
Replaced like the PanAm sign on the MetLife building

Outliving Martin
Outliving Malcolm

Talking about people because
You here and they ain’t
Every line ain’t really yours
But you use them

Only experience is down to the drenched sweat
Because you here
And they ain’t

Bryan and I ride the F Train
Remember the Bus Boycott in Boston
Remember Roy
Orange line on Washington Street
Mass Ave with the hole
Eyes sparkle
Pain freshened

Mother says
She’d never go back to Pensacola
Her birth home
To her Pensacola is
Black men dangling from ropes attached to trees

But I go back to Boston
Holding dreams still fresh
Still fresh

We live long enough to see folks
Git right with God
Family find Jesus
Circles survive the Plague
Look in hindsight

Ask your mother
While she’s still here
Secrets to survive
Codes to daily living
Grasp at old folk
Real old folks
The old old
Not the young old
Like you are now

This time
You know too much
Parents seek your advice
Venus got her Grams with her
Celebrating her 80th
In and out making decisions
It’s not a burden
You ain’t reliving your childhood trying to make amends
It’s just the circle of life
You just doing your part
Taking your turn
Getting up with the sun
Taking back the daylight
Marvel at the joy of being
The sound of crows
Watering plants in your urban garden
Flowerpots on a sill
The window clocks your favorite time of day

Denise used to say
Some people read books to experience life;
I live a life that’ll be written about in books.
Are you going to read life
Or live it?

Over dinner
We talk about our fathers

We get to apologize for past pain
Caused by casual conversation
We get to wonder what time will bring
Ten years past the first date
When we thought
We’d be old

Plotting toward new centuries
Tomorrow’s possibilities
To be celebrating
The remembered

© B.Michael Hunter 1999

Performed by Allen Luther Wright at B.Michael’s Celebration of Life on 27 January 2001.

octogenarians — for bert

A 1995 Chriskwanzaka gift from partner John!

  1. “widows overnight” refers to three people who lost husbands that year: John and Bert’s friend René Astudillo (Daniel Scott Strano), Olympic figure skater Ekaterina Gordeeva (Sergei Grinkov), and actress Candice Bergen (Louis Malle), who played the title character on Murphy Brown, a favorite television series of Bert and John.
  2. The “30-something-brother” is artist Ronald Harris, for whom Bert wrote Dew Locks.
  3. “Donald” refers to one of Bert’s closest friend, writer and poet Donald Walter Woods.