Untitles (J. T. Grogan)

by J. T. Grogan

rolling down the asphalt trail
an ersatz man
buried in a smogbox
of steel fiberglas and rubber

mouthful of plastic trubyte teeth
munching a tru-luv candy bar
made of butylated hydroxyanisole
calcium propionate
hydrogenated strontium 90
and vanillin an artificial flavoring

on his eyeballs
small plastic disks
ground to prescription
for to see the nook better

earful of earphone
connected by umbilical wire
to small black cigarette package
crammed with transistors & twang & luuvvv

mind awash with librium
and tv radio adslogans
all sloshing around together
precipitating inanity into the void

on his soul a label
26% nylon 31% dacron 43% polyethylene
wash in lukewarm pepsicola
dry away from heat or sunlite
made in u.s.a.

“(untitled),” by J. T. Grogan originally published in Forum (1965, City College of San Francisco).

Vuillard (Hunt Baldwin)

It was about two o’clock when I walked by the fountain. I remember it clearly because I was not wearing a watch.

When you don’t wear a watch and you walk through a large city, you become acutely aware of all the time pieces that are on public display. There are digital clocks in bank windows. There are old clocks–with hands–in government buildings, and all of those clocks look just like the ones that hung in classrooms when I was growing up. Up there on the wall above the drinking fountain where you were only allowed to drink for a three-count and some kid behind you always said ‘hey, save some some for the fish,’ and you said ‘I’m fish’ and the poor kid who was in charge of holding the drinking fountain handle down for everybody’s three-count was suddenly struck in the uncomfortable position of taking sides. And those clocks were always behind the desks so the teacher could see if you were a clock watcher.

When I was young, clocks were menacing, in whatever form. Bedtime. Time to come in for the night. Time for church. Thirty more minutes of class. But walking through a city with no watch on your wrist, clocks are comforting. They keep you grounded when it’d be just as easy yo really lose your mind. To just duck into a bar at lunchtime and keep drinking and not go out and not go back to work and really just lose–your–mind as you realize that you are one of those guys that you used to pity when you walked by a bar in the afternoon and looked in and saw that there were actually people who sat in those depressing places with martini glass neon signs in the window.

Lounges. that’s what those places are called. Not really bars, but lounges. Like opium dens really, only nobody looks as absolutely happy as they do in opium dens. The word ‘lounge’ is one of the most soothing I know, taking a disproportionate amount of time to leave your mouth–that is, when you think that there’s only one syllable and not too many letters in it. But then somebody pointed out a word that was more soothing, but only if you could make yourself not think about what the word actually meant because the word was ‘autopsy.’

Aww–tahp–see. Say it. But when you’re saying it thing about a big, old, overstuffed chair with a handle on the side that makes a big, old, overstuffed footrest pop out from underneath. Say autopsy and think of the chair that your grandfather used to sit in when he did his crossword puzzle with a pencil. And your dad, his son, always did the puzzle with a pen and even when you were little you knew that your dad was accusing his dad, your grandfather, of some heinous thing. He was saying ‘I don’t need no damn eraser, you worthless old fool, why don’t you just die and leave me alone.’ Or something like that.

On second thought, don’t think of your grandfather when saying the word ‘autopsy.’ But think of that chair and pretend that it belonged to one of your grade-school teachers. One of the nice ladies who wasn’t so pretty that she would betray ou and make you feel bad, but who was just pretty enough and smelled nice. One of the pleasantly plump teachers that would always smile at you when things weren’t going too good, smile like to say, ‘I’m with you, not to worry.’ Think that that chair is in her family room and she’s just taken you out of school to go and live with her.

But when you’re inside one of those lounges that’s actually really a bar, all you can feel around you is moisture in the air. Like your grandpa just spilled something sticky and sweet all over the chair. The chair’s not the same. Moisture hands in the air, weighing on the spirit of the place like the spirit was just thrown into a lake–no, a pond–while it was wearing blue jeans. It takes a long time for blue jeans to dry out, and when they do they get all stiff.

And the light in a lounge that’s really a bar is a color that can’t exist without that moisture, and that neon martini glass in the window, and a little bit of smoke. The light is like a bruise, but a light pleasant one. And all day long you sit there and secretly poke at that bruise, continually reassuring yourself that you can feel things, and even though you know bruises hurt, it feels good to have one and you poke it again, only harder. You can lose track of everything around you when you’ve got a bruise to occupy your time and your nervous system.

A bruise like that is what it’s like when you are used to wearing a watch, but one day when your hands are shaking so badly that you can’t even turn the page of the newspaper, so you leave your kitchen in a panic, forgetting to put your watch on. At first, when you’re walking along, you look at your naked wrist every few seconds, and each time the watch isn’t there you feel like you’re going to vomit again, but then you begin to notice that somebody else ha been through it all before, and they’ve thought to put up clocks everywhere, so when you almost lose your mind and duck into a bar, you see what time it is and you feel like you can go back to work.

When I walked by the fountain, like I said, it was about two o’clock. I know because I asked a guy at a news stand, even though there was a big clock tower right on the edge of the park I just wanted to hear as voice or anything really.

When you’re walking by a fountain in a big green park and it’s summer and flowery around the fountain, and yo see a man standing in the fountain with his pants around his ankles and he’s urinating into the fountain, and people are walking by ignoring it, or may be noticing it and chuckling or not even thinking its all that odd, and he’s looking right at you and you see that even he’s wearing a watch. Well th-that can sometimes be more than a person can take.

And then there’s a guy at the bar in the lounge who sits down next to me and I think, cool, this guy looks normal he’s young and wearing a suit and you can tell how strong what he’s drinking is cause it’s only a beer, and he starts to talk about a guy, a painter named Vuillard, (Vwee-yarr, he said) ‘Vuillard shoulda been born in 1969,’ he said, and I told him I didn’t get it and he said Vuillard was a painter. This old dead painter in France who never left his home, lived with his mother, never married anybody or even felt like he should get married–or that he wasn’t normal for not wanting to sleep with every woman he saw.

‘Or maybe he did feel like he should,’ I told the guy and he said ‘well, whatever.’ He didn’t want me to talk just yet, and that can hurt but I listened anyway and besides, where was I gonna go? Sure as hell not out. Not just yet. But he said that this man made the most beautiful paintings, full of furniture and flowers, especially the wallpaper, he said. The wallpaper was’t like wallpaper in on the inside of houses, but it was like this guy turned a sheet of old wallpaper into a garden full of flowers. And he said this guy Vuillard painted all of these beautiful paintings. And even the ones he painted that were scenes of outside things were all encircled like a womb (that’s what he said, like a womb) with the sill of a window, so you always knew that the garden was being looked at through a window that had a sill like the guard rail on a crib, and draperies like the arms of a sweet smelling grade school teacher. This is what he said! “the arms of a sweet smelling grade school teacher,” and I looked at him and thought “aw–tahp–see,” cause that’s what that grade-school teacher thing he said made me thing.

How much the name Vuillard sounds like ‘autopsy,’ I thought, and then I thought that being dead for that painter was probably a lot like being alive, with lots of furniture and wallpaper that was like a garden. Sometimes when you close your eyes real tight you can make colors that look just like some technicolor sitting room out of the sixties with all sorts of sectionals and cubic end-tables and odd shaped purple hanging plants. Death might be like having your eyes closed real tight.

And the man at the bar looked real serious for a second, looking down at his beer and I thought he was gonna cry, but instead he just chuckled and said, ‘I guess you can’t just take yourself out of the world like that anymore, huh? You can’t just say to hell with it I’m gonna stay in this room, which I know is beautiful, and not take any chances.’ I finished my drink and looked at my wrist, which was empty, and the guy saw me looking at my wrist and said, ‘don’t worry, last call’s not for another thirteen hours.

“Vuillard,” by Hunt Baldwin originally published in City Scriptum ([Forum] 1993, City College of San Francisco).

Family Tradition: a Gay Evolution (David Nelms)

Family Tradition: a Gay Evolution

by David Nelms

No one ever told me that Grandma Rose was a lesbian. She was my father’s paternal grandmother. And since her divorce in the late 1920’s had been living with Olive. I remember spending many weekends with them in their apartment. Assigned to the guest room, I never ventured into the room at the end of the hall. I feel foolish now for not considering the possibilities of their relationship. Did the rest of the family succeed in never knowing the truth? With Grandma Rose looking like such a typical grandmother, her hair wrapped in a braided bun, it’s feasible that no one knew. But olive, with her jet black hair cut so short, ivory complexion always without make up, and men’s suit and ties, was the epitome of lesbianism. It wasn’t until I was in my mid-twenties, and they both had died, that I began to question their relationship. When I look back, I wonder how identifying with them could have assisted me in my own struggle for self-acceptance and development as a gay man.

While I was in high school I might have been able to sit through the evening news with my parents. Every night I dreaded there would be another story about the new gay cancer. I tried to check on dinner or hide in the bathroom so I could avoid the horrible picture that would flash on the screen. The picture I was sure, would be my fate. The image of emaciated dying men with purple spots and no hair. Gay men and women don’t live productive lives or have meaningful relationships, and certainly aren’t anybody’s great-grandparents.

Not much later, when I was still a teenager, I was able to get into the bars and clubs. I thought I had found nirvana, dancing the night away with my shirt off, the gay night life of San Francisco, the ultimate. But, I’d yet to have a real conversation with anyone, let alone in the daylight. What’s the new club on Thursdays? Who has an after-hours tonight? Where can I get the best ecstasy? What did all these people do when they weren’t at the clubs?

About the same time, Rob, a dear friend event today, had the insight to come out to me. We had grown up just two blocks away from each other and were both ecstatic to have found friendship. A gay comrade with whom I could tackle society’s ideas of who I was and how I should live. We decided that we would attend our first gay pride parade together, we even arrived early, ensuring a good vantage point. I was blown away watching the entries march past: Dykes on Bikes, employee groups, AIDS volunteers, civic leaders, and the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. The gay community was doing incredible things; the diversity of the crowd was astonishing. Thousands of gay men and women marching uo Market Street, each with his/her own story, for unity as well as independence. Being gay wasn’t limited to young white men dancing. In such a short time, I had seen too much. But half way through the parade, Rob and I jumped over the police barricade and joined a group that was passing by. We marched the rest of the way to the Civic Center.

Intermittently, we stopped to throw ourselves down on the street in protest to Reagan’s lack of AIDS policy or to shout anthems of gay pride. This was the beginning for me. Afterwards, I thrust myself into gay politics and AIDS activism of the mid-eighties. Routinely, I went to protests ranging from Act Up demonstrations to picket lines callingg for a boycott of Safeway due to their veal policy. I probably cam out to anyone and everyone, wearing my queerness and HIV status as a badge of honor.

During the emergence of self I met Ed on a trip to Los Angeles. After many weekly trips up and down the state we moved in together. While living together for the last five years we have created a caring and supportive relationship. We have a dog. Together, we spend holidays with various mixtures of family and friends. We attend family functions as a couple. Three years ago Ed’s brother and his wife had a child, Paige. We were there for the birth, Ed in the delivery room. The recently spent the weekend with us. On Sunday morning Ed and I lay in bed watching the U.S. open and Paige ran into the room and joined us. Together the three of us spent the morning playing games and watching tennis.

“Family Tradition: a Gay Evolution,” by David Nelms originally published in Voices ([Forum] 1996, City College of San Francisco).

Time (Eric Stromme)

Time

by Eric Stromme

Walk among pine of ponderosa
stumble through bramble manzanita
soft soled boots with holes in
song unsung moonlight friend
Wonder at nothing, time
Wander world, nothing mine
too late had come and stays
today, running from faded age
tonight, youth overcome with lust
Weeping tomorrow, merge with dust

“Time,” by Eric Stromme originally published in City Scriptum ([Forum] 1993, City College of San Francisco).

“I have not violated your mental privacy / But I cannot help receiving your emotions” (Catherine Baucom)

Prideful Menace

by Catherine Baucom

A lost soul wandering whimpers
Spanning the nightmare gulfs of space and time
Risking dissolution and death
letting the body’ ultimate particles
Be drawn across the pits of time to be
Resembled in this far distant day.

A sibilant voice as alien
As everything else around him
Not afraid of great peril but tremble now.

I have not violated your mental privacy
But I cannot help receiving your emotions.

Veiled unknown forced cowled, indefinable
Hammer of mental force shattered with inconceivable power

A damned soul looking out for a split second
From a place of everlasting punishment
Sought to grip out minds.

From another universe the invaders came
Not through time
Not through space
But through the web – –
That network of force patterns that crossed the matrix
of realities in which existed the alternate worlds.

“Prideful Menace,” by Catherine Baucom originally published in Mild Perversions (1974, City College of San Francisco).

“Compatriot” by Susana A. Sanchez

Compatriot

by Susana A. Sanchez

When I told him that I was a Mexican
He began to talk about his farm,
And plowing the fields,
And killing the coyotes with an old shotgun
And sleeping on dirt floors.
but I
Who have lived in a city
And worked with computers
And had servants
Did not speak his language.

“Compatriot,” by Susana A. Sanchez originally published in City Scriptum ([Forum] 1989, City College of San Francisco).

Reagan-Era Paratrooper (John D. Couch)

Reagan-Era Paratrooper

by John D. Couch

I would have to say one of the most eye-opening experiences I ever had was being a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne Division during the years 1983-87. President Reagan, as Commander-in Chief, was my boss; the top of this lengthy “Chain of Command” I had to keep committed to memory. During my term in service I had plenty of experiences that shot holes through my ideals of patriotism. I was part of those “shows of force,” commonly used by the Reagan White House as a foreign policy tool. Whether these “shows of force” was effective or not, remains a mystery to me. I found myself in situations that seemed to be more damaging to our relations with other countries, then they were to be helpful. Then again, I was just a simple soldier doing what was expected of me. Perhaps those who out-ranked me really did know what they were doing; at this point, however, I still question that notion.

One of the most memorable experiences that had me questioning my actions as an American soldier took place outside the Grafenwoer training area in West Germany. The majority of troops stationed in Europe were mechanized; they relied on tanks and armored personnel carriers for their mode of transportation. This severely limited the areas where they could train. As paratroopers, we were able to jump into our training areas. After the, we relied on our feet to get us from place to place. West Germany, being occupies, was wide open to us, with the exception of “urban” areas. During an exercise in the summer of 1985, we were conducting a company level (120-150 troops) movement through the German countryside. our unit came upon a small farming community. In front of use were acres and acres of farmland. Our Company Commander was confronted with the decision of taking the roads that zig-zagged through the fields, or maintaining our present direction of travel. He decided that we would go right through the farmlands.

We started moving across the well-groomed fields of produce. Since this was a tactical movement, we were required to travel in a formation that was appropriate for wide pen spaces–as far away from each other as possible. I’d say that the width of our formation was about 70 meters or so across. Every once in a while, I came fairly close to the people who were tending the fields. One of them, an elderly man in his 50’s, started cussing at us in German. He was pointing at the American flags we wore on our sleeves and shouting at us. The words themselves, I didn’t understand, but the emotions behind them struck me harder than a swift kick in the crotch. There we were, “america’s Guard of Honor”, tearing up these farmlands that brought food and a way of living to these people, hardly what I would call “diplomacy.”

I was near the center of the formation, so I was able to see the damage made by the 50 or so soldier that were in front of me. There were some recently planted vegetables, that had once reached for the sun, driven back into the ground by careless soldiers. I tried my hardest to leave as little impact as possible on the soil beneath me, but after awhile, my efforts only seemed futile. The damage I saw along our path was quite extensive. At that point, I couldn’t help but to question our presence there. Was this really in the best interest of the United States? I didn’t know. All I knew was that we had surely done several thousands of dollars of damage to their crops for no apparent reason. I mean, I could see cutting across the fields if we had the entire Red Army hot on our trail, but this wasn’t the case.

After what seemed like days, we finally “breached the open space in a swift manner.” Once on the other side, we moved into a security perimeter. I was lying on the ground, propped up on my elbows. From my vantage point, I was able to look out over the farmlands we had just finished crossing. Cutting diagonally across the parallel rows of produce, was a 70 meter wide path pounded into the soil. I dropped my head in disgust. Out of the corner of my eye I saw the flag on my sleeve. There it was. The parallel lines that ran its length weren’t blemished, but the ideals it was supposed to stand for were. At this point in time, I thought about all the people home in the States. I’m sure that they had no idea as to what was being done under the name of the United States. Then again, they probably didn’t care. These were the asme people that put Reagan in for a second term.

After several days of evading an invisible enemy, we brought our training to an end. We were then flown back to the rear by helicopters. While we sat on the ground cleaning out weapons, our Company Commander started into his usual “after action speech.” Paling in front of us by with his hands clasped behind him, he said, “Men! You have really worked hard these last few days.” He then stopped his pacing. “Some of you might be asking yourself if it was all worth it.” He was scanning the crowd in front of him, almost as if we were supposed to react. “Freedom!” It’s all about freedom!” Men, believe m. You all have earned yours!”

“Yeah,” I thought, as I ran a cleaning rod through the bore of my rifle. “At the expense of someone else.”

“Reagan-Era Paratrooper,” by John D. Couch originally published in City Scriptum ([Forum] 1990, City College of San Francisco).

Pagan Flap (Paul Sajnt)

Pagan Flap

by Paul Saint

If I would not perish
then the task before me is to gather about myself
the mantle of life and leave behind the bomb flag
of ceremony, celibacy, and circumcision.

For there is unity. It’s been found again
it has one name but many speakers
it is in the water of life
and it comes undivided.

But most of all it’s in me
in you–ego
where do we go?

There are the men in robes and hoods
there are the women in rosary harems.
Genuflections in madness
assassinations of pontiffs.
Piety that is left laying in the pew.

Give me a crown of thorns, and I’ll give you a creed
let me have absolution, and I’ll give you my sins.
Resurrect my soul in bee’s wax
and drown my babies in holy water
stifle my brain with incense censors
drone on with the pander from the pulpit
eucharist my tongue with communion platters
you want wine. We serve blood:
here is the prodigal son from desolation road.

“Pagan Flap,” by Paul Sajnt originally published in acrophobia ([Forum] 1971, City College of San Francisco).

Rat Glances (Les Miller)

Rat Glances

by Les Miller

Jason Jeremiah missed his computer commuter train and fell awkwardly onto the train tracks. “Well, I’ll just stay here,” he thought. “I’m not getting up. That’s the last train I’ll ever miss. To hell with this rat race.”

As he lay there waiting for the next train to divide him among his followers, he noticed that no one seemed to be concerned about the fact of his future fatality. He glanced up to see people glancing  at their watches. One person glances at him, but quickly glanced away when he noticed he was being glanced at. Then everyone glanced at each other; collective surprise, then they all focused their attention on their watches (the safest thing to do).

So Jason stared at his watch too. “Blast!” he whispered, “I should have been dead eight minutes ago! Where is a train when you need one.”

“Rat Glances,” by Les Miller originally published in Mild Perversions ([Forum] 1974, City College of San Francisco).

“Pearl Friday” by Albert Bell

Pearl Friday

by Albert Bell

So you stand with hand on my hip
and patiently apply your lipping
nuzzles to my throat,
And I stand with my hand on your head
and patiently apply my love nips to
your shoulder,
and we stand with our hearts on our minds and patiently
allow love moss to cover us until we can no longer see
or be seen by any except
the beads of sweat we
roll and slide into heating
steam.

“Pearl Friday,” by Albert Bell originally published in Reality Trip ([Forum] 1973, City College of San Francisco).