Gordon, Howard said, would be living in the tenderloin,
where we made our way, the redhead beside me, undaunted.
She’d seen their like before. She had guts, walked with head held high,
but not aloft, nose level with San Francisco’s flat places.
He would be home later. At night you entered the hotels
and sat to wait if the desk clerk said he would be in soon.
If you were alone she would be in another city
by then. I had been there and with her once. I cannot say
I was happy, the world had swerved off course to end the war,
she asked me what was wrong, why was I not so fine in bed?
She had been gone too long and yet not long enough, I swear.
At least I loved women. The one who followed her loved me,
I loved her, the moon was bright in a firmament of stars.
Poor Curtis, only with men to choose from. I was still young,
did not know his world though I would go there to hear him tell
how others had first attended love’s offices, bereft
and broken by America’s fear and dread of others
walking among them, but on the other side of the street . . .
Gerry Beasley, Gordon Curtis, they would’ve hit it off,
like men say in the Blue Ridge. Yes, hit it off, telling tales,
singing songs passed down, drinking moonshine brewed back of the hills,
. . . this white man of San Francisco, black man of Seattle.
You would think the government gave men grants for loving men,
the straights believing they were not doing enough to talk
the gays and lesbians out of their homosexual
predilections . . . take sabbaticals from the tenderloins
of the Pacific, breathe mountain air, go hunting, fishing,
swap stories; these were only the activities for men.
Trouble is, no one would believe you were so poor you had
to sell your own body to get by. Sure, there were women
in cities who sported with their sisters and gave freely
but surely love was not at home there. Here, in wild country
now so cut up by roads only tourists drove, they preferred
to walk anyway, Curtis and Beasley. Give them the trees
and paths between them and let them start to live the good life,
they might never want to go back, and so no one had thought
to do anything but let them die . . . such philanthropy
from the rich pricks who ran the world behind the scenes, who bought
the women for sale, hired the boys to do the other side
of the body, awfully cheerful when they martini’d
their lunches, and never did have to frequent anyplace
like the Tenderloin, nothing like the seedy down and out
in San Francisco or Seattle in halcyon days
before the crash took us down. And out. Look up and she’s here,
my lovely love who always knew what it meant to live there.
(21 October 2010)