Lodestar Quarterly

Lodestar Quarterly
Figure reaching for a star Issue 3 • Fall 2002 • Poetry

Time Piece

Travis Montez

it is 2:53am
and i am 8 years old
and i wake up to the sound
of the first time
my father hit my mother
it is the hollow noise
of sound drowning reality
like screams caught in a paper bag
and it is only the first time
my father hits my mother
so he will explain himself:
"that's what you get for letting that boy
act like some damn sissie, embarrassing me
in front of my family"
he tells her
in that self-righteous, unapologetic way alcoholics do
just before he stumbles out the front door,
to chase manhood or avoid shame
and i cry myself back to sleep

it is 3:47am
and i am 10 years old
and i wake up to hands that ain't mine
and a body not myself
finding me where i hide
covering my mouth
shoving NO back down my throat
burning into me
i do not remember what my laugh sounds like
because my favorite older cousin
has turned himself into judas
and i am to be crucified
he has turned himself into a heavy shadow
that scratches at my soul
he has turned himself into a whisper
reminding me that this is not the first time
reminding me of my childhood silence
bought with jolly ranchers and his attention
convincing me that i like it
convincing me that they will hate me for the secret
that i am a faggot and that is the reason
my father really left
convincing me that Saturday mornings of shame
are the only love i will ever know
and he is all i have

it is 5:20pm
and after a year
i say it
i tell him, "baby, i love you"
i tell him that he does not have to be afraid
i tell him that my soul has finally come out to play
but he
is a homophobic homosexual
and tells me that i am too gay
for him to be with
he tells me
that he needs someone
he can hang out with
on his block in Queens
someone he can take home
and lie to his West Indian mother about
because she is old fashioned
and my feminine ways would offend her
plus, i do not like to play handball
"i can't see a thug like me,
being with someone like you"
he says
and the sun is going down,
so i swallow myself and let him leave
without protest
silently wondering
if he is searching for manhood
or avoiding shame

it is 8:14pm
on a Friday night
he is an hour late
with no phone call
it is raining
and i cannot see
the Williamsburg Bridge
from my window
and the only reason i chose this apartment
was for the view at night

since i am thinking of bridges and choices
i wonder
how much more of my life
will be spent
watching clocks
counting minutes
waiting for phone calls that will not come
waiting for explanations that will not come
waiting for apologies that will not come
as though my forgiveness is not worthy
as though i am not worthy

and since i am thinking of worthiness and redemption
i contemplate trying to fly from my window
and meeting concrete sidewalks,
separating what i know is beautiful on the inside
from this heavy, scarred cage that is my outside
freeing myself from this damn skin
i have outgrown

and since i am thinking of black skin and men
i consider hating black men (again)
but instead i call my mother
and listen to her tell me about my first step
and how i learned to spell at three
and how my grandmother
who took care of rich white babies in order to feed her own
would read me the bible like it was my family tree
and said i would grow up to be something special
and this leaves my heart no room
for hate or suicide
and that night i cry myself to sleep
feeling saved

Poet/activist Travis Montez is a third-year student at New York University School of Law where he is preparing for a career in juvenile justice and community organization. He has performed his work in venues all over the world, including the American embassies of Spain and Senegal. He's been featured in productions at Nuyorican Poet's Café, Brooklyn Café, New York University, and The Poetry Project at St. Mark's Church. Recently, Travis Montez lent his talent to the Words to Comfort benefit for the World Trade Center Relief Fund and is a regular feature in Emanuel Xavier's annual Glam Slam.

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