Desert Split Open Mic

I’m OUT! (as a poet)

All kinds of coming outs going on! Well, the truth is I’ve written poetry, lyrics, and prose (sporadically) all my life, so no huge secret. But tonight, I did my first-ever poetry reading at the Desert Split Open Mic in Joshua Tree. Thanks so much to author Susan Rukeyser for orchestrating this monthly event, geared toward feminist, queer, and radical writing.

Since it was National Coming Out Day just a few days ago as the crow flies, I was thinking of when I wasn’t. I was a small town boy from Dairy Farm, Ohio, going to art school in Pennsylvania. Pittsburgh was my first exposure to life in a big city. I was three inches taller then, about 170 pounds larger, and looked like a biker. Nobody ever messed with me. I worked in the evenings and the only way I had home was to catch the midnight bus downtown. And without further ado, “Midnight in the Three Rivers City.”

If memory serves
Was going on midnight
standing downtown
In the Three Rivers City.
Nobody bothered me
In front of the porn shop
At the bus stop
Not the passing cop
Or the drunks or pushers or street people huddling alone

I was a lumber jack
Waiting for midnight
Blowing smoke
In the Three Rivers City.
Might have been a blackguard
Built like a brickyard
My eyes hard
Keeping to myself but not afraid to stare down those who might challenge

My feet in work boots
Long hair and bramble beard
Such was my armor
In the Three Rivers City.
Made people anxious
Might be a unabomber
Could be a Dahmer
Don’t unsettle his calm
Or they all seemed to think
Rather than ask me for money or hassles or favors or blow

So there I was nightly
Right next to midnight
And a working lady downtown
In the Three Rivers City.

And she knew

She saw through my chill
I wasn’t a killer
I was a caterpillar
Wrapped up tight in a denim and blue plaid cocoon.
Hi big guy. You gotta light?
What you’re looking for doesn’t work this corner.
No rentboys here. You have a nice night.

I just wanted the bus
Last stop at midnight
Riding alone
From the Three Rivers City.
I was a lumberjack
My heart was hidden
Entombed in a deep dark vault
Sealed up with endless tears dried to salt
Still refused to halt
The longing for truth and a true love with a rough beard like mine.

Thank you for reading, and much love,

Grey Forge LeFey

©2021 The Artists LeFey LLC

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