Midway

Alternate Title: Leave Room for Jesus

2005

At the Midway Middle School Spring Formal
Pre-pubescent girls wear white t-shirts
Under their sparkly dresses –
Their preachers,
And their mothers,
Afraid that someone might think them immodest.

The bus driver
Pulls over to yell and pray
Every time someone says, “goddamn” –
And scolds me
For sitting next to a high school boy.

I do not wear a white t-shirt
Under my sweet black dress
And my mother’s pearls.

I am a whore

Named so for wearing my favorite skirt
On my first day of school
After I moved from “the city” –
A suburb of a nearby college town.

At Midway,
Folks either live on farm, on the lake, or in a trailer.
There is no in-between.
Of 150 students in the whole school,
140 live in total poverty.

I don’t blame them
For blaming other people for their problems
When they have been left behind too.

It is easier to put on a red hat
Than take on the system that that made it.

I have my first kiss on that dance floor,
With a boy who shared my father’s first name.
He tells me he was going on tour that summer
With a country music star,
The one whose song
He’d written down,
Word for word,
And slipped into my locker.

I choose to believe him,
Even though I know better.

The science teacher barks,
“Leave room for Jesus”
And it echoes in my head
The whole next year –

I think the worst bullying came from the teachers.

Probably
Because I did not raise my hand
When they asked
Who went to church that Sunday,

Probably
Because I raised my hand
And years of honors classes
Fell from my lips –

There were no honors classes at Midway.

In hindsight,
Maybe my thick black eyeliner,
My heathen smile,
My new fascination with justice
Betrayed the queerness in me
That could only lay dormant so long.

I wonder if that was why
They pretended not to see me crying

Or if it was my uncovered shoulders,
My lack of shame,
Or the places I never went
On Sundays.

2017

Whitney was in my seventh grade English class.
She cuts my hair.
She is the only person from Midway
I have ever seen again.

We do not talk about it.

2018

I come out, finally.
To a pastor
At the place
Where I go
On Sundays

The place
Where every single
Goddamn
Is honored
As a prayer.

2020

I remember that 15,000 gay men were sent to concentration camps during the Holocaust.

I think about a video I saw
Of immigrants illegally entering Canada
At a designated checkpoint
And being offered food, water, and an embrace

I think of another video I saw
Of white thread on red hats
Being ripped from the seams
And reconstructed to say,
“Welcome to Canada.”

I think, “I have family there.”

I think, “I lived in the closet for 13 years.
I can do hard things.”

I think,
“The election is next week.
I might have to delete this poem
After it is over,
Bury it
With my Pride flag and my shame –
But it will always exist.”

I wonder if anyone
Is leaving room
For Jesus.

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