I’m Having a Pat Parker Moment

March 18, 2009

I am posting two poems from the work of one of my favourite poets, Pat Parker. These are taken from her anthology Movement in Black. I “met” Pat during my early college days, and then met her all over again when I was involved in a relationship with a woman who thought Pat walked on water.  While she has made significant contributions to African American lgbt community and culture  – at least one community centre is named after her – I have a feeling few people under 30 know of her.  To say Pat’s words lit a fire under me is to state the obvious.   I was reflecting on an email conversation I have been involved in about the importance of building solidarity and creating meaningful alliances etc.,  and her words came to me in the midst of my response to one person.   I reproduce the poems here, entirely without permission, because I think it’s better to read them than not to.  While the referents are undoubtedly U.S.-centred, I do think that she provokes serious thought about the problems of complicity – “going with the flow” – and silence, as well as why having integrity and speaking up for what is right and just really do matter.

I. FOR THE STRAIGHT FOLKS WHO DON’T MIND GAYS BUT WISH THEY WEREN’T SO BLATANT

You know, some people got a lot of nerve.
Sometimes I don’t believe the things I see and hear.

Have you met the woman who’s shocked by two women kissing

and in the same breath, tells you she is pregnant?
BUT gays, shouldn’t be so blatant.

Or this straight couple sits next to you in a movie and you can’t hear the dialogue because of the sound effects.
BUT gays shouldn’t be so blatant.

And the woman in your office spends and entire lunch hour talking about her new bikini drawers and how much
her husband likes them.
BUT gays shouldn’t be so blatant.

Or the “hip” chick in your class rattling like a mile a minute while you’re trying to get stoned in the john,
about the camping trip she took with her musician boyfriend.
BUT gays shouldn’t be so blatant.

You go in a public bathroom and all over the walls there’s John loves Mary, Janice digs Richard, Pepe loves Delores, etc., etc.
BUT gays shouldn’t be so blatant.

Or your go to an amusement park and there’s a tunnel of love and pictures of straights painted on the front and grinning couples are coming in and out.
BUT gays shouldn’t be so blatant.

Fact is, blatant heterosexuals are all over the place.
Supermarkets, movies, on your job, in church, in books, on television every day day and night, every place-even- in gay bars and they want gay
men and woman to go and hide in the closet.

So to you straight folks I say, “Sure, I’ll go if you go too”
BUT I’m polite so, after you.

II.  Where Will You Be?

Boots are being polished
Trumpeters clean their horns
Chains and locks forged
The crusade has begun.

Once again flags of Christ
are unfurled in the dawn
and cries of soul saviors
sing apocalyptic on air waves.

Citizens, good citizens all
parade into voting booths
and in self-righteous sanctity
X away our right to life.

I do not believe as some
that the vote is an end,
I fear even more
It is just a beginning.

So I must make assessment
Look to you and ask:
Where will you be
when they come?

They will not come
in a mob rolling
through the streets,
but quickly and quietly
move into our homes
and remove the evil,
the queerness,
the faggotry,
the perverseness
from their midst.

They will not come
clothed in brown,
and swastikas, or
bearing chest heavy with
gleaming crosses.
The time and need
for ruses are over.

They will come
in business suits
to buy your homes
and bring bodies to
fill your jobs.

They will come in robes
to rehabilitate
and white coats
to subjugate
and where will you be
when they come?

Where will we *all be*
when they come?
And they will come —

they will come
because we are
defined as opposite —
perverse
and we are perverse.

Every time we watched
a queer hassled in the
streets and said nothing —
It was an act of perversion.

Everytime we lied about
the boyfriend or girlfriend
at coffee break —
It was an act of perversion.

Everytime we heard,
“I don’t mind gays
but why must they
be blatant?” and said nothing —
It was an act of perversion.

Everytime we let a lesbian mother
lose her child and did not fill
the courtroom —
It was an act of perversion.

Everytime we let straights
make out in our bars while
we couldn’t touch because
of laws —
It was an act of perversion.

Everytime we put on the proper
clothes to go to a family
wedding and left our lovers
at home —
It was an act of perversion.

Everytime we heard
“Who I go to bed with
is my personal choice —
It’s personal not political”
and said nothing —
It was an act of perversion.

Everytime we let straight relatives
bury our dead and push our
lovers away —
It was an act of perversion.

And they will come.
They will come for
the perverts

& it won’t matter
if you’re
homosexual, not a faggot
lesbian, not a dyke
gay, not queer
It won’t matter
if you
own your business
have a good job
or are on S.S.I.
It won’t matter
if you’re
Black
Chicano
Native American
Asian
or White
It won’t matter
if you’re from
New York
or Los Angeles
Galveston
or Sioux Falls
It won’t matter
if you’re
Butch, or Fem
Not into roles
Monogamous
Non Monogamous
It won’t matter
if you’re
Catholic
Baptist
Atheist
Jewish
or M.C.C.

They will come
They will come
to the cities
and to the land
to your front rooms
and in *your* closets.

They will come for
the perverts
and where will
you be
When they come?

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9 Responses to “I’m Having a Pat Parker Moment”

  1. ESTEBAN AGOSTO REID Says:

    Both poems are extremely poignant,stinging,skillfull,astute,relevant and pertinent to the Jamaican LGBT context.Interestingly,both poems are basically universally applicable, irrespective of the community and culture.Nuff respect!!

  2. ruthibelle Says:

    The first poem’s ending is nice: but i’m polite so after you, lol!

  3. Oliver Hunter Says:

    Love the poems. Good luck in convincing Jamaicans of the meaning of tolerance.

  4. oliola Says:

    like your poetry, have you written more? check out my poems at jamaicanloving.blogspot.com

    • longbench Says:

      Hi! Thanks for stopping by. That wasn’t my work; it is the work of Pat Parker, an African American lesbian feminist poet who died many years ago. Look her up on the web!

  5. hearthrising Says:

    Pat Parker was such a sweetheart. Really nice woman.

  6. candyce Says:

    Thanks for this. I remember Pat as well…and have been missing those days of women calling it as they see it, no apologies.


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