Hard to believe another Pride Month is here! Unfortunately, this year’s celebration will be very different due to COVID-19. Nevertheless, we will still celebrate any way we can! Whether that’s reading about people’s coming-out stories or watching LGBTQ+ films, there’s lots of things to do to honor anyone who is a part of the LGBTQ+ community. To help start us off, here are eleven poems about pride that you should read!
1. “a poem for pulse” by jameson fitzpatrick
image via poetry foundation
Last night, I went to a gay barwith a man I love a little.After dinner, we had a drink.We sat in the far-back of the big backyardand he asked, What will we do when this place closes?I don’t think it’s going anywhere any time soon, I said,though the crowd was slow for a Saturday,and he said—Yes, but one day. Where will we go?He walked me the half-block homeand kissed me goodnight on my stoop—properly: not too quick, close enoughour stomachs pressed togetherin a second sort of kiss.I live next to a bar that’s not a gay bar—we just call those bars, I guess—and because it is popularand because I live on a busy street,there are always people who aren’t queer peopleon the sidewalk on weekend nights.Just people, I guess.They were there last night.As I kissed this man I was aware of them watchingand of myself wondering whether or not they were just.But I didn’t let myself feel scared, I kissed himexactly as I wanted to, as I would have without an audience,because I decided many years ago to refuse this fear—an act of resistance. I leftthe idea of hate out on the stoop and went inside,to sleep, early and drunk and happy.While I slept, a man went to a gay clubwith two guns and killed forty-nine people.Today in an interview, his father said he had been disturbedrecently by the sight of two men kissing.What a strange power to be cursed with:for the proof of men’s desire to move men to violence.What’s a single kiss? I’ve had kissesno one has ever known about, so manykisses without consequence—but there is a place you can’t outrun,whoever you are.There will be a time when.It might be a bullet, suddenly.The sound of it. Many.One man, two guns, fifty dead—Two men kissing. Last nightI can’t get away from, imagining it, them,the people there to dance and laugh and drink,who didn’t believe they’d die, who couldn’t have.How else can you have a good time?How else can you live?There must have been two men kissingfor the first time last night, and for the last,and two women, too, and two people who were neither.Brown people, which cannot be a coincidence in this countrywhich is a racist country, which is gun country.Today I’m thinking of the Bernie Boston photographFlower Power, of the Vietnam protestor placing carnationsin the rifles of the National Guard,and wishing for a gesture as queer and simple.The protester in the photo was gay, you know,he went by Hibiscus and died of AIDS,which I am also thinking about today because(the government’s response to) AIDS was a hate crime.Now we have a president who names us,the big and imperfectly lettered us, and here we aregetting kissed on stoops, getting married some of us,some of us getting killed.We must love one another whether or not we die.Love can’t block a bulletbut neither can it be shot down,and love is, for the most part, what makes us—in Orlando and in Brooklyn and in Kabul.We will be everywhere, always;there’s nowhere else for us, or you, to go.Anywhere you run in this world, love will be there to greet you.Around any corner, there might be two men. Kissing.
2. “Movement song” by Audre Lorde
image via ubuntu biography project
I have studied the tight curls on the back of your neckmoving away from mebeyond anger or failureyour face in the evening schools of longingthrough mornings of wish and ripenwe were always saying goodbyein the blood in the bone over coffeebefore dashing for elevators goingin opposite directionswithout goodbyes.Do not remember me as a bridge nor a roofas the maker of legendsnor as a trapdoor to that worldwhere black and white clericalshang on the edge of beauty in five oclock elevatorstwitching their shoulders to avoid other fleshand nowthere is someone to speak for themmoving away from me into tomorrowsmorning of wish and ripenyour goodbye is a promise of lightningin the last angels handunwelcome and warningthe sands have run out against uswe were rewarded by journeysaway from each otherinto desireinto mornings alonewhere excuse and endurance mingleconceiving decision.Do not remember meas disasternor as the keeper of secretsI am a fellow rider in the cattle carswatchingyou move slowly out of my bedsaying we cannot waste timeonly ourselves.
3. “a litany to survive” by Audre Lorde
For those of us who live at the shorelinestanding upon the constant edges of decisioncrucial and alonefor those of us who cannot indulgethe passing dreams of choicewho love in doorways coming and goingin the hours between dawnslooking inward and outwardat once before and afterseeking a now that can breedfutureslike bread in our children’s mouthsso their dreams will not reflectthe death of ours;For those of uswho were imprinted with fearlike a faint line in the center of our foreheadslearning to be afraid with our mother’s milkfor by this weaponthis illusion of some safety to be foundthe heavy-footed hoped to silence usFor all of usthis instant and this triumphWe were never meant to survive.And when the sun rises we are afraidit might not remainwhen the sun sets we are afraidit might not rise in the morningwhen our stomachs are full we are afraidof indigestionwhen our stomachs are empty we are afraidwe may never eat againwhen we are loved we are afraidlove will vanishwhen we are alone we are afraidlove will never returnand when we speak we are afraidour words will not be heardnor welcomedbut when we are silentwe are still afraidSo it is better to speakrememberingwe were never meant to survive.
4. “who said it was Simple” by Audre Lorde
There are so many roots to the tree of anger
that sometimes the branches shatter
before they bear.
Sitting in Nedicks
the women rally before they march
discussing the problematic girls
they hire to make them free.
An almost white counterman passes
a waiting brother to serve them first
and the ladies neither notice nor reject
the slighter pleasures of their slavery.
But I who am bound by my mirror
as well as my bed
see causes in colour
as well as sex
and sit here wondering
which me will survive
all these liberations.
5. “dear gaybashers” by Jill McDonough
image via stephanie craig on peony moon
The night we got bashed we told Rusty howthey drove up, yelled QUEER, threw a hot dog, sped off.Rusty: Now, is that gaybashing? Orare they just calling you queer? Good point.Josey pitied the fools: who buys a perfectly good pack of wienersand drives around San Francisco chucking them at gays?And who speeds off? Missing the point, the pleasure of the bash?Dear bashers, you should have seen the hot dog hit my neck,the scarf Josey sewed from antique silk kimonos: so gay. Youmissed laughing at us, us confused, your raw hot dog on the ground.Josey and Rusty and Bob make fun of the gaybashers, and Iwash my scarf in the sink. I use Woolite. We worryabout insurance, interest rates. Not hot dogs thrown from F-150s,homophobic freaks. After the bashing, we used the ATMin the sex shop next to Annie’s Social Club, smiled at the kindowner, his handlebar mustache. Astrud Gilberto sang tall and tanand young and lovely, the girl from Ipanema… and the dildosgleamed from the walls, a hundred cheerful colors. In San Franciscoit rains hot dogs, pity-the-fool. Ass-sized penguins, cock after cock inazure acrylic, butterscotch glass, anyone’s flesh-tone, chrome.
6. “poem about my rights” by June Jordan
Image via Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study
Even tonight and I need to take a walk and clearmy head about this poem about why I can’tgo out without changing my clothes my shoesmy body posture my gender identity my agemy status as a woman alone in the evening/alone on the streets/alone not being the point/the point being that I can’t do what I wantto do with my own body because I am the wrongsex the wrong age the wrong skin andsuppose it was not here in the city but down on the beach/or far into the woods and I wanted to gothere by myself thinking about God/or thinkingabout children or thinking about the world/all of itdisclosed by the stars and the silence:I could not go and I could not think and I could notstay therealoneas I need to bealone because I can’t do what I want to do with my ownbody andwho in the hell set things uplike thisand in France they say if the guy penetratesbut does not ejaculate then he did not rape meand if after stabbing him if after screams ifafter begging the bastard and if even after smashinga hammer to his head if even after that if heand his buddies fuck me after thatthen I consented and there wasno rape because finally you understand finallythey fucked me over because I was wrong I waswrong again to be me being me where I was/wrongto be who I amwhich is exactly like South Africapenetrating into Namibia penetrating intoAngola and does that mean I mean how do you know ifPretoria ejaculates what will the evidence look like theproof of the monster jackboot ejaculation on Blacklandand ifafter Namibia and if after Angola and if after Zimbabweand if after all of my kinsmen and women resist even toself-immolation of the villages and if after thatwe lose nevertheless what will the big boys say will theyclaim my consent:Do You Follow Me: We are the wrong people ofthe wrong skin on the wrong continent and whatin the hell is everybody being reasonable aboutand according to the Times this weekback in 1966 the C.I.A. decided that they had this problemand the problem was a man named Nkrumah so theykilled him and before that it was Patrice Lumumbaand before that it was my father on the campusof my Ivy League school and my father afraidto walk into the cafeteria because he said hewas wrong the wrong age the wrong skin the wronggender identity and he was paying my tuition andbefore thatit was my father saying I was wrong saying thatI should have been a boy because he wanted one/aboy and that I should have been lighter skinned andthat I should have had straighter hair and thatI should not be so boy crazy but instead I shouldjust be one/a boy and before thatit was my mother pleading plastic surgery formy nose and braces for my teeth and telling meto let the books loose to let them loose in otherwordsI am very familiar with the problems of the C.I.A.and the problems of South Africa and the problemsof Exxon Corporation and the problems of whiteAmerica in general and the problems of the teachersand the preachers and the F.B.I. and the socialworkers and my particular Mom and Dad/I am veryfamiliar with the problems because the problemsturn out to bemeI am the history of rapeI am the history of the rejection of who I amI am the history of the terrorized incarceration ofmyselfI am the history of battery assault and limitlessarmies against whatever I want to do with my mindand my body and my soul andwhether it’s about walking out at nightor whether it’s about the love that I feel orwhether it’s about the sanctity of my vagina orthe sanctity of my national boundariesor the sanctity of my leaders or the sanctityof each and every desirethat I know from my personal and idiosyncraticand indisputably single and singular heartI have been rapedbe-cause I have been wrong the wrong sex the wrong agethe wrong skin the wrong nose the wrong hair thewrong need the wrong dream the wrong geographicthe wrong sartorial II have been the meaning of rapeI have been the problem everyone seeks toeliminate by forcedpenetration with or without the evidence of slime and/but let this be unmistakable this poemis not consent I do not consentto my mother to my father to the teachers tothe F.B.I. to South Africa to Bedford-Stuyto Park Avenue to American Airlines to the hardonidlers on the corners to the sneaky creeps incarsI am not wrong: Wrong is not my nameMy name is my own my own my ownand I can’t tell you who the hell set things up like thisbut I can tell you that from now on my resistancemy simple and daily and nightly self-determinationmay very well cost you your life
7. “history of sexual preference” by robin becker
image via poetry foundation
We are walking our very public attractionthrough eighteenth-century Philadelphia.I am simultaneously butch girlfriendand suburban child on a school trip,Independence Hall, 1775, hometo the Second Continental Congress.Although she is wearing her leather jacket,although we have made love for the first timein a hotel room on Rittenhouse Square,I am preparing my teenage escape from Philadelphia,from Elfreth’s Alley, the oldest continuously occupiedresidential street in the nation,from Carpenters’ Hall, from Congress Hall,from Graff House where the young ThomasJefferson lived, summer of 1776. In my starched shirtand waistcoat, in my leggings and buckled shoes,in postmodern drag, as a young eighteenth-century statesman,I am seventeen and tired of fighting for freedomand the rights of men. I am already dreaming of Boston—city of women, demonstrations, and revolutionon a grand and personal scale.Then the maître d’is pulling out our chairs for brunch, we have thesurprised look of people who have been kissingand now find themselves dressed and diningin a Locust Street townhouse turned café,who do not know one another very well, who continuewith optimism to pursue relationship. Eternitymay simply be our mortal default mechanismset on hope despite all evidence. In this mood,I roll up my shirtsleeves and she touches my elbow.I refuse the seedy view from the hotel window.I picture instead their silver inkstands,the hoopskirt factory on Arch Street,the Wireworks, their eighteenth-century herb gardens,their nineteenth-century row houses restoredwith period door knockers.Step outside.We have been deeded the largest landscaped spacewithin a city anywhere in the world. In Fairmount Park,on horseback, among the ancient ginkgoes, oaks, persimmons,and magnolias, we are seventeen and imperishable, cutting classesMay of our senior year. And I am happy as the youngTom Jefferson, unbuttoning my collar, imagining his power,considering my healthy body, how I might use it in the serviceof the country of my pleasure.
8. “homosexuality” by Frank O’Hara
image via literary hub
So we are taking off our masks, are we, and keeping
our mouths shut? as if we’d been pierced by a glance!
The song of an old cow is not more full of judgement
than the vapors which escape one’s soul when one is sick;
so I pull down the shadows around me like a puff
and crinkle my eyes as if at the most exquisite moment
of a very long opera, and then we are off!
without reproach and without hope that our delicate feet
will touch the earth again, let along “very soon”.
It is the law of my own voice I shall investigate.
I start like ice, my finger to my ear, my ear
to my heart, that proud cur at the garbage can
in the rain. It’s wonderful to admire oneself
with complete candor, tallying up the merits of each
of the latrines. 14th Street is drunken and credulous,
53rd tries to tremble but is too at rest. The good
love a park and the inept a railway station,
and there are the divine ones who drag themselves up
and down the lengthening shadow of an Abyssinian head
in the dust, trailing their long elegant heels of hot air
crying to confuse the brave “It’s a summer day,
and I want to be wanted more than anything else in the world.”
9. “Gay pride weekend” by brenda shaughnessy
image via Janea Wiedmann on brenda shaunessy’s website
I forgot how lush and electrifiedit was with you. The shaggyfragrant zaps continually passingback and forth, my fingertipto your clavicle, or your wristrubbing mine to share gardeniaoil. We so purred like dragonflieswe kept the mosquitoes awayand the conversation was heavy,mother-lacerated childhoodsand the sad way we’d bothbeen both ignored and touchedbadly. Knowing that beingfierce and proud and out andloud was just a bright new wayto be needy. Please listen to me, ohwhat a buzz! you’re the only oneI can tell. Even with no secret,I could come close to your earwith my mouth and that wasecstasy, too. We barely touchedeach other, we didn’t have tospeak. The love we made leaptto life like a cat in the spacebetween us (if there ever wasspace between us), and lookedback at us through fog. Sure,this was San Francisco, it wasoften hard to see. But fog alwaysburned off, too, so we watchedthis creature to see if it knewwhat it was doing. It didn’t.
10. “the 17-Year-old & the gay bar” by Danez Smith
image via literary hub
this gin-heavy heaven, blessed ground to think gay & mean we.bless the fake id & the bouncer who knewthis need to be needed, to belong, to know howa man taste full on vodka & free of sin. i know not which god to pray to.i look to christ, i look to every mouth on the dance floor, i ordera whiskey coke, name it the blood of my new savior. he is just.he begs me to dance, to marvel men with thedashof hips i brought, he deems my mouth in some stranger’s mouth necessary.bless that man’s mouth, the song we sway sloppy to, the beat, the bridge, the lengthof his hand on my thigh & back & i know not which country i am of.i want to live on his tongue, build a home of gospel & gayetyi want to raise a city behind his teeth for all boys of choirs & closets to refuge in.i want my new god to look at the mecca i built him & call it damn goodor maybe i’m just tipsy & free for the first time, willing to worship anything i can taste.
11. “the mortician in San Francisco” by Randall Mann
image via the arkansas international
This may sound queer,but in 1985 I held the delicate handsof Dan White:I prepared him for burial; by then, Harvey Milkwas made monument—no, myth—by the yearssince he was shot.I remember when Harvey was shot:twenty, and I knew I was queer.Those were the years,Levi’s and leather jackets holding handson Castro Street, cheering for Harvey Milk—elected on the same day as Dan White.I often wonder about Supervisor White,who fatally shotMayor Moscone and Supervisor Milk,who was one of us, a Castro queer.May 21, 1979: a jury handsdown the sentence, seven years—in truth, five years—for ex-cop, ex-fireman Dan White,for the blood on his hands;when he confessed that he had shotthe mayor and the queer,a few men in blue cheered. And Harvey Milk?Why cry over spilled milk,some wondered, semi-privately, for years—it meant “one less queer.”The jurors turned to White.If just the mayor had been shot,Dan might have had trouble on his hands—but the twelve who held his life in their handsmaybe didn’t mind the death of Harvey Milk;maybe, the second murder offered him a shotat serving only a few years.In the end, he committed suicide, this Dan White.And he was made presentable by a queer.
Featured Image via Thomas Hawk on flickr