Gay Pride

posted in: Aging, Poetry, Uncategorized | 0

Love and resilience, featuring poems by Mary Cronin, Karen Hones and Patti Ruskey. 
5 minutes


In 1974, San Francisco gay activist and later city councilman Harvey Milk asked Gilbert Baker to create a symbol of pride for the gay community. What he came up with was the original rainbow flag which had its official debut June 25, 1978 in San Francisco’s Gay Freedom Day parade. Later that year, Harvey Milk was assassinated, a few other artists tweaked the design of the rainbow flag, and the flag still flies today, a continuing symbol of LGBTQ+ pride and acceptance.

Mary Cronin said she’s a student of history, a lesbian, an educator, and a poet, who seeks to bring underrepresented voices and untold stories to the page. Here’s her poem “Silent.” It begins with the epigraph “Emergency room nurse, 1947.”

Barely 20,
he huddles silent on the gurney,
all knuckles and knees.
One eye wide,
one swollen shut.
He’s not talking,
but I can read the story on his body –
Some punks worked him over like a side of beef.
They nearly killed my brother that way –
tried to beat the sissy out of him,
like this kid.

It won’t work, bastards.
It won’t work.

Mary Cronin’s poem “Silent” from Passager Issue 75, the 2023 Poetry Contest issue.

Karen Hones said that her poem “Dear Friend, I Remember” is from a series about her friends and next-door neighbors Paul and Tom, who died of AIDS. It begins with the epigraph “in memory of Tom Sullivan.”

A typical night at The Stud: tall Buds, poppers
on the dance floor. You threw up the burrito
from La Rondalla; then we linked arms and stumbled
home to apartments that were side-by-side

Later under a full moon
we sat on the back porch. You said
I want someone to take care of me
just out of earshot of your lover Paul
who was busy making soup

I see you now as you were then
(the most beautiful boy from River Rouge)
backlit by moonlight, a beer in one hand
an unfiltered Camel in the other

Already thin, you were soon
wasting away like the other young men
up and down Castro Street

They called it the “gay plague” and
if I’d known what was coming
I’d have numbed myself even more

Nothing could be done. You were gone.

Alone at home, the back door closed to keep the cat in,
I sat on a hard chair at the kitchen table
where we used to sit looking out at the coffin factory

Lights went on in the hills
Fog covered the houses
gradually, like an erasure

“Dear Friend, I Remember,” Karen Hones from Passager Issue 74, the Trauma issue.

Karen said, “So many healthy men were infected with the AIDS virus in the ‘80s and died in the ‘90s. We need to remember them.”

Patti Ruskey said, “A few years ago I was planting in my garden. On May 5th I flipped over a toad with my trowel. We were both surprised. With the recent death of my wife I realized in death more depth and connection can be made in all life. So we had a conversation of sorts.” Here’s her poem “May 5th.”

I flipped a hibernating
toad with my trowel,
when digging for a

crabgrass runner in my garden.
Eyes squeezed tight,
was it annoyed?

Its cold limbs not yet
I thought it good

I was never early.
It was not too early
to wake a toad.

I contemplated the heirloom
tomatoes I had planted last year
with my wife’s ashes.
What if this toad

was my wife? She liked
to sleep late and always
tucked her cold feet
into unwanted places.

I thought about the eco-system
trying to regain balance as
I too was trying to find my

footing. Rolling her back into
place, I delicately cover
her with loose dirt
and warm straw.

“May 5th,” Patti Ruskey from Passager Issue 75, the 2023 Poetry Contest issue.

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For Kendra, Mary, Christine, Rosanne, and the rest of the Passager staff, I’m Jon Shorr.