In recent weeks, I have spoken to two gay poets. I don’t read much poetry but I am in awe of poets. I sometimes wish I was a poet instead of a writer. Poets are so romantic, wrapped as they are in an air of mystery, and gorgeous failure. I’ve written exactly one poem. I wrote it after some editor who turned down my work insisted I should write poetry because my stories were so lyrical. So wrote it and tucked it away. At the last minute, I added it to the manuscript for DamagedAngels, my collection of short stories. I fully expected the publisher to excise it from the manuscript but they didn’t. And as it turned out, it didn’t really matter. In the first 6 months after publication we’d sold exactly 8 copies of Damaged Angels. Eight. And I bought two of those.
As I sit here having completed 1,083 words on my WIP, newly married, with three published books behind me, a thousand miles from where I began, a thousand miles from where I want to be, now seemed like a perfect time to visit that lone poem.
A Last RequestThese old boots
How far they’ve taken me!
How far they have to take me still.
I have stopped to rest in this place
A thousand miles from where I began.
A thousand miles from where I want to be.
They are old now, these boots.
How far they have taken me
Through a cold dark night decades long.
Caught up in a love
I believed unacceptable, I was ashamed.
Shame took root in unhappiness,
Compelled me to run away.
And away again.
And always these old boots carried me faithfully,
Carried me true.
So true, in fact,
That I have witnessed the transfiguration of leather and suede
Into flesh and bone,
As these old boots became the feet themselves
And carried me
And away again.
And what has all this running taught me?
That you cannot hide from yourself,
That you cannot outrun your nature.
Coward that I am,
Coward that I was,
I make of these old boots,
That have taken me so far
That have taken me everywhere and nowhere,
A last request
Take me home.
Make of me a present to myself.
Copyright © 2012 Larry Benjamin