Right now, I’m sitting at a Starbucks down the street from the house I grew up in. This Mississippi town seems incredibly small after I’ve been to places like New York and San Francisco. While the town feels small, the people feel even smaller-minded; I’ve gotten in arguments over the existence of white privilege, what can be considered racist, marriage laws, discrimination vs. “freedom” rights… it’s been an exhausting holiday.
The issues hit me a little too close to home; last year I had to tiptoe around town with my girlfriend, afraid of how people might treat us if they knew. In Mississippi, if someone is in your establishment that does not fit your religious views, be they a different religious practitioner or a “deviant” sexuality, you can refuse them service and throw them out. When I realized how much I was censoring myself and my actions to avoid trouble, I wrote the following poem. It’s still one of the most honest things I’ve ever written about home, and although I don’t have another person to remind me I don’t belong, it’s hard to forget I’m now just an unwanted visitor here.
Open Season after the jump~
People in the south have mouths that cradle their vowels
like a hunter holds his gun.
Speak slow ‘round the molasses of their thoughts
and savor the sound.
There’s only malicious intent if you threaten their freedom.
I’ve been asked many times why I care
that I could be thrown out of a restaurant for who I love,
because I shouldn’t want to spend money there
in the first place.
My mouth fills with blood from a bitten tongue.
Don’t kiss in the car in case we get run off the road.
Scared to hold hands at the supermarket
because it might scare the kids’ parents
& Southern Walmarts have hunting rifle sections.
Not all of them but anywhere near a forest
or something you can drown in.
I drown out my cousins talking about hunting with
any music other than country.
Count incorrect use of the word gay 3 times.
They cradle the sound of it like an animal about to be skinned.
I try not to make a sound.