"What's the world for you if you can't make it up the way you want."

-Jazz, Toni Morrison

No One Was Gay Back Then and Oh, Susanna!

No One Was Gay Back Then and Oh, Susanna!

No One was Gay Back Then

We used to call you Jammy Jamu.
You, thick-lipped, humping Daniel
In the grass. 5th grade recess.
Back in class, you looked at me.
I knew what I knew.
You liked me more than Daniel.
My long blond hair you pulled sometimes.
Daniel liked Matt. So in 5th grade,
Already seeking cover-ups.
Trying to convince everyone and ourselves.
Our small town. No one was gay back then.

The next time I saw you and Daniel,
Lunchtime, making out against a tree.
You reached around for Daniel's hand,
Sucked his fingers with your fat lips.
Made sure that I could see.
Daniel sneered, looked at me—
With contempt—grabbed your pussy.
I was 19 when I finally kissed a woman.



Oh, Susanna!

She sighed,
For so much melody. 
      —Wallace Stevens



What she touched— 
Not the springs,
But her own desire.

Showering in the dark.
The song
Not yet sung.

She also touched your yearnings.

You deny this, laughing elders.
You there, a pair:
The Major and the Minor.

Yes, I am calling you out.



Hallelujah, not Hosanna.
She didn't even say the name,
But if she did, what's it to ya?

There. I've said it.
I'm my own avenging angel.
Let the gates open.
I'm no Susanna,
But Daniel's my hairdresser.



They felt nothing but laughter
Gurgle in their throats.
“Music has nothing to do with it,”
They would later say.

Wash their hands within the sounds
Of that selfsame water
In which she had bathed.
In which she had sung.

In the blue-shadowed silk
Of evening, music had called.
And she sang, after saying
The names, every one.

The same names, but not their names,
Causing disorder, confusion,
Questions of a one-person tribunal.
Crash of prefuntory notes in mailboxes.

Connections clanging shut and gossip
Wagging in the air for months
Like a distant refrain. 
Like rain, playing on the ear.



The witches with their witching chords.
The battle a raging cry
Of devils and angels.
The chords falter between you.
Between you and I.

In some stories, Susanna stays silent.
In yours, she screams.
In mine, she sings, innocent of all shame.
No need to repent.



You can step down now.
A moonlit overthrow.
No sonata.

I've come for ya.
In this garden's overgrowth
Before my soul broke

I first felt happy.
Then you said my song
Back to me.

That's where it all went wrong.
Still, I keep it on my lips.
It dances on my tongue.

Hallelujah, a wave
Flowing on and on.
All that's immortal, is the song.

Ina Brix has work published or forthcoming in The American Journal of Poetry, The Gay and Lesbian Review Worldwide, ArLiJo, Wallace Stevens Journal, and Young Ravens Literary Review, among others. One of her short stories will appear in January within an anthology (Bold Strokes Books). She has recently written her first novel, is at work on her second novel, and is an attorney licensed in California and Texas. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Cover photo by Milan Popovic on Unsplash

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