Gay Shame

Gay Shame

Gay Shame

A PRIDE MONTH Poem by Charlie Stephens

It’s four days before gay pride in San Francisco and

rainbow beer ads proliferate.

Gray-haired queens slump over in the huge windows of that bar known colloquially as The Glass Coffin.


A sea of seemingly-identical middle aged white men start hissing with animosity in the Castro theater when in the movie the boy kisses a girl instead of another boy.


Is this beautiful or deeply misogynistic?


No one can afford this place anymore.

It’s a gentrification party!


Two friends who are trying to have a baby

get discount sperm shipped from Seattle

and the sperm bank says there’s nothing wrong with it:

they’re just making room for the next batch of jizz.

Half Price Hank.


Someone has lost a sad high heel in the gutter. Ephemera.

I remember Marilyn Minter’s filthy-heeled masterpiece

housed for awhile at the MoMA downtown on the 3rd floor.

It took real restraint not to touch it, and I could not stop staring,

but the last time I tried to visit, it had been moved to a different museum far away

and the wall left behind was boring and cold.


I miss the dirtiness of coming of age in this place.

And I miss Mattilda yelling “Nurse!”

as the warning signal for a cop-sighting in the Tenderloin at 3am,

when we illegally wheat-pasted our home-made political posters.

I guess I really just miss the terrible, dangerous exposure to raw living.

Mostly though, I miss the gay nod, when seeing another queer person still felt

special and connecting.


A friend who teaches at Berkeley High says she can’t go to gay pride festivities anymore because she’s afraid she’ll see any one of her students naked. 

That happened last year, she said, And it was fucking traumatizing. Also because, she says, she’s just too old and lazy.

But don’t tell that to the old men in The Glass Coffin.

They stare out serenely like owls.

Their necks rotate all the way around.

Their heads bop to Selena Gomez.


Oh yeah, they’re taking it all in.


And in those rainbow beer ads they somehow see it all unfolding,

just the way it’s supposed to,

while the rest of us,




we look to the gutters


for a dirty, lost, high heel,

existing like a small beacon on the littered path of our humanity.

White Walls Which Cannot Speak

White Walls Which Cannot Speak