Decade after decade.
And I, like a fool never fell.
I cannot, could not, fall.
But they hit. Still they hit. Still they sting. Even now. Especially now.
I filled many glasses to numb it all. Merlot. Coque du vin. And said to myself “feel nothing.”
And asked. Demanded. What of it all? I can’t feel, yet I feel their burn. And I knew. I saw.
Rope in their hands. Did they ask? Ever ask “Who is he? What is he?” No. No. They did not.
“Hide in plain sight.” As I became the oak from which we swung.
Hidden. Though torrents, gales, frosts, and chanting would come. I stood. I stand. “Love him! Love them! Through their filth! Love your enemies. And pray ’til they swing. They die!”
When words were screamed, voices raised, torches aflame, their sinless eyes emboldened. “Where? Where? I shall kill the black in his heart!”The door to my soul painted shut.
Yet what wonder I painted inside of my mind. Safe, gazing at frescoes. Our dead on the wall.
You’d find them all painted in reds. My palette of oils, the gouge of our wounds from your rock.
Survive. Retreat. Look away. God is inside, not there. Not there. Not at the well.
Look away. Grow blind outside to find the light. You must be blind to see.
I did. I did survive. Each new barb, I stood, each stone that hit.
Though polished, they stung with such force, yet I stood. I stand.
Spring after spring has passed, and I stood the winter. I’m pocked, like the moon.
Reflecting the sun. I bore, I bear, the scars. Visible and seen. Yet I stood. I stand.
As then. Always then. Always now, they fly over fences, crossing streets, from shadows.
I’d caress their smooth edges. So beautiful, and soft. But for the agony they inflict.
So throw your stone. I’ll not fight. I’ll not. I’ll not be gone.
As best you’re able, cast it. You’ve named my sin. Yet I’ll not be gone.
Do not stop at stones. Humans make the greatest of shields. This is war. War!
Every man. Woman. Child. Find them. Use them. Collateral damage. What of it?
Use them all. God will justify. Manifest destiny. Be stealth. Use them all, your soldiers.
To cast the rocks that the river made smooth. To bury me – us – in them.
Yet I will not throw. I will not move. I will not go. I cannot go. From you, from here.
I’ve lived the barbs. I’ve lived the disgust. I’ve lived. I’ve seen. I’ve stood.
I will not fall. We will not fall.
Grace. Divine grace. A songstress that echoes your rhythm. Broken, but beating.
5 over 4, where once we danced in its 3/4 time. Faint yet it beats. It beats.
With each stone it beats. With each hurt it beats. With each barb, it beats.
When you can stand it no more. It beats. It beats. You’re alive. Hear it beat.
So wipe your cheeks dry. No need for the finest attire. No carriages await.
We walk this road. Though some offer rides. We know the road well. We do.
Listen. That voice inside. Where your own screams muffle the music it brings.
No more! No more! Hate me no more! Be ye still and listen to a Word that hates no more.
Forgive. Forgive. Forgive. It beats such an odd and curious cadence. Its rhythm.
My basket of stones, empty now. At my side, awaiting its contents. My hurl.
But no, here we’ll sit. Sit here. By the well and bear. The thud as they hit. No replenishment.
You know it. The pain. An old friend or foe. I will not. No more. Eye for an eye, I will not.
Go ahead and cry, my brother. My sister. Lay your head close. Let the tears fall.
And lift your gaze to the sky, Magnify, and stare. Stare at the light ’til you be blind.
And you’ll still stand. Blinded. Weakened. Marked. Known. We’ve always been known.
Cry my brother my sister. Blind to it all now. Weep and wail and be known.
That we stand. Yes. Dear God. We’re alive. Those without sin throw a hundred stones.
But we stood. There we stood. Here we stand. By the grace of God.
Though the winds, the rocks, beat us down. Down. Down.
Still we stand. We bend with the wind. And still, still we stand.
A postscript, from those who still stand:
“Those of us who’ve lived long and short lives have tasted your disgust. Love. Up to now, it has been one to each another. To our own. It is with a hand extended to you that we ask to you show us how to love you. Help us know love. The hand is extended, forever if need be. The light is on, the door open. Help us. Help us to know how to love you.”
—– Read Kenny’s original post on his blog, Tangentials.
KENNY PIERCE, a native of Southern California, came out in 1985 as the AIDS epidemic raged around him, both in Los Angeles and in San Francisco.
“I am passionate about emergent theology and interfaith dialog. My greater interest lies in sharing what I (and others) learned in those formative years, to build bridges between rapidly-changing faith communities and the earlier generation of survivors, families and friends affected by the AIDS plague.
“I feel strongly that the Church needs to acknowledge and work to address the alienation and disillusionment inherited by the current generation of affirming people of faith, who may not understand the implications of the past social, political and religious dynamics through which their uncles, aunts and parents lived.
“It is my hope that residual feelings of betrayal and silence during the “gay genocide” in those earliest years of HIV/AIDS be circumvented, and someday don’t fatally color the perception of all of Christianity among its survivors. Our earliest mandates — pacifism, social justice and compassion — are the universal key to unlocking the heart of our work in this world.”
Kenny lives in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Follow him on Twitter and on his blog, Tangentials.