Poems from “Radiance”*

By Emanuel Xavier

RHETORIC OF EMPIRE

I imagine him a heartbreaker, like I grew up to be,
perhaps with dark eyes and tattoos and a nefarious
persona. It is said he was Puerto Rican. In the ’70s,
getting an Ecuadorian immigrant pregnant was
perhaps boricua blasphemy. The local jibaras would
not be having it. I’ve never heard from or seen or met
my father. Fact is there is nothing to prove this otherness.

Still, I see him when I stare at myself hard enough in
the mirror, when people ask where my freckles came
from, when I am naked being devoured by another man.
I picture him sitting somewhere on the island in his
guayabera with a small golden crucifix glistening against
the hairy chest I didn’t inherit. He is probably mustached,
smoking cigarettes, waiting for his wife to make him dinner.

I wonder if he thinks of me as he watches the sun set below
the horizon, a daily reminder of the son he left behind.
Maybe he owns a guinea pig, a pet symbol of his experiment,
the nickname given to me—El Cuy—as an outcast child. I am
certain he has grown children, a hundred percent Taino,
untainted with Inca blood. They will claim his empire as I
continue to write bastard poems hoping to be remembered.

I would have atoned for him like the mother who cast me out
as her demon spawn and the stepfather that never welcomed
me as his own. I often dreamt of walking on a dirt road
with a suitcase and a couple of dollars heading toward the
vanishing tropical sun hoping to find a shadow of his smile.
Instead I travel from man to man, unattainable in this
journey to forgive myself for being born, creating chaos.

He does not know that I suffer from OCD or find humor
in pathological doubt and self-destruction. He is oblivious
to my being neglected by my own cultures because my Spanish
has a different accent, clueless to these combined features
which don’t make me look one or the other but often confused
for Mexican instead. Inevitably, I would have been abandoned
once he found out I was also gay.

There are no faded photographs, recorded phone
conversations, birthday videos or online searches to link this
history. The truth is tucked away in our hearts, underneath
our pillows, in dreams, in letters never sent. In his absence,
I have conquered my own kingdom. It is in the beauty of the
stars in the night sky, the sounds of the ocean, the sweet taste
of mangoes, the smell of coffee that we share this life as one.

 

SOMETIMES WE’RE INVISIBLE

what we choose to remember
what we choose to forget

a new drug known as crack appeared on the streets
the same year
Venus Xtravaganza, 23, was found strangled under a bed in a hotel room (four days after her death)

South Africa freed Nelson Mandela
the same year
Julio Rivera was murdered in NYC by two men who beat him with a hammer & stabbed him with a knife for being gay

Tupac Shakur was gunned down
the same year
Nick Moraida, 37, was killed by a member of the Aryan Brotherhood, posing as a male prostitute during an attempted robbery

the Twin Towers collapsed on 9/11
the same year
Fred Martinez, Jr., 16, a Navajo two spirit student, was bludgenoned to death in Colorado because he was a “fag”

Eminem won at the MTV Awards
the same year
Gwen Araujo, 17, was beaten and strangled by four men in Newark, California

Hurricane Katrina hit and Pope John Paul II died
the same year
James Maestas, 21, was assaulted outside a Santa Fe restaurant and followed to a hotel where he was beaten unconscious

a student went on a killing spree at Virginia Tech and Apple introduced the iPhone
the same year
Ruby Ordeñana, 24, a transgender woman was found naked and strangled in San Francisco

Fidel Castro stepped down as President of Cuba and writers went on strike in Hollywood
the same year
Lawrence King, 15, was shot and killed in school by 14-year-old Brandon because he was effeminate and flamboyant

Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett died and a plane landed on the Hudson River
the same year
Jorge Stevens Lopez Mercado, 19, a gay rights advocate, was found decapitated, dismembered and partially burned in Puerto Rico

Haiti was devastated by an earthquake
the same year
Amanda Gonzalez-Andujar, 29, a trans woman was strangled and doused with bleach in her Queens apartment and Ashley Santiago, another trans woman, was found naked and stabbed fourteen times in the kitchen of her home

Osama Bin Laden was finally killed and Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was officially repealed
the same year
Rosita Hernandez, a Cuban trans woman was stabbed to death in Miami and Camila Guzman, a transgender woman was found murdered in her East Harlem apartment

a gunman opened fire during a screening of The Dark Knight in Aurora, Colorado, and Hurricane Sandy hit
the same year
Kyra Cordova, 27, a trans woman was found dead in the woods of Philadelphia

mariposas/brown lives/queer lives/trans lives
we fly in our dreams
brighten skies
still know the sun for flight
the wind for guidance
yet sometimes we’re invisible
may our souls linger over fields/prayers
our names/stories remind them
we are worth love
know god

There is beauty in darkness, in the night sky,
in the eyes of mi gente
Beautiful is our love
Splendid is our survival
Our history is sacred and worth remembering

 


Emanuel Xavier, an LGBT History Month Icon and Gay City News Impact Award recipient, is author of the poetry collections Radiance, Nefarious, Americano, Pier Queen, If Jesus Were Gay and the novel Christ Like. A former homeless teen involved in NYC’s ball scene in the 90s and one of the first openly gay Nuyorican poets, he has been a longtime gay rights activist, AIDS activist and homeless youth advocate. He was featured on Russell Simmons presents Def Poetry, has spoken at The United Nations, was a featured TEDx speaker and was filmed for a documentary on poets from around the world which premiered at the Edinburgh Film Festival. He continues to perform at colleges and universities throughout the country and his books are often included in LGBTQ and Latino Studies courses.

*All poems by Emanuel Xavier are published in Latin@ Literatures with the consent of its original publishers, Rebel Satori Press.

“Rhetoric of Empire”: from “Radiance” by Emanuel Xavier (Rebel Satori Press, 2016).

“Sometimes We’re Invisible”: from “Radiance” by Emanuel Xavier (Rebel Satori Press, 2016).