Owosso, Michigan is cinder blocks
stacked on top of potato cellars and steamrolled
grey. There’s a lot of corn,
a Main Street. The high-school football stadium
shakes with glory every Friday. In high-school,
Jamie was a blonde stalk of laughter
with hair in his eyes. He came to class every day
wearing a black hoodie that read: ABORTION
IS MURDER, so I stopped being friends with him.
We were in drama together.
I’d played the Wall and he’d played Thisbe
in every production of Midsummer Nights Dream.
When I heard Jamie was in love with a boy
he’d met at church, and needed to hammer his desire
into a controllable affliction, I decided he and I
didn’t believe in the same God. My gods
were the Great Lakes, filled with fresh-water eels.
Lamprey eat by tunneling through flesh with teeth built
on a circle-sucker that rotates as it serrates through bone,
through opinion, through the nightmares of the back-alley
coat-hangers that wake me. Jamie,
I pray you’ve lost your faith.
I pray you’ve found a boy who loves you back,
and a God who loves you for wearing dresses
the way you did playing Thisbe.
Small-town Michigan knows right from wrong.
It is the place I come from, and the place I do not
come from, the town I drive through on my way between
cities, where being gay is not an illness you cut
from your body. Where abortion is a choice, not
a survival tactic. In the heartland,
girls are burying their dreams in the cornfields.
Carrying babies because they’ve been told
that’s all they’re good for, or ending them
because you can’t feed a child snow and rusted Chevys.
In these towns, don’t is definite as winter.
Don’t fuck, don’t disappoint the family,
don’t make excuses, you have bootstraps,
don’t make excuses you opened your legs,
don’t leave, and if you do
don’t forget where you come from.
And despite these warnings,
some of us still come out faggots.
Some of us still fall so in love we finally
let him, under the metal bleachers that groan
with our families. Sear our eyes to the ground
when we find our home cannot love us, some of us
leave, throw ourselves under the wheels
of our future—let me tell you what it means
to start over someplace new.
You will never forget where you come from,
because the people in these cities will glare
like you are lamprey,
fanged and grey scaled, ‘cause you don’t speak
opera house. But your home
is where you build it.
You can live in lakes filled with oil.
You can tear through walls
with your mouth. Don’t believe them when they say choice
means death, means regret. Don’t listen when they say
You belong here. You belong to
yourself. Little sister, little Houdini,
don’t look back on the lakes brimming with home
as you’re leaving, sedan wheels spinning like serrated teeth,
cutting through who you were
tunneling to a new kind of
west–out of the middle,
into the sky.