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There is so much I can say about/in this poem—loss, memory, desire, grief, the struggle—every once in awhile, usually one in each collection, I come up with a good, signature “protest poem” my queer activist, liberationist intact. I place protest poem here in quotes, because they also tend to be elegies (a statement in and of itself). Memorials are a strong form of protest. That being said, I will share a couple of stories around this one for artist David Wojnarowicz.


I am asked by the family to play “minister” at gifted artist and friend Robert Flack‘s memorial. I select and read this passage from Wojnarowicz’s searing, essential memoir, Close to the Knives:

Why does this one die and that one not? What does all this mean? How do I map all this down? I respect just about every attempt at survival I witness these days. But every person will eventually lose his struggle just as I will one day, and that makes each attempt more filled with life; that means sadness at the loss, but more sweetness in the attempts. This means maybe fewer hours on the face of this disorderly planet, but less shit I’ll have to deal with and anyway here I am in the back seat of this taxicab waiting for the light to turn green so that I could arrive at my home, because I feel too sick to walk or wait for a bus and isn’t it lovely this pattern of sunlight drifting through the side window on the back of my hand, laying at rest on my thigh? Isn’t it beautiful the fact that I see this light?”


At a crematorium, another memorial, a dear friend who partied harder then anyone I’ve ever known (still. much respect). The resident chaplain didn’t quite grasp the scenario, i.e. this was not a straight funeral, and Michael deserved nothing less than fabulous. Friends are asked to come forward and speak, and even though this is the third such memorial I attended this week I stand to bear witness to my friend. “I know it’s easy to say this was just another party fag, another AIDS death, but darlin’s this was Michael, our Michael, always on the floor, always drunk/drugged out of her mind and always inviting others to the ecstasies found here. No one did that with more force and panache than Michael. His is a face of joy emblazoned forever upon my own.”

Here’s the poem, Can David Come Out To Play? (for David Wojnarowicz) from my new chapbook, WHAT DO YOU WANT TO BE CALLED? (Anstruther Press, 2020), recorded live at it’s Zoom launch 08/07/2020 KFB SAL/ONline.

I’ve included a photo album here of my visit that day at the Whitney, including a photo taken just before my “turn.”

Also, there’s an audio recording of this piece available for purchase at bandcamp where all proceeds go to MEAL TRANS a drop-in program serving nutritious meals to lower-income, street-active, homeless and sex-working trans women, trans men, genderqueer, and questioning people at The 519. So far, we’ve raised $86 (donated). We can do better.

By Kirby

Poet. Book Fairy. Publisher knife | fork | book

2 replies on “David”

This David’s voice arcs out and across the years, resonant, insightful, cogent, important… he’s talking to me and you… still talking.


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