Sonnet for Gay History | Keaton St. James

Along the crimson threads of history must stand one
of my long-dead gay predecessors: rainwater in his hair,
hunger in his eyes, his mouth shining golden with laughter
as he tugs at me, tugs at me to remember him.

I imagine him seated on a half-dry park bench
near the cobblestone streets, his and his lover’s tailcoat-
clad shoulders brushing as they talked Euripides
under the gaslights. He knew too well how they both

savored whatever quiet touches the public allowed
them. And I imagine how, after he had climbed
into their shared bachelor apartment, my predecessor pulled
his lover close and kissed him hard enough to uninvent

the word indecency. Did loving a man feel as warm to him
as it does to me? Like light bursting through stained glass?


Writer’s Commentary

When you’re in the closet, it can be a complex process to eke out a space for yourself where you can have that privacy but also have your pride at the same time. For me, one of the biggest sources of comfort I find as a gay man is to read stories of real-life LGBT history, as well as classic literature featuring non-straight characters. This poem is meant to be a loving speculation on the ways in which gay men of another century may found solace in each other, and how we can find traces of ourselves in the legacies of those who have come before us.

Keaton St. James is an American graduate student studying science who loves to write poetry and prose in his spare time.

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