Last night I had a problem.
Woke up today and the problem is still here, simmering and wounding.
We have to talk, me and myself. We have to talk long and hard about this problem and we have talked about it many times over and yet, here we are again. Problem, still around. Problem, still a bruise. Problem, still a wall to scale to get to a different place.
Dear White Male Poets,
Just because you write the words you write doesn’t mean everyone in a room wants to hear them. Please understand—and I am not trying to speak for anyone else here, this is just an observation, I assure you—that when you start to riff on titty-fucking and cumslop and cornholing and the women in the room all visibly cringe and shift their weight where they stand and sit, well, you may want to rethink what you are saying in front of a room full of people who came to hear poetry. Saying “I curse a lot” is not fair enough warning. Saying “I curse a lot” doesn’t give you a hall pass to rattle out your laundry list of jerk-off fantasies. Saying “I curse a lot” when you are obviously in your thirties and then going on and on and on about titty-fucking and cumslop and cornholing shows a room full of uncomfortable people that you do not care about them or their experience or their mental state.
You can do better.
You know you can.
And if you can’t?
Hand in your keys and gather your things.
Freedom of speech is a motherfucker.
Some people live in tiny worlds and don’t interact at all with a larger world and then things get all kinds of jumbled and regular social cues make zero sense to them and do not register and if you add alcohol and bravado and a lack of self-preservation to the mix, well, then shit can get real ugly real quick-like. It’s always painful to be a witness to something of this nature but it sucks even more when it happens and you’re the target and you’re the one who tries over and over again to be polite and ask someone to stop speaking about something and they disavow your humanity and keep going and keep pushing and keep smirking and keep putting their drunk hand in your face even after you’ve made it clear that you are done with their “conversation” and their “freedom of speech” and then it escalates and then you find yourself nanoseconds away from prison because your hand wants to do nothing other than stop their talking forever by pulling out their voice box and shaking it in their face and saying “Where is your freedom of speech now?” and “I asked you repeatedly to stop, this is what happens when you disrespect a person asking you to be a person.”
Last night, for the safety and sanity of myself and others, I had to be forcibly removed from a place that means a lot to me. The person who removed me is someone I love with all of my heart and I am thankful for him in my life and thankful that he witnessed what happened and thankful for his friendship and brotherhood and kindness. I had to be forcibly removed because an individual who was intoxicated and swollen with ignorance was spewing racism and hatred and doing everything he could to flex his ideas into myself and my friend and he pushed and pushed even after I asked him to stop, asked him to be careful, told him he was out of line, asked him to stop again and again and then I lost control and stepped to him and he put his hands on me and “thanked” me for my service while continuing to belittle me and belittle my dead and abuse his freedom of speech and thank all the gods that my friend stopped me and put his loving hands on me and pushed me all the way out into the street so I could walk and walk and get home and not go to jail.
I should have walked away. I should have walked away, but that space is my home and I wanted to defend it. I should have walked away but after hearing the two while male poets “read” their hateful and disdainful poems about women and their lack of understanding about women and their total ignorance about how to read a room and know when you are going too far and actually making people uncomfortable in a way that makes them want to leave, I just couldn’t let it go. I should have walked away but my heart is so tired of people who think they can use words to bully and yet there I was, letting this person bully me with his jive and ignorance, a dude who referred to black people as “they” and “them,” a dude who said he’d never move to a neighborhood full of Jews, a dude who admittedly said he never leaves his home and yet there he was, in my face, mocking my service to my country, mocking sacrifice, ignoring a plea from another human to stop and all I could do was snap into a place inside of myself that I do not like and then I am the one who had to leave.
I had to leave.
I am embarrassed that I lost my shit and embarrassed that I let someone get to me this way and embarrassed that I did this in a place that matters so much to me. I am sad that it happened and sad that I have these feelings and sad that I keep on seeing white male poets who have no regard for anything other than their childish and ignorant desires and sad that they are everywhere and sad that I don’t speak out enough about it and sad that I didn’t leave the space that matters to me on my good foot, my loving foot.
I have to leave.