Close your eyes, you can close your eyes, it’s alright. I don’t know no love songs and I can’t sing the blues anymore.
— James Taylor

Exhausted, I am, after an afternoon of Pagan fellowship with a sister tribe.  This one will be short, and eventually, sweet.

One of my last posts, “Pagan Lessons from a Gay Man,” was preempted with a pic of my back tattoo.  I’ve been queried a bit on why that placement (the anti-tramp stamp) and why that word.  Looks like I have more closets to break down, y’all.  So . . .

I was fourteen the first time it happened.  AC/DC was playing on the stereo (remember those?) and something funny was in my beer (that I shouldn’t have been drinking) at a house party.  The rest is a bit blurry–and I’m fine with that.  Five faces, five men, one after the other rode my little drugged bones while something inside of me broke.  I was unconscious for most of this strange dance through hell, but when I fought my way out of the haze: I saw His eyes.  He saw mine, and backed out/off, taking his drunken, beastly crew with him.  As he closed the door, he turned the lock on the handle.  I will never know if he was locking them out or locking his own wild boy/hungry wolf flesh out–but it was finally over.  For him.

There were other times.  Granma told me being pretty would be a curse, and it damn well has.

The last time (please, Great Mother) put me in the hospital.  I was going for milk, a Monday night in Georgia, and there is a permanent little knife-point scar on my neck to remind me of what rape feels like in late summer.  This time was like all the rest: I am diminutive.  I cannot win in a fist fight with a mountain.  And that was the moment that I chose to fight back, jolting my head off the pavement as high as I could before bashing it backwards into the concrete curb.  The last thought that tickled my brain before I lost consciousness went something like:  You might rape my body, but I will not be present for it.  Maybe I said it out loud.  That moment is too lost in the past for me to question it anymore.

I healed, as we all do, and went back to work as a Professor of English at Albany State University.  That next semester, I met my sister and our families have been nourishing and loving and squeezing each other ever since.  She designed that tattoo–my first one–when I asked.  Never once did she ask for details and I reckon she still doesn’t know them, on account of she knew what I was doing: taking back my own flesh.  Everything coming back to life hurts, Toni Morrison once wrote, and I had to bleed a little to feel it. [1] If anyone ever tears into my body again, I thought, at least they will know it’s Sacred . . .

I find myself considering the concept we have, as a culture, of rape and have come to the conclusion that it can happen in different forums and through strange means.  Little rapes of the soul, if you will, and if history has taught me anything it is this: those who have suffered it may speak to it.  Therefore, as my energy wanes on this beautiful Sunday, I will leave you with a poem I wrote upon the inscription of my first tattoo–but I will be back to this because everything coming back to life hurts.  And I am so very bursting into life.


A gun wrapped in plastic buzzes blood and black across my skin
Violation and commemoration in one white noise pass
Making the flesh, once freckled, with nothing much to say:

A concept born in the haze of grief so jagged and deep
Only traced by the needle that names it in ink
Already there, a scream without words in sinew and bone:
So sacred.

My fingers run its lines, raised ebony lines engraved, enraged
Against a war cry manifestation in an unforgiving fluorescent glow
My mark now vulnerable to a gaze, to soap, to the beat of an afternoon sun.
And I have become . . .

Blessed Be.


[1] Toni Morrison, Beloved (Plume: 1998).

A love song to the broken child within me, for we all heal ourselves;

Seba O'KileyComment