October 20, 2014

The Banal and the Profane: Leon Baham

Posted on 06. Nov, 2012 by in The Banal & the Profane

“When it comes to sex I love fingertips in my mouth. I can’t help it. I love Joey’s fingers in my mouth. Four fingers for every letter of the word amen.”

“The Banal and the Profane” is a monthly Lambda Literary column in which we lift the veil on both the writerly life and the publishing industry. In each installment, we ask a different LGBT writer, or LGBT person of interest in the book industry, to guide us through a week in their lives.

This month’s  “Banal and Profane” column comes to us from writer Leon Baham.

Leon Baham is from the Inland Empire and lives in Seattle with his partner and his dog. His influences include Jean Genet, Anne Carson, Anna Joy Springer, Roberto Bolano, Pascal, Borges, and Emily Dickinson among many others. His first chapbook Ponyboy, Sigh is available through Birds of Lace.

This month,  Baham turns the “Banal and the Profane” column inside out by blending honest recollection and canny invention.

THE GLASS ENCYCLOPEDIA

a noir/memoir hybrid

MONDAY

A-C

ADULT RELATIONSHIP

I am in one now I guess. His name is Joe. He’s two years older than me and in Public Relations. He’s from the north suburbs of Chicago and he’s lived in Paris. We rent a little red house with our dog Lucy who gets stopped by strangers every walk to ask what she is. Joe and I have been together for two years and share similar goals and morals but have different interests. We have great sex and okay sex. We have times when we talk and times when we sit side by side in each other’s silence. We try and grow together as we change in our twenties. We are shiftless and so we hold each other.

APPLAUSE

Applause fills all of the negative space. The boys lay on the beach. If they were alive they would breathe applause— taste it. But the boys are not alive. There are six of them. They’re not from around the area. Their colored hair and tattoos show that. Each one has a clean little bullet hole that’s theirs and theirs alone. Ownership is too personal. Applause fills all of the negative space. And then the string instruments come in as the clapping settles into the dust with the boys lying there like beach roses. High tide is coming in and the music of the concert hall begins to wash over them as well. If they could be telling each other secrets right now they might be something to the effect of “last night I watched you as you removed your shirt. I watched you as you removed your shorts and panties” – “If you want what is yours I have hidden it behind the camp.” – “I know who did what to you when even the goats looked on in disgust.” But secrets lay annihilated as the strings start to develop more daring, going high, and more present as the wind instruments start a low hum that grabs hold of the strings as if they were notions capable of behind seized by little greedy hands that might feed on them. The boys are not from around here but they are the only ones here. They are all in various states of undress and the music continues as if it were to necromance them back into all gorgeousness, but no, not here. Death has come cleanly and will not undo itself as the boys lay like a miniature of what is justice. No these were not bad boys. Sure the town talked as the bells start to ring in through the wind and string instruments. Sure they were seen holding pinky fingers and giving kisses to one another. Sure the town had never seen anything like them before. But this? The still boys? As if one were trying to sow them into the earth laying them cleanly in the dust waiting for a tree to grow in twenty years. But no, the tide comes in and the water has salt and one by one the boys start to be carried out to sea like little perfect boats. “And after you removed your panties you began to touch yourself and say oh my god.” “A secret that I have that I tell no one is” “Here is my hand next to your hand”  and then comes the Opera diva’s voice filled with richness as the sea takes the boys like lovers back into herself. Soprano layers itself like the shifting crust of the earth trying to feel like home. Little sparks of life would dare to fall through the boys spines because the music is for them and them alone. Because each of them coming from small towns can only conceive of the most basic parts of an opera and so that is what they get. Her voice rolls over them bravely as if it means to tell them “There is a God, little sailors.” And just like that because it cannot be helped one of the boys smiles as they are all pulled out to sea with the motion of gas clouds in outer space.

BALK

A balk in terms of baseball is the most important thing you’ll need to know about the game. When I go home to visit my father and sister in southern California, baseball is always on and someone is always balking. To balk in everyday life means to stop short of an action. To quit or delay. Her hands were so full of prizes she balked at taking even one step further. In baseball it is similar but more specific. In baseball it means a false movement where the pitcher pretends that he is about to throw a pitch but doesn’t. A balk is a flinch— a trickery— a position that is not allowed— a banned series of gestures. The pitcher balked and as a penalty the batter advanced automatically to first. The pitcher balked and the batter advanced to first. The pitcher balked and the batter— the batter, he—

BOOZE

I work in a cocktail bar. It’s fashionable for the bar workers to drink fernet and rye whiskey. It is fashionable to drink cheap light beer with your fernet or rye. My mother worked in bars and now I do. I wonder what tricks I inherited from her. What kind of sex I sell. I wonder how long I’ll be behind the bar where the money is good and the people appreciate the service you give them as you charge them fifteen dollars for a drink. Before I started into cocktails it was hard to imagine that bitter was a flavor I would seek. But it was. So I was indoors and teenagers were on the beach at night with beer cans grubby and wet with each other’s finger prints and saliva.  A little fire next to dead grass. One day this summer will end and rain will fall with civility as the beer gets darker and the sun goes down.

BROTHERS

You can spit in my mouth if I can spit in yours. Lazy days filled with violence and well being. Sleepover topics including but not limited to, girls, pornography, space aliens, Jesus, coyotes, rattlesnakes— Forts built out of sheets like exotic markets lit from the inside so as to cast face to face figures in shadows so immense they seem eternal. It’s okay, brothers can kiss.

CHRISTINA

The reviews are not good. “What has happened to our Christina?” “Anticlimactic after such a long and lonely wait.” “Frankly I just did not get it.” Christina doesn’t even know what Buenos Aires is any more. It seems like it’s made of the same paper on which cheap spy novels are printed. Once she had loved to come here. Once she was the darling of the city as applause rained down, it seemed, from God. Now she has not been seen. She has stayed too long. Overstayed her welcome and knows she must leave, must cancel the remaining shows and steal into the night, but where? She has very little money but she knows some guys she can rob, some guys she has robbed before and still and always will love her. But where do you go from Buenos Aires. Berlin maybe. Prague. Certainly Europe although maybe Bangkok. Her husband/ manager, who she will certainly leave in this fleeing, comes into the dressing room holding a paper. She expects him to go on about the reviews but he says something unexpected. “Did you see this last night in a town just outside of la Plata a number of boys who were camping on the beach were shot dead in their tracks. The boys  were Argentinian, Uruguayan, and American.” Christina just looks at her husband standing there after the news waiting for her to to to what? Weep in front of God? Well, if that is what he expects of her, then fine. She weeps. Without a word. She weeps for the boys and realizes that when she sang last night she sang for them. Her body feels as though it has just given birth to six full grown male corpses and now after the physical task has receded into itself for shelter. Her husband cries a little bit as well. “We have a car waiting ready to take us to the hotel.” But Christina is not done weeping. She has always thought she would have a son and now it becomes clear to her that these are her own laid out in front of God and the ocean. Reviews fall by the wayside and are replaced with funeral wreaths of flowers and glass beads. Dates and numbers childhood photos with a parade of mothers wearing black ill-fitting dresses as their husbands would not let them go naked. Statues look on in amazement and wonder as boxes are carried one by one by pallbearers of whom there seems to be an unlimited supply, and set down in a circular fashion around a priest in a white robe who is weeping. “Christina.” And now she is back and has been fixing her makeup in the mirror for minutes maybe as her husband watched her. “Christina, the car is waiting to take us back to the hotel.” She grabs her purse. “We have to leave this place, Pedro.” “I know, dear, we can go to Barcelona.”

TUESDAY

D-F

DANISH MODERN

I’ve learned so much in the last two years. For instance, I know what Danish Modern refers to because it is the design of our tables. Thin legs and tike wood. My boyfriend can’t get enough of it and I love the look as well. I didn’t know it was something that I desired but I did. Live wood forced into elegant utilitarian surfaces. It is dark when you think about it and if you consider plants living, which of course they are. It’s the taxidermy of plants. Joe and I both had a parent die from disease when we were young and so we joke about death often. Our jokes might be tasteless to others but to us they taste of each other, a taste we recognize as home with the dog, the bed, the Danish Modern furniture.

DEC 10, 1998

The worst memory I have happened a few days before December 10,1998. I was in the fifth grade and my mother was about to die. She had been sick for three years and bald most of the time but I wasn’t expecting the end and wouldn’t even if someone would have told me it was near (which they didn’t, which it was). The memory starts with me walking into my grandmother’s house where we were living. Instantly I see my mother connected to an oxygen machine, sitting on the green couch. I stare at her but she doesn’t see me—didn’t hear me. Suddenly she catches my eyes and raises her arms slowly and then I hear my grandmother’s voice. Go hug her— Go hug your mother.

DETECTIVE

The detective wakes up from a dream where he is eating a bowl of soup that has dollar bills mixed in. More money than he paid for the soup. Maybe now that I have stopped wishing for money I will get some. He laughs and doesn’t care. He gets up and makes his way towards the kitchen. He walks past a picture of his parents and pulls juice out of the fridge. As he drinks he feels pushed forward to the day. Another ten hours on the cases nobody wants to work on. Another mystery not solved. At least his co- workers had grown tired of gossiping about him. He catches a glimpse of another part of his dream where he had thrown a fit at a gathering and ended up in the back with the blue hum of a television on mute in a dark room. He drinks more juice. Maybe today there will be a lead. Maybe today someone will drop an anonymous tip. Maybe today. He leaves his gun on the counter and forgets it almost daily. For the detective it’s a vestigial device. He had grown out of it and now it just hung around, limp. He could hear the expanses of his life in certain breaths and the whole entire time there was not even one more gunshot. Some things were clear to the detective. Some days were good. He hears a woman’s laughter and applause, he hears little children shrieking, but no gunshots. He leaves the house and sets down toward the station. He takes the back roads and adds twenty minutes to his trip so that he can walk by the theater and maybe see Christina, who might invite him to buy her a cup of coffee. He slows his pace by the theater but there is no one. It’s too early for her. Stars rise after rests. Beauty must rest if it is assured another day. The detective stares at a high window and imagines that she is staring at him behind the glare of the sun. He pretends that she is watching him like a pervert. This voyeuristic world really enjoying itself. Don’t feel guilty if you like to watch, he thinks to tell her as she is watching him down on the street looking up blindly. I am for you to watch and build a fantasy life for the minute I am out of view. Watch on, my sweet Christina. Watch on and fall in love with. But of course, she is not there at the theater yet. Of course, she is not even quite awake, but somewhere in her dream she gets the notion of watching and being allowed to watch. She wakes up and looks out her window at the city of Buenos Aires laid prostrate like a woman or humiliated god.

FINGERTIPS

When it comes to sex I love fingertips in my mouth. I can’t help it. I love Joey’s fingers in my mouth. Four fingers for every letter of the word amen. There is so much I don’t know about him. So much I have not let myself see that deviates from the idea I have of him. Sometimes he looks like a pornstar when we are fucking. Sometimes he looks like an old man. And I think maybe I look like an old man too and that this is really us fucking years from now, his fingertips in my mouth.

FLOWER

The delicate sex organ made of cellulose by only the most vulgar of architects. Almost as if you could hear ‘Give me more! Give me more!’ Chanted in a rah-rah cheerleading fashion as the crowed goes wild and nature unfolds hand over petal.

FUCKING BIRD OF PARADISE

I hate so few flowers but the bird of paradise is one of them. I don’t know how a plant can be so early 90s, but this one is. The colors are so expected, vulgar even. As a child I remember standing outside in front of one trying to love it and I couldn’t. Trying to know it through texture and ending up covered in sap. Fucking plant.

WEDNESDAY

G

GAY MARRIAGE

Joe and I live in a neighborhood with a lot of immigrant families. We have a sign out front that says we support marriage equality. It is a sign that says we vote. Asalee across the street has six boys and is from Eritrea. Her husband thinks that Joe and I are roommates looking for wives. I don’t tell him that we are each other’s wives. It’s not necessary, not yet. I wonder if anybody on the street will read the sign or find it legible.

GLASS

What separates me from you. A partition but a clear one. A device where I can see you but not touch you. I ask Joe whether or not it’s a good idea to go visit my grandfather in prison on the central coast of California. He has Alzheimer’s and in all likelihood is going to die soon. He only saw me once as a baby and with his memory loss there is not a chance he would recognize me as a man. Imagine us sitting face to face on the opposite sides of a piece of glass. Imagine my grandfather looking like my dad. Imagine him saying who the fuck are you.

GREEN CHARTREUSE

The monks, they make it in the hills. A liquor crafted of a multitude of herbs that has a green color that makes you have no doubt that you are drinking an elixir or potion. At all times (or so it is said) only two monks know half of the recipe to ensure that the secret never gets out. You wonder what would happen if all of a sudden and without notice a monk were to die in his sleep, taking with him half of the recipe. There are precautions against this, I’m sure.

GUN CONTROL

The scene was normal until she said she had a gun. I had to go into the other room and repeat herself. Did she really. Did she really. Two years ago I was saying I write about violence because the world has violence, but I said it as an invitation. Now I say the same thing but I say it sadly hoping for another sentence to leave my mouth, hoping that the violence would not encircle me in any total fashion and I would find myself lost in a public grave listening to the dead calling out a thousand different names at the same time so that the names are laid over each other creating a sound so big it could only fit in the mouth of a smiling God.

THURSDAY

H-K

HOMOSEXUAL AESTHETICS

Halls and halls of choir boys and the design is really modern. A catholic church but as gay as it wants to be. In one gesture of having it all— youth and pornography hand in hand smiling like sisters as if they had a secret and were not just silly and vapid which of course they are but also sacred like stones laid out in a lineup. An exercise in God’s nobility that stratifies inside of us and which we cannot escape.

INLAND EMPIRE

Two words that when put together cause immense pleasure in the imagination. A space in the desert carved out in ghettos and ghettos of mc mansions where all of the terror of Los Angeles resides without any of the glamour. Many dreamers are developed here in a prototypical fashion. Dreams out of necessity or survival tactics. The waters taste brown and flat. The light is brown and spongy. And still I enjoy saying that I am from the Inland Empire like it means something instead of nothing.

JESUS

The reason that the story of Jesus Christ is such a compelling one, Christina, is because of the idea that there is one God who loves his people enough to come down before them and humiliate himself. How could a God care so much? To come down and demonstrate pain and degradation first hand. The only unbelievable thing about the story is that suffering continued and continues— that God could humiliate himself and yet disdain to destroy the witnesses. That he still shows his face after embarrassment. The fact that he has not left us and is still pictured above your kitchen and in my living room in crucifixes. It is a demonstration that the spirit lives on past the pain— that life is about humiliation and those who are of the lowest order are closest to God who knows no human wealth but that of the soul. A real live God comes down and is killed by men and then lives on eternally to save their lives. I tell you, Christina, the story of God is not a happy one. Those in pain imagine a life with less pain. Those with less pain fear even a little bit of pain. God whispers to us the correct place to put our hands. A better position for the body. Who demonstrates power by having it all taken away and then reclaiming it. Imagine the days after Jesus had not risen. Imagine waking up in a world empty of God. And yet he came back. Who experiences the lowest of human existence and still loves humans? Only God is capable of loving men in spite of the fact that they are men. To be betrayed and murdered and paraded during a murder and still come back to us and have us say your name— the detective wanted to say.

KEATS

I imagine him twenty-four years old like I am right now, as if writing were not timeless. By writing I mean poetry which I cannot, surely will not escape from under. Twenty-four and up late as if having not divined enough, not yet. And months later he was dead and I can’t believe I pictured him as an old white man whenever anybody said his name, Keats, Keats, Keats. And months later he was dead and behind me at my kitchen table, two of us cute insomniacs waiting to be called sleepyheads all night which lasts for like forever. The night where I can see his shadows fall behind me gently curving the sound of what direction the poem must leave your hand if it is to remain free and of course Keats believed in freedom which is totally why he was enslaved, connected to a timeless world where God says the poems of young men with the right pace and tone that you can’t help yourself and so weep. Amen. And Keats alights delicately telling you more L’s and Y’s and S’s if you feel it little buddy son but only if and when you feel it and you will feel it. You will.

FRIDAY

M-N

MELONIE

The only girl you ever loved besides your mother. Growing up in tin houses fifty feet away from each other and not knowing it. Sharing the same desert breezes that would rattle metal siding that woke you up from terrible dreams. And years later you would explain to her that you almost died last night and you hear her go quiet. How ashamed you must have looked when you told her shyly you like boys and at first she said shut up no you don’t. And now she has her fiancée and you have yours and you hardly talk but you both know the connection you have is deeper than either of you can explain to people as phone calls and lulls in the conversation give way to the sound of metal siding shaking in the wind.

MEZCAL

I’m reading 2666 by Roberto Bolano right now. Right now I’m sipping mezcal. Reading is a polite way of saying that I am tearing through the book with reckless abandon crying and grinning and saying fuck you to a ghost. Mezcal is a smoky tequila from Mexico. The brilliant thing about the novel is who he refuses to hurt or throw as a sacrifice to the monster or hungry God at the center of his novel. A miracle where anybody is spared in a book of two hundred plus sequential murders and you ask him Roberto, why did she stay safe? Why did any of us?

MINOTAUR

Christina looks out of her balcony at the evening falling gently onto the city of Buenos Ares. Somewhere in that city the detective walks the streets like a labyrinth. Open a door. Step quietly. Turn around, you’ve gone too far in a bad direction. Christina looks out onto Buenos Aires and says a little prayer for the detective. The sun is below the horizon but the light is not entirely gone. Turn the corner. Blend in. Overhear the conversation at hand. She almost sees a Minotaur step out into the middle of the street and walk in a strange and lonely way. Get home little children, the Minotaur roams the streets, she says with a smile. You wouldn’t want to be caught by the Minotaur. You wouldn’t want to suffer the consequences, no. She stands on her balcony and grips the railing with strength not because she is afraid of falling but because she wants to feel possession of the ledge. The rail is cold to the touch but warms with Christina. It’s a crisp fall night. She doesn’t think about falling or jumping, were she capable of thinking it she might, but Christina doesn’t even realize how far from the ground she is. She doesn’t even know how to end her story in a poetic storm of unrequited love and so she looks out at the city growing darker, wondering where the detective is and who he is shaking down. In the distance the sky lights up with lightning maybe one hundred miles away. Christina whistles a little tune as it finally becomes night and the street lights have flicked in imitation of the stars above. Christina looks down at the constellations below her. She draws a triangle which she names the Detective. But he is not alone in the city where the constellations build on top of each other. Intersect and overwhelm. A whole history in city lights. Christina draws a little mesa where the six dead boys will live. It’s a safe house or a van where time undoes itself and the boys are able to exist but only at night when they are sleeping huddled close to one another in a mammal pile. Wrapped in one another’s lazy dreams. Christina breathes feeling like she has saved the boys lives. The story of God is not a happy one. She walks in from the balcony and switches on the light and the room is illumined as if it were a miracle. On the first day God created light and all that was, was seen. Christina looks at the living room of her apartment as though it had appeared out of dust in space. Atoms taking the shape of a couch, a table, a stack of papers in the corner of the room detailing the murder of six boys. Atoms in the form of Christina and her hands which she looked down at. The room felt in orbit as though it had been disconnected from the whole and spun around at an even breakneck pace. Somewhere below the detective and his constellation were eluded by the boys and their murderer. The Minotaur walks and waits, walks and waits. Lonely like Christina, like the detective, like a little piece of light not connected to any constellation.

MIRROR

Like slaves having to match each and every one of our gestures. Maybe they live a full life like I do, the mirror slaves. Maybe we serve each other and surely one day as we stand eye to eye shaking the only possible outcome will be imminent death because seeing your double is never a sign of good things to come. The one who encounters herself gasps a deathly gasp. One day I’ll rise from this mirror and there will be glass everywhere. My face will be sliced elegantly and even the flowers (see FLOWERS) will quiet down and listen as the world of mirrors folds back out into this world with its zombie like methods and incidental violence and the audience will watch and applaud and think to themselves, Finally, a thing with wings. And nobody will need another mirror.

NOEL

Leon Baham

Noel is Leon spelled backwards. Leon is the backwards Noel. Noel is my little sister with her head on straight. The best athlete in the family of athletes. The only one who makes me care about sports anymore. Noel who was raised by men and somehow becomes a woman. The mythology is bright, roman even. Noel for future, for hope. Another side of the same coin I live on. Sometimes we just look at each other knowing what only siblings are capable of knowing. Smiling like animals talking about the pluperfect in Latin and meaning so much more. We are so proud to be black even though we are so light skinned and it is clear that hardly anyone takes us for anything but Italian or Puerto Rican. But we know each other’s relationship to blackness and together we root for black people in every contest or competition. We educate ourselves in bougie language like slavery wasn’t four generations ago.

NOIR

I spend my days writing detective stories. Trying to identify with the detective. Never finding the murderer. They are detective stories that are in search for a cosmic justice. I’ve never been interested in revenge or a trial. I would make a terrible detective in real life, spending all my time building elegies around the victims. Saying funeral rites while the guilty flee into the loving night and I am at my desk. “The detective sat impotent at his desk while the murder fled into the guilty Buenos Aires night.”

SATURDAY

O-R

OLIVE OIL

I just love when the kisses I give you are covered in olive oil.

PORNOGRAPHY

His Pornographies filled with the sighs of princes. The only bad part is that you have to have sex on camera. And some of the boys seem so willing as if they were the gods sent down to perform these gestures and positions. And maybe in that way it is so fucking sacred. On camera he kneels (like a knight or sacrificed princess) before the other man and is blessed. But then there is the depiction of rape. A whole genre for women and girly men to be ruined. The masculine takes the feminine in its mouth and chews. Why not put everything beautiful in your mouth. Why not take all 10 inches.

REPAIR

Glass never shatters when you want it to. A bike never fixes itself. All creation and destruction is best with planning and yet I can’t help feel myself thrown into everyday where every minute is live and counts and the planning goes out the window. When we got our dog Lucy we got her by mistake. The woman at the shelter misunderstood me and thought I said we’ll take her. So we did. And all of a sudden we had a three month old puppy that looked like a fucking teddy bear walking around the place and pissing in the corner. And like Joe and I do we made jokes about when she would die hopefully fifteen years later. It was the sweetest thing in the world when he said we need to collect the pictures so when she is gone we can remember the times she was a puppy, the times she was silly, the time she broke her leg. And I thought it was so significant that he should predict that our puppy’s leg would be broken and that he should predict it fondly.

REST

Two weeks after her last performance Christina runs into the detective on the street. “Hello Detective.” He turns, “Hello Christina, and what are you doing on this side of town?” “I am walking clearing my head, resting.” “Well you look very rested. Do you mind if I join you for a little bit of your restful walk?” “Please.” The two began down the street towards the local markets. The conversation was sparse but they were both wrapped in the presence of the other, wanting them there and so they stayed both of them near the other, close but not touching. “Are you still on the case with the boys?” “It’s gone cold, there are other things to worry about now. I hate it but that is how it happens.” “I don’t know what kind of justice I even want, I’m not sure you can execute pure evil.” “I’m not sure either.” They walked facing forward, so transfixed at the other but not able to stare directly, the way you are not able to watch an eclipse without a special device. They walked past the markets into poorer neighborhoods where the detective grabbed Christina’s arm firmly and delicately and began to lead her back in the direction from where they came. “I don’t think I will ever forget about those boys.” “I don’t imagine so.” For the last two weeks Christina had stayed up late every night trying to trick herself into seeing the boys in her apartment feeling enchanted but never seeing the magic thing that would satisfy her and as always morning light would disassemble any lovely ghost that was left in the house. “It was a very romantic time.” The detective was caught by this notion, certainly from the mouth of one of the dead boys. “We could be each other’s father or brother or girlfriend. “ Christina tripped over a crack in the sidewalk and the detective was quick and overly helpful “I’m fine. Thank you though.” The two walked a funeral march and fell in love. Dead birds in smoky colors littered the road. Flowers would be plucked and petals grabbed then thrown. Moths would land on heads like crown jewelry and little girls would wear the masks of monsters. They had said almost nothing to each other but were naked in the other’s presence. The story of God is not a happy one, she seemed to say as finally she looked at the detective who felt her smile and so looked away bashfully. “I expected a lot of things but I never expected it to go like this.”

RULE

Like a limit or a law. To approach the space where something trembles. A design or everything but the negative space. Any shaking edge of your body right before it—

RUSTLING

A bush that just won’t quit— a raccoon to steal the night. Desert breezes blown gently somewhere in my past. And somewhere my past rustles and brings forth some garland or prize. A timepiece given by proper grandfathers. I’ll never wear a watch if I buy the damn thing— No, something personal, a piece of history was required to stir a chance of ownership, various uses, water damage. What’s lovely is the chance of gorgeousness coming into your life. The Mexican girl from your hometown who goes to the bathroom to reapply her lipstick— a rustling deep inside of you saying—

SUNDAY

S

SECONDARY SEXUAL CHARACTERISTICS

I have so much hair on my chest. One night at a party after I tried blow (which really everyone thinks was dexatrim) for the first and last time I let this nerdy queen rub his hand through my chest hair as my boyfriend watched (why was my shirt off?). Later that night I had a terrible reaction to the drugs. Gross stuff. The nerd never looked me in the eye. He just moved his hand like he was wind blowing grass in a field.

SINGING

Thank God for Christina. The papers had finally turned in her favor. She walked into the theater in the late morning of the day of her last performance. The place was quiet and tightly wound but not uptight. Later this evening she would sing like she had done so many nights before, like it was the most natural thing she was capable of, and it was. She walked up and down the aisles and sang a song that her mother had taught her when she was a little girl. It was a very simple song. The kind that would never get to find a home in such a glamorous place except for now when the crowd would not arrive for hours and anyone who was in the building was hidden behind walls or curtains and so Christina sang the ditty to fill the room and also to bring the angels because angels follow sweet music, as everyone already knows. The words of the song were lost on Christina, something about a little brown bird. The song was beautiful but the words were hollow. Any meaning was in the melody. She sang and thought of her mother carrying large baskets of clothing to hang on long wires. She thought of her dead brother and her live sisters. She would follow her mother picking up any damp clothing that would fall and while her mother pinned clothes up Christina would sing with her. She was her mother’s favorite and everybody knew it. She was not close with her sisters. Her mother had died of pneumonia fifteen years ago and her father died soon after. Family history fell by the wayside as Christina sang to save herself from oblivion and save her mother from the passing of time. When she was a little girl it seemed that the sweeter she and her mother sang the more flowers there were in the field and as she sang in the concert hall she sincerely looked for flowers in the aisles but today there were none. As she finished singing the little song over and over she took a seat in the front row and stared up. The stage stood as empty as an invitation. She closed her eyes and all she could see were the six boys huddled on stage holding each other like sisters. As she opened her eyes she said amen as the pianist walked into the door. “Christina you look great. Are you ready for your last show?”

SLEEPYHEAD

It was said as if the ghost were trying to lull me to sleep as if in my sleep he could save me or hurt me— sleepyhead. It was said as if the ghost had an agenda and all the grimaces in dark corners came to the forefront while my dreams returned to the places they were in my childhood and the room felt rich with monsters and bravery and finally I had no other choice.

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  1. Ali Forney Center + news | Birds of Lace - November 11, 2012

    [...] -Leon Baham, author of Ponyboy, Sigh, is featured now at Lambda Literary’s The Banal and the Profane [...]

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