Midnight Lessons

Poems by

Louie Crew

© 1987 by Samisdat; © 2004 by Louie Crew


                  8 *
                 *   8
                       *        8
                       8 Fences *
                       *        8
                       * 8 * 8 *  * 8 *     *8  *    *
                                 8     8 * 8  *8 8  8

After closing his hardware store,
Dad would let my five buddies and me
hold hands in a chain
as the first one touched the sample strand
of barbed wire,
which electrified a little, then a little more,
then lots, right through our chain,
until one of us screamed.

Dad would turn it off
while we all laughed and asked to try again. 

That was in white Alabama
in 1943, during WW2,
when we bought our war bonds,
unquestioningly sat in the front of the bus,
and had not yet heard of other cattle prods
nor understood electrocution. 

To Table of Contents

Salem Revisited 

You have embroidered well
my scarlet Q, citizens; 
but like Hester, I still won't tell 
who my Arthur Dimmesdale is. 

I'll still mind your children, 
but a teacher deserves some privacy, really! 

Besides, you haven't earned the right to know. 

Arthur won't tip you off: 
he will not limp a wrist, lisp, 
carry a Gucci bag, make cucumber sandwiches, 
or collect candles and porcelain. 
If you watch, he will pass me 
looking straight ahead. 

Don't stop reading now, dears. 
Why must I stand with my head in these stocks 
if you're not going to watch and heckle. 

To Table of Contents

This Boy

This boy,
fuzz on his midriff gleaming:
whiff of Eden's apple breath. 

-- Louie Crew 

To Table of Contents

Fairy Spell

John visualized "the brede of marble men and women."
He liked the way his teacher snapped "cold pastoral."
Keats vanquished fantasy. 

Mary could not focus but fretted.
The professor had destroyed for her
Marvel's "two amorous birds of prey"
when he asked Philip,
"Have you ever seen two buzzards do it?" 

With hand folded protectively
Philip monitored the professor's pitch and pinkie.
Jane wondered whether Philip
used her tricks to get a grade.
"Sex is truth, truth sex," she emended
as she indexed the bottom of her bag,
searching for chewing gum. 

Katherine scribbled the reference
for a spondee she'd just noticed 
for her term paper. 

The professor stared at a Greyhound
as it turned the corner one flight below.
Tourists glanced as if unready for reality. 

"Faggot!" over the transom broke the spell. 

To Table of Contents

A Writing Teacher Walks at Midnight

in Rural America 

I walked to see the lightning wound the east.
Half a moon filled the clearer dark behind me.
The village fountain spurted higher than
         one I'd seen at Tivoli.
Above the splash, I heard the cars,
          one by one, till six had revved,
jerked to a stop, and screeched again.
          The teenaged drivers shouted,
"Louise!" "Sissy! "Queer!"
          as if part of a Roman nightmare. 

Oblivious, the jagged eastern dancer
          entertained the half-winked moon
for five silent minutes,
          as I sat on the damp edge of the fountain,
newer, less romantic, than the Italian one,
          fitted with mechanical gushers
for these level plains. 

"Hi, doc!" called an elderly colleague
          from his dark sedan
as he waited for a green light
          to drive his mistress home. 

The east fully scarred,
          I retraced my steps.
My fairy powers activated more engines.
         Adolescent hecklers each season
sprout as predictably as pubes. 

"Faggot!" another rehearsed through his beer
          to impress his date
parked in the truck in a dark lot.
          "Georgia. HJV 925. County Peach."
I memorized as I neared. 

"Do you have anything to say to me?"
            I said with my huskiest voice. 

One boy mumbled,
           "Naw, I ain't said nothing." 

"Does anyone have anything to say to me?" 

"Git outa here.
           Nobody's botherin you,
ya nigger-loving, ass-licker faggot!"
           the original mustered. 

His tremolo freed me this time.
             Back home hot pis glued my pants. 


To Table of Contents


My hand keeps hitting the subtotal,
as if by design,
though each time seems an accident. 

Last week, for a lark, I said to a student,
"Son, this comma should go over there,"
and he did not blink as he emended.
Suddenly I realized that his dad could be 5-8 years
my junior. I had thought him and me fellow bachelors. 

Dad called Thursday to complain
that Mother twice last week 
arose at 2 or 3 a.m. to cook supper.
Fifty years ago she was head bookkeeper at the bank. 

Even after I jog seven miles in the snow,
sometimes my arthritic index finger 
can't steady a pencil. 

A sociologist I read last summer 
gives me only 8 more days of middle age
--"Young, 21-32; Middleaged, 33-44; Old, 45+"--
arbitrary trifurcation of the laboring years. 

It's not the novelty but the frequency of "S" that troubles.

For years and years after I balded early, at 23,
I got only very infrequent subtotals. Just now,
they plop up almost daily, as I soak in the tub
or drowse through the news. 

Of course, the really scary diacritic is not "S" but "T".

To Table of Contents

Parade Poem Overheard 
in My Editor's Note 

Back in 1957 

my old man,

then a 7th-grade shop teacher, 

got canned 


An Alleged Homosexual 

just for wearing lavender socks 

to an Easter picnic. 

The worst is, 

he never was, actually 

(just eccentric & introverted). 

To Table of Contents

Surveillance Way Back When

Remember how we made love
          two whole weeks once?

We took time out only for meals,
          some beer, or a swim,
and did not tire at all,
          nor push to finish
or to prove anything.
          We were just being
24 and 21, both tan, both horny. 

How very private we were about it all. 

Beside the pool
          we argued who would 
make the World Series,
          who would take Wimbledon.
We girded our lust 
          for the short while
as effortlessly as we had turned off
          the fan until we returned. 

Not once did we even dream
          our room was bugged,
that our every private groan and giggle
          was broadcast in the crowded room,
that they would delete
          only our snores 
and the silence of our sleep
          --material too regular,
too routine, to unnecessary
           to build the D.A's case
against us. Sodomy. 

To Table of Contents

Quem Quaeritis 

It's the 1990s, America. Still 10 percent
of your children dart their eyes past evening lovers
in the daylight halls, lest others know for sure we're queer.

It's the 1990s, America. Still you intimidate
bachelor sons and unwed daughters, even into their fifties,
with pleas for more and more grandchildren.
Still you train your offspring
to be fruitful and multiply with a vengeance. 

It's the 1990s, and still you feel damned
if just the body plumbing is matched differently
when your children finally learn to love,
and profanely you keep turning on the light. 

When will you grow old gracefully, Uncle Sam and Aunt Jemima?
When will you free your gay children from your unlove?
When will you stop exploiting their style, their grace, 
                and their art,
while consigning to a Cinderella attic
all who do not kiss the hetero frog? 

Your fairies are growing wings, America,
quite beyond your expectations.
Your fairies' wands are empowered
and by their magic your dullness stands exposed,
your catholicity nothing but a bingo club,
your politics only a stormtrooper's boot camp.

You're dull, hetero America.
You need a bath and a dab of cologne,
a mystery cruise down your alleys,
wearing our disguise of sequined drag,
snorting a quean's giggle
as you try to discover where your soul has gone. 

To Table of Contents

The Day the War Begins 

I will eat a banana with my bran
before rushing off to my student appointment.
At noon, while some will stop exercising,
I will listen to the newsbreaks from the rowing machine
or the situp board in the next room at the Y. 

All afternoon, reacting to each student paper,
I will suggest that the next topics be on earlier wars,
defining holocaust and cataclysm,
not hearing the four horsemen. 

To Table of Contents

View from my Study 

"Go away, ugly birds,
so some pretty birds will come!"
my lover rattles at the sparrows
feeding outside our window. 

The pretty birds have all flown south.
Only we plainer sorts will survive this winter. 

To Table of Contents

When You Can't Do Your Algebra 


Message that Anonymous Left on my Answering Machine 

Hey, Louie, I'm gonna kill you.
I listened to your program, you faggot.
I'm gonna beat your fucking face
if I ever see you. You hear me!? 

I ain't no fucking faggot.
I kick your junky fucking ass.

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