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by Lionel E. Deimel


What if I liked men instead of women,

if I were indifferent to décolletage or high heels

but were excited by a bulging crotch or tight muscles?

What if I delighted women and loved them as friends

but longed to attract men to befriend them as lovers?

I would, I suppose, like show tunes and Barbra Streisand

and be indifferent to sexy commercials.

I might be a person who was fun to be with

or maybe would just seem happier than absolutely necessary.

Would I look straight and pass for normal,

or would my walk or voice or gestures give me away?

Could I have my own family some day,

living the American dream of domestic bliss,

or would I lose even the family I was born into?

Could I choose my own career—

become an athlete, cop, or politician—

or would I find myself in a professional ghetto,

practicing cosmetology, acting, or librarianship?

Would people whisper whenever I walked into church

or rolled my shopping cart past them at the supermarket?

Could they know that my passions feel like theirs,

though theirs are as foreign to me as mine are to them?

What if I liked men instead of women?

What if I liked women instead of men?


It has been difficult not to think about the role of homosexuality in society of late, with issues of sexual identity being much in the news in both the religious and secular worlds. When gay priest V. Gene Robinson was elected bishop coadjutor of the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire (see Positions on the Election of V. Gene Robinson), I began writing a poem about it. The poem never grew beyond a single verse, perhaps because the fate of the election was in such doubt immediately after the vote. (In light of what has happened, that original poem could perhaps be expanded into an epic, the end of which is still to be determined.)  Weeks later I began this poem, which also showed signs of going nowhere. Needing a poem to take to my writers’ group, however, I decided to try to finish the poem yesterday.

This is definitely a poem that was written serially, with the first line having been written first and the last last. This is to say that I had no idea where the poem was going. I, as the poet, was simply along for the ride. Not until I reached the end did the last two lines come to me. Of course, they make all the difference.

— LED, 8/14/2003 

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