Saturday, September 15, 2007

Norma(L) Jean

Since my first introduction to it in the eleventh grade no other poem has spoken to me in the same way. The poem Theme for English B by Langston Hughes resonates with me in my constant cycle of quest and discovery for the commonality that we all recognize as humanity. In the work Hughes takes us to his dorm room in a big city, at a major university, where while he is surrounded by many, in one sense he is alone because he is different. On his journey navigated by his train of consciousness he finally arrives to a place of understanding. He realizes that as much as we may appear to be different, we all share some things in common.

Tonight I reflect on his poem as I think about my own personal evolution and while in just a matter of days this, as in I, 27 year old black man from a poor section of Cleveland who now lives in the nation’s capital, Washington, DC will be turning 28 and how he, as in I have so much in common it seems with a white woman born in Los Angeles in 1926 and died there in 1962.

When I read her words it is almost as if I am listening to myself speak. I hear my voice.

It's often just enough to be with someone. I don't need to touch them. Not even talk. A feeling passes between you both. You're not alone.

There are times when there is no one else around and I long for the presence of someone, just someone to soothe me. Like my departed friend, I believe others rarely recognize this desire that I have. They have created an image of my wholeness for me or they don’t know how to help me fill it so they back away.

People had a habit of looking at me as if I were some kind of mirror instead of a person. They didn't see me, they saw their own lewd thoughts, then they white-masked themselves by calling me the lewd one.

It isn’t that I am viewed as lewd and as much as I am within my own community sometimes seen as less than because of my feminine ways. Masculine gay men and even those who are not watch the beat of my body and listen to the music of my voice and cringe – hating that inside they are the same music, the same movement.

I restore myself when I'm alone.

And so I work on me.

A career is wonderful, but you can't curl up with it on a cold night.

And I just simply work.

Hollywood is a place where they'll pay you a thousand dollars for a kiss and fifty cents for your soul.

Here in the District.

I want to grow old without facelifts... I want to have the courage to be loyal to the face I've made. Sometimes I think it would be easier to avoid old age, to die young, but then you'd never complete your life, would you? You'd never wholly know you.

Looking ahead and moving forward in my evolution I pray that I continue to get to know me better and find myself more in tune with me and the universe. I daydream sometimes about how I will do this with style and dignity. I wish to be regal with salt and pepper hair.

Imperfection is beauty; madness is genius. And it’s better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring.

All the while I want to enjoy this life while I have it. It should be fun. It should be exciting. It should be something that not only I will remember but something for others to remember and do so fondly.

Her third husband, the talented Arthur Miller said of her: "To have survived, she would have had to be either more cynical or even further from reality than she was. Instead, she was a poet on a street corner trying to recite to a crowd pulling at her clothes."

I have feelings too. I am still human. All I want is to be loved, for myself and for my talent.

All I want is to be loved for who I am, just as I am.

Marilyn Monroe and I are quite the uncommon reminders of the truth spoken by Langston Hughes in Theme for English B about our universal commonalities and our connectedness yet indeed we very much are.