A Hiding Place, for the forty-nine

Gay Bar Raided read the newspaper headline.
My best friend Fred and I went bugs to windshield
on the address. We found it (this is before GPS)
by Gee Please Let us find this place!

Alone in a field by the railroad tracks. The doorman
not carding but warning (white privilege) us
it was a cruise bar and did we know what a cruise bar was?
Fred launched an immediate investigation.

It was a very binary place: On one side Keith’s,
disco throb and drag queen show; on the other Pink Lady’s,
pool ball clack and Playboy centerfold
stapled to the wall between. Sister Sledge

hammered on through. Every decade since
has dissed disco music but I say singing “We are Family”
in a crowd of strangers no stranger than you is a queer
kind of joy. If you stayed ’til dawn they fed you

these amazing eggs. Some nights lately
in this the summer of deadly dancing
I lay awake remembering those eggs,
the hash browns that came with and how one time

Miss Curry, my eighth grade gym teacher, walked in.
This is before I knew lust was a push to speak
your love. Oh Miss Curry, teach me to score
tennis again: 20 love, 30 love, 40 love, 50

something today I lay awake remembering
those eggs,
Miss Curry,
possible hiding places.

If I could text Fred (this is before AIDS)
I’d text Fred and ask: Was there an exit
out through the kitchen, a walk-in cooler
where we might have hidden?

And which sides’ bathroom
had the Kevlar stalls?
This is before assault rifles
were a symbol of freedom.

They called it a dive. You could go to jail,
lose your job, get your jaw broke
just dancing there. We danced
till dawn, cast our images

into the infinitely spinning ball of mirrors,
lavished there by the light of a rare and radiant
self acceptance. Whatever you call yourself
today, tell about your first gay bar.

Our witness is a headline,
our stories a light strobing the ocean
of darkness, our oneness
the one hiding place.