Yesterday at the homeschoolers QSA, we had our check in, as usual, and at one point, one of the members muttered that some people were saying that 2016 was a cursed year.
“Let’s go around and say some good things that happened, then,” I suggested.
So many good things! One member is excited to have graduated to pointe shoes; another that her 18th birthday was this year; a third that a lifelong dream to be in a Gilbert and Sullivan show had come true. As for me, it’s simple: this was the year I thought my mother was going to die, and she didn’t. At 85, she is perhaps a titch more forgetful than before, but her enthusiasm, curiosity and sense of humor about the world are back in force, and I am SO GRATEFUL!
This has been a hard year, though. My work with queer youth has acquired so much more urgency and weight, my desire for queer culture grows daily, both for them and for myself, I am needy, wacky, freaked out, beside myself and all betwixt and between.
In fact, such is my volatile post-election emotional state, that I burst into tears when I read in Lambda Literary that Michael Nava has just published a new mystery called Lay Your Sleeping Head. AND THE TITLE IS FROM AN AUDEN POEM! Oh, Michael! Oh, Wystan! Oh, beloveds!!!
When he published Rag and Bone in 2002, the 7th Henry Rios mystery novel, Nava said that it was the last one. No more Henry, no more gay life in L.A., no more nuanced, gorgeous, queer Latino mysteries. It was wrenching, the loss of a literary friend, but I respected Nava’s desire to move on to other things, and have been waiting for the right time to read his novel, The City of Palaces.
But now, I can re-read all 7 mysteries, starting with The Little Death, and when I get to the end, it won’t be the end! What a gift. And the poem, the poem. I’m working on memorizing it, and I type it for you here.
May our 2017 bring solace in the form of oodles and oodles of ever-lovin’ queer art!
Lay your sleeping head, my love,
Human on my faithless arm;
Time and fevers burn away
Individual beauty from
Thoughtful children, and the grave
Proves the child ephemeral:
But in my arms ‘til break of day
Let the living creature lie,
Mortal, guilty, but to me
The entirely beautiful.
Soul and body have no bounds:
To lovers as they lie upon
Her tolerant enchanted slope
In their ordinary swoon,
Grave the vision Venus sends
Of supernatural sympathy,
Universal love and hope;
While an abstract insight wakes
Among the glaciers and the rocks
The hermit’s sensual ecstasy.
On the stroke of midnight pass
Like vibrations of a bell,
And fashionable madmen raise
Their pedantic boring cry:
Every farthing of the cost,
All the dreaded cards foretell,
Shall be paid, but from this night
Not a whisper, not a thought,
Not a kiss nor look be lost.
Beauty, midnight, vision dies:
Let the winds of dawn that blow
Softly round your dreaming head
Such a day of sweetness show
Eye and knocking heart may bless,
Find the mortal world enough;
Noons of dryness see you fed
By the involuntary powers,
Nights of insult let you pass
Watched by every human love.
W.H. Auden, January, 1937