I needle at the notion of queer ‘difference’. Do we sin differently, rejoice in ways distinct from straight folks? The stirring liturgy of Joseph O. Legaspi’s “Vows (for a gay wedding)” take love by the tufted bird-throat, first. It centres the survival, the gentleness and homeroosting, of queer desire. It foregrounds a love that, like any other love, often wends a treacherous route to the altar, but gets there, and basks in its honeyed self-possession. Pick up your rainbow-coloured rice, kinspeople. Welcome to the wedding.
Breach the declarative oasis of Legaspi’s poem, and you find proof of ‘queer difference’, which is not perhaps in the fact of loving, but in its legislation. Scarcely two lines into the narrative, the poem’s speaker says, “Our often-misunderstood kind of love deems dangerous. / How it frightens and confounds and enrages. / How strange, unfamiliar.” The poet handles this outward fear and anger with all the delicacy required of balance, allowing us to see it as a physical force: levied against those who love, received with equidistant strangeness by those against whom it’s levied.
But these vows aren’t for the picketers; they’re for the ones getting married. Frankly, the poem is a tenderness. It’s a declaration of bravery, of constancy, of the balm of being well-matched to one’s mate in perilous times. What I love best about Legaspi’s poem is that it conjures an almost animal, mineral, natural assuredness of love’s succour, one the world of men does not assure. It’s a world where the rooftops are “barbaric”, the wilderness “nourishing”; it’s our world, in short, where we who are queer find ourselves loving in it. I love this poem because it reconnoitres us to the roots of loving, no matter who bangs on the doors of the forest with hate. Isn’t that worth a vow?
This is the third installment of Here for the Unicorn Blood, a Queer POC Poetry Reader which runs from June 1 – June 30. Historically, June commemorates the 1969 Stonewall Riots, heralded as the birth of the modern LGBTQ+ rights movement in the United States. #PrideMonth’s global significance, its unabashed celebration of queerness, its marshalling of non-heteronormative joy, resistance and tenacity, motivates this close reading series, which specifically engages the work of POC Queer Poets, in international space. People of colour have been vital to queerness before queerness had a name: this is one way to witness that, to embed my reading practice in it, and to raise my brown, queer fist in yes.