34 I will bless the Lord at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
My mouth was once a vessel of the black prophetic tradition. My voice bellowed the goodness of the deliverer, the way maker, the mighty load carrier..until I was promised that my load might too much to ask of God. Preacher boy, I was, queer boy I was(n’t) at the pulpit. I spent many years deep in the closet, fearing myself, fearing God, seeking myself, seeking God….under the weight–errr covering–of my Pastor, suffocating, being saved. I wept, I fasted, I prayed for mercy, for death, for AIDS, for love, for family, for judgement…so that His praise could be in my mouth and not be unclean..Preacher boy, I was, queer boy I was(n’t)..at the pulpit on Sundays I preached a word of enlightenment…an image of the Light of God…a god..that I prayed existed…in a loving glory in contrast to that of angry old white man that black Pastor preached would send red fire down onto brown bodies if we didn’t stop descent into Soddam and Gomorrahesque debauchery…loving each other…black men..loving each other..that was a sin..better to load my pistol and take life..than to feed a brother my heart..or my life force..and suck seed..succeed together. My mouth couldn’t contain his praise..not at all…because my times didn’t mesh right..so i blessed him with tithes and offerings..to never return to his presence..if only we’d respect each other’s space..a truce.
2 My soul shall make her boast in the Lord: the humble shall hear thereof, and be glad.
Boasted I did. Freshman year I started a bible club at school. 5am every morning I led an international prayer call with similarly afflicted brothers. We were the sons of Paul…but our thorn was different. Not different like those white boys with skinny jeans, limp wrists, rolled joints and high pitches. Na…we were black and queer and we had flow. blaqueerflow. We were raised right..to trust in the Lord with all our hearts. So we prayed. Anywhere between 5-20 blaqueer men with flow…across the country. We met on sits like hi5, BlackGayChatLive, Tagged..we loved each other. We prayed and wept, every morning..long distance..around 5am so we could use free minutes. By 6:30am, I had a sermonette ready for my bible club of 20+ mostly white kids waiting to hear my preacher voice. Holy T, Bible Brother, Prayer Warrior, Elder Wilson, that was me. I was glad, mostly, now I had a holy ish name. But my holy oil could never soothe the itch with my soul. I wanted Him in me. But I also wanted him, Brian Woods. My crush. brown skin, just like mine. big lips, so soft, like mine. He could dance, he was witty, he was an athlete, he was going places, like me. Going to hell too, just like me. but nobody knew about us but us. He was scared as fuck. word. Me too. We couldn’t talk about it, his lips made me smile and freed me. He was the first to taste my honey. I hope it was sweet. So I boasted…about God. Because everyone could hear that, and it made momma proud..and maybe I’d get out of hell. I did believe.
3 O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together.
There was no pretending. My tears were real that day, all those days, at the alter. I didn’t get this acne on purpose! Hands laid, spit flying, blessed oil pouring from my scalp to my pores. I screamed to jesus. I jumped. I ran. I shouted. I spoke in tongues. I rolled…on the floor..with the punches…between the pastor’s bigoted but heartfelt prayers and speeches and warnings…and over the church mothers long-discarded heals I tried. I cried…for my mother because I knew that when she died we would not be reunited…for siblings because we only had this fucked up life together and it had to count…we were hungry, cold, abandoned, struggling and just had it each other with no lights..and we fought to much..but I wouldn’t seem them in the afterlife either..for my blackness..because I didn’t choose to leave it for this gay sex thing. I’d never had sex, not that I could remember…really. That was violence, he gave that to me, took it from me..I was to young to say yes or no or scream for help..yet in retrospect it felt right and I wanted it..not from him..but from someone else. That shit can’t be spoken, not in God’s house. It’s not “biblical” as they say.
4 I sought the Lord, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.
And one day I ran. The Church of God in Christ had been home, not like my house…no electricity, drugged out mom, food gone, hungry little siblings, beer bottles piled..brandy..crack heads…nameless men/suitors/players/tricks..and the reminder that I was 15 and working 30 hours a week. I ran…into books…into work…into dreams of success and freedom from the cycle of intergenerational poverty and internal hate. I cut ties from the Church because it only taught me suicide..despite providing benefits to sustain my physical body (food, conversation, clothes, heat, water)..I had to begin to hate who I was being defined as. I didn’t want to rule over women, especially not black women. My grandmother was not my equal, she was superior. My sister was going to be even more powerful than her. I was a man with feelings. I enjoyed poetry as much or more than basketball or football. I wasn’t angry, I was curious. I had no interest in being the head of anyone’s household or to have children. Their definition of me was one of a misogynist, patriarchal, heterosexist, nativist, white supremacist negro..who took orders..purportedly from the Bible…while never reading enough to be intelligible or critical. I knew I had to run. So i left to New Mexico to look at myself.
5 They looked unto him, and were lightened: and their faces were not ashamed.
They saw me as I began to. BlaQueer and full of life. They…from countries all over the world..smiled and I smiled back, with my lips, with my heart and I hugged myself. I hugged my blackness. I hugged my queerness. I hugged my poverty. I loved it. I fell in love with myself…and a boy..and got my heart broken..and gained a best friend. And..then…it almost ended as quickly as it began..they tried to Assata me. I almost died.
6 This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles.
So i prayed in cell. I wondered and wandered and I sought religion again but instead I found God. And for once I recognize him as joy, peace, love, hope and forgiveness. Then I was freed and I rose again…but with a heart of steel.
7 The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them.
Until I met him. A tall, scrawny white boy from Colorado with a funny last name. He had never loved, but he loved me. For four years we struggled and loved and laughed and cried and I thought he was the one. I planned to marry him after graduation. But he cheated and wounded me. I don’t like wounds or victims or vulnerability or tears or loss. So I went back to steel–stealing tastes of intimacy and love from this date, that kiss, a text..for nearly a year, I ate empty meals to hold myself over.
8 O taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him.
And now I’m coming home. A brilliant professor of mine once told that for many of us “home is where the hatred is.” Word. Scripture. Truth. Fact. So i’m exiting the master’s house and making a home “not made by man’s hand.” My prayer is best encapsulated by the old gospel song “Lord Keep Me Day by Day.” I no longer desire survival but a life of giving, of living, of producing love and loving spaces and that is only possible through the production of a healing space…a home. That home for me is about accessing and creating that which cannot be explained, said or named. It is about creating realities that we all desire but have yet to coproduce. It is about employing, sharing and articulating the love of the creator in a way that creates and sustains souls long since maimed by our/their/my since of unbelonging. So this journey, this home-going, isn’t about returning to the Church of God in Christ..or any physical church space for that matter..but instead a returning the notion of communal love and beginning to re-acknowledge the divine that exists within us all. I’ve recommitted myself to seeing the world with a child eyes and loving with a heart who knows it’s purpose to give and receive equally, even when love doesn’t seem forthcoming or possible, for the sake of my own humanity. This home is carried with me everywhere I go. There have been growing pains, but for once, the space evolves to house me instead of my body being circumcised to crouch into the space.