R. Erica Doyle

Faggot: A Definition

You faggot, says Naquan to Isaiah
and I know he means you idiot, you beast,
you stupid, barely human
acting-like-you-don’t-know-any-better
because that’s what faggots are to 14 year-old boys–
at least in public, to each other, in front of girls
and teachers, where everyone can see.
We’re reading a book about a masquerade
and the masks of our own cheeks
are something we may or may not get to.
It’s the student teacher’s moment
and so I don’t say anything.
I’m wearing the mask that blinks SUPERVISE
across my forehead that has, somehow, flipped
to HOMOSEXUAL and I can’t turn off
the red and blaring neon of my silence.
You faggot, I said once, and looked at Bob,
who was a faggot, in the way that doesn’t mean stupid
but that meant someday I’d know he and Javier
had been together for twenty years,
and since I was a 17 years old, and he was generous,
and maybe tired, he said It’s okay
to my apology, his blue faggot eyes singed with hurt,
and we walked back to the car, faggot hanging between us.
I hear Professor George is a faggot,
whisper Eva’s students, as she walked behind them
on the way to class, where she teaches
faggot stained Black history. Mammies and pickaninnies
swarm from her faggot computer, and she calls me and says,
Now I’m a faggot, a lesbian faggot.
The lesbian faggot who taught me how to drive,
who drove a carload of faggot friends to my mother’s funeral,
who, in her faggot apartment dried my faggot tears
over faggot coffee made with my favorite faggot creamer.
Rene was a faggot. His faggot funeral is tomorrow.
He was a faggot professor of faggot Portuguese literature
and his faggot leg was hurting so he went to the doctor
and his faggot cancer had metastasized all over his faggot body.
Dulce, his best faggot friend, cared for him every faggot day.
One day he had a faggot fever or, maybe, it was the morphine,
the faggot painkiller, and he said, Do you see them?
His dead faggot mother and father in the window,
¡Que maricones! Floating on a faggot Puerto Rican breeze,
his voice down the corridor, saying Ay, Dulce,
though she wasn’t in the room, at the faggot hospital
with its faggot doctors and faggot sun through the windows of a dying faggot.
Tomorrow, I’ll go to the funeral home with all the other faggots
And wish him good journey to faggot heaven.
The faggot years drag on and
no matter how many
faggot tears I share or however many faggot cares
I bear, faggot fears from bigots
who can’t handle their own souls
still rear their bitter heads,
still gotta prove might is right
or truth is lies
trying to regulate the space between I love you and skin,
between breath and breast, between my heart
and the only thing that keeps its beating
having day after day after second of meaning,
day after day after second of meaning,
day after day after second of faggot meaning,
faggot meaning,
faggot meaning.


R. Erica Doyle
Faggot first appeared in Bloom: Queer Fiction, Art, Poetry, and More.