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A CURIOUS AND PECULIAR
KIND OF QUEER

 

chapter twenty-one

 



POETRY

poems of the month

fish

vagabondage

measuring my face

ostracism

old clothes

modern iranian poems

my hero

face at the bottom of the world

perhaps (maybe)

the diogenes sequence

where to store furs

i am and am not:
      fragments of rumi

destiny and destination

the zen of no-enlightenment

the iraqi monologues

already backwards

a light in ruins

separate amputations

the sexy jihad

awaiting the barbarians

the smell of possibilities

ultimate leaves

rejoice in the dog

post-millennium maggot

the book of nothing

confession from belgrade

dispatches from the war against the world

albanian poems

french poems in honour of jean genet

the hells going on

the joy of suicide

book disease

foreground trouble

the transcendental hotel

cinema of the blind

lament of the earth mother

uranian poems

haikai by okami

haikai on the edge

black hole of your heart

jung's motel

leda and the swan

gloss on rilke's ninth duino elegy

jewels and shit:
poems by rimbaud

villon's dialogue with his heart

vasko popa:
a shepherd of wolves ?

the rubáiyát of
omar khayyám

genrikh sapgir:
an ironic mystic

the love of pierre de ronsard

imagepoem

the rich man and the leper

disgusting

art, truth and bafflement

 

TRANSLATIONS

 

BETWEEN POETRY AND PROSE

the maxims of michel de montaigne

400
revolutionary maxims

nice men and
suicide of an alien

anti-fairy tales

the most terrible event in history

 

SHORT STORIES

godpieces

the three bears

three albanian tales

odorous underwear

a little creation story

 

ESSAYS & MEMOIRS

a curious and peculiar
kind of queer

the ivory palace

helen's tower

schopenhauer for muthafuckas

are doctors autistic ?

never a pygmy

against money

did franco die ?

'original sin' followed by
crippled consciousness

a gay man's guide to soft-willy sex

the holosensual alternative

tiger wine

the death of poetry

the absinthe drinker

with mrs dalloway in ukraine

love  and  hell

running on emptiness

a holocaust near you

happiness

londons of the mind &
dealing death to the caspian

genocide

a muezzin from the tower of darkness

kegan and kagan

a holy dog and a
dog-headed saint

an albanian ikon

being or television

satan in the groin

womb of half-fogged mirrors

tourism and terrorism

diogenes
the dog from sinope

shoplifting

this sorry scheme of things

the bektashi dervishes

combatting normality

fools for nothingness:
atheists & saints

death of a bestseller

vacuum of desire: a homo-erotic correspondence

a note on beards

translation and the oulipo

the visit

 

Nuadú, God of War

field guide to megalithic ireland


Non-homosensual (and indeed many 'gay') men and women must think me completely freakish not to like women's breasts.

I have no firm (or even sagging) idea why this is so - because I am a woman-respecter, feminist and admirer of my mother and aunt. Neither of them had noticeable breasts, but my grandmother did. My grandmother who hated my left-handedness. Could that be the reason ? Or perhaps some blowsy, big-breasted woman leaned into my cot or pram at a tender age - even before I was brought to Belfast - and scared me, thus making me dislike lipstick or make-up on women ever after - apart from subtle eye-liner and the kind of make-up that women of the Ottoman court might have had - and men in Bollywood films. But my cot theory cannot apply to my dislike of high heels, except as "power-dressing". And it is somewhat contradicted by my liking of roly-poly "mother-figures". I would think that the latter corresponded with the unknown foster-mother I had for a year - and the vampish former remains some kind of interloper.

This comes as even more freakish (if not hypocritical) from a man who had four snakes tattooed in and around his groin, and has worn earrings for decades. (Obviously I don't mind earrings, even very dangly, glittery ones.) My one and only girlfriend had very small breasts and wore no or almost no make-up. My mother hardly ever wore stockings or a hat - which appalled me at the snob-school's ghastly Sports Day when all other mothers (it seemed) wore both and "looked respectable". I never thought of how my mother might have been ashamed of me, one of the least sporty of pupils, an intelligent "maladjusted" child who was intellectually unambitious and bored-lazy to boot.

I am always horrified by women's fashions - whether fur coats or skimpy dresses apparently designed to cause hypothermia. I think of the poor whores on the rue Saint-Denis in Paris, grotesquely made up and wearing almost nothing in the January wind - and I am filled with pity. I want Social Services to give them nice warm clothes and money to live on.

'Gay' men generally seem to like women with lots of make-up and impractical not to say cruel clothing - whether Bette Midler, Judy Garland, Mae West, Marilyn Monroe, Jacqui Kennedy, Elizabeth Taylor, Bea Arthur (thank you, Malcolm, for this little list). "Gay" men like horrible mindless music, and some of them like plastic-looking, Nazi-imitating leather gear. I am in a small minority among the homos, thinking rhinoceroses and sharks much more beautiful than Madonna, and horses much more sexy than almost any human. If only there were more rhinoceroi!

This is even odder when I remember I wanted to be a ballet-dancer at the age of seven, and, because that was impossible, I decided that "I want to be an actor" - a slot on the children's programme of the 1950s on the Northern Ireland BBC. This desire might have been fed by my weekly Elocution Lessons given by a very nice man called Grahame Roberts who (I think) was the husband of the producer of the children's programme, Cicely Matthews.

I have already sung the praises of the BBC, but I have nothing but contempt for what is now called BBC Radio Ulster. I may be mistaken, but I certainly have the feeling (along with the "Catholic Community" that the only audible voices from the impressive Broadcasting House in Belfast were - until the 1970s - Protestant: "A Protestant Radio for a Protestant People", to adapt the slogan of the first Prime Minister of Northern Ireland in 1922, "A Protestant State for a Protestant People". But I digress.

I duly auditioned, and was given as tiny a role in some for-children playlet or other as I was later to be given (as Lepidus) in a school production of Julius Caesar. I was so nervous that I could hardly remember my two lines. My voice has always been low, and I used to stammer (hence the elocution lessons). I still stammer sometimes in French, especially when upset or angry. I could never address a crowd, except with the aid of a microphone, and people who are hard of hearing have great difficulty in interpreting my low murmur, which, in the days of Gay Phone Dating (the 1980s), men told me was 'sexy'.

As to the pernicious notion of "identity", I, the non-identifying outsider, have never had any need lor desire for it, nor will I ever - except as "DEAD".
I am Irish, born in England and raised in the British part of Ireland. Most of my culture comes from Britain, Europe and Palestine - and more recently, the USA. Only a small part comes from Ireland.
European, some of my mind-set is African, some is Asian, and some is "primitive".
The Protective Spirit of my house is Marquesan.
Homosensual, some of my best friends have been women (some of them with quite big breasts) and I tend to avoid the company of men.
As a Whitey, I have always wanted to be black.
As a human, I have more empathy with dogs and donkeys than with other humans.
If I have rarefied musical tastes (for oriental classical musics, early jazz and Irish slow airs) I can also enjoy Jimi Hendrix.
As a life-long sponger on the welfare system, I am happily and necessarily frugal, am non-destructive,
and have no illusions about my own importance.
As an anti-natalist I have polluted the planet less than most.
If I am dissident, I believe in courtesy, generosity, tolerance, openness and changeability of mind...

I suspect that certain palaeolithic "lone wolf" human males bonded more easily with wolves than with other humans - hence the emergence of the much-abused Canis lupus familiaris, or Dog.

Today's blog:

Just think of all the (fake)
blood that has splattered
and gushed and oozed
through the fake world of films -
and none of it menstrual.

Much-tabooed menstrual blood tastes better than many kinds of factory-made jam, but can be mentioned in any company even less than suicide-as-intelligent-choice. Ireland is a land of suicide, much of it rural and sad. Perhaps there is nowhere now that suicide can be joyous.

As an Irishman-by-choice I am not ashamed to say that half a pint of Guinness (which looks as if it might be a mix of piss, shit and cream) is quite enough for me - because the deliciousness of Guinness (unlike wine) is in the first three or four sips. Thereafter it is merely a means of getting drunk, and neither inebriation nor the places which encourage it have ever appealed to me. (I have never visited and am never likely to visit the "Irish Pub" in the nearby small town of Caussade.) There are exceptions, of course. I recently found an excellent pub in Newcastle, county Down, whose Guinness was dreamy and where Malcolm and I shared a large portion of the traditional French moules & frites - the mussels in a creamy-winey sauce - which, up to that moment, I never had in France ! Chips (frites, French fries) are a rarity in my diet - not because I dislike them, but because I so rarely eat out. Making them in my own home has not been a success. Thus I tend to eat sautéed potatoes which are not the same thing at all because they taste more potatoey - assuming that the potatoes have a taste, which they rarely do in Ireland. I am a fan of French potatoes, especially Roseval, Rose de France, and white-skinned varieties with yellow interiors. The Irish seem to eat potatoes only to mop up gravy, so they don't need to have a taste. I eat them neat, with salad and nothing else but a nice light, dry white wine. A basic and delicious vegetarian dish.

When I first had my eyes opened to the homosexual demi-monde, I was shy and hesitant in the cruising-pubs like Therese in Patricia Highsmith's novel Carol, which has a brilliant description of a homosensual wooing. Like Therese I found the verbal side difficult. Few people had the élan to pull my clothes off and start loving me in every which way. Few people could (or were prepared to) talk either about any of the many things which interest me, or about the psychosensual delights ahead. Most 'gay' men are too clogged with expectations to be spontaneous and open. In a way I was lucky not knowing what to expect, and thus so open to suggestion that I ended up having half my forearm up a lovely Turk's backside. (As I write, Malcolm is doing the same to a long-dead pheasant that his neighbour parked at his door. I am not a fan of pheasant.) The few men who encouraged and harvested my shy sensuality tended to be 'alternative, hippyish, psychotropic or entheogen-receptive. They did not find me 'lover-material', but they offered me their generous (always bearded, sometimes long-haired) sensuality, by which I remain gratefully enriched.

"I think sex flows more sluggishly in all of us than we care to believe, especially men care to believe," says Carol in Patricia Highsmith's book. "The first adventures are usually nothing but a satisfying of curiosity, and after that one keeps repeating the same actions, trying to find - what ?" [...] "A friend or a companion or maybe just a sharer. [...] I think people often try to find through sex things that are much easier to find through other ways." Maybe not easier to find, but more findable. Or perhaps we realise that they are not worth seeking, that the game (as in sex) is not worth the emotional candle. Experience or the finding might be entirely due to chance, and if it doesn't arrive easily it might be best not to bother, since the searching might actually preclude or impede the discovery. How many are the men I have wasted time, money and emotional energy on! Not that they were vampires...

But I have always had a problem with the males of my own species.
My favourite playmates when I was little were girls.

My heroes are heroines: Medea, Christine de Pisan, Mary Wollstonecraft, George Eliot, Flannery O'Connor, Leonora Carrington, Alice Neel, and a few dozen others.

After I was sent to the male-only private school I had to make friends with other boys. This wasn't too much of a problem, apart from the rugger-bugger-bullies and the teasers who pushed me over the edge and laughed when I became violent. Plus hostile teachers. Remarkably, two different teachers took me under their wings, so to speak. The first sat with me in the dining-room of my preparatory school where I was forced to eat my disgusting dinner - though why he didn't just tell me that I needn't eat it I do not know. The second was my French teacher in secondary school, who gloried in the name of Raoul Larmour and imbued me with a love of French poetry a couple of years before a young English teacher came along and introduced me to The Waste Land. I got on so well with my French teacher, unusually for that snobs' academy, a Belfastman, that I actually invited him to my attic bedroom where I served him omelette cooked on a paraffin stove, and we drank the Monbazillac which he had brought with him - my initiation into a lifelong interest in wine. His fellow-teacher (and possible semi-queer) came along, too. The innocence of the 1950s! That could never happen now - and it was probably unique then.

The first poem that I ever wrote was in French - and it gained me the only prize I ever received.

After I left school I went along with Raoul and his alcohol-loving fellow-teacher on school trips to Paris as an unofficial helper. This confirmed my early love of Paris, a city which I now thoroughly disdain.

Thirty years later I met another teacher from the school at that time, and still teaching German there - cruising in a public convenience at Newtownards, not far from Belfast.

Also while I was at school I became fascinated by the mother of a schoolfriend, and spent many afternoons with her drinking Lapsang Suchong, eating cake, and talking about philosophy. I brightened her housewife-life, I guess, and neither her husband nor her sons seemed to mind - but my mother was somewhat disapproving (especially since I often cut piano lessons to go and feel happy and free with Barney's mother. She need not have worried. There was nothing unseemly. Mrs Isherwood,with whom I was just beginning my truly-Platonic attraction to intelligent Older Women, was just my substitute for Madame de Staël. When I was little, I visited my grandmother's friends on my own. In those days, children were largely autonomous. So I could go off and visit old ladies, little girls my own age, or little boys as I wanted. I didn't even have to say where I was going.

In my heterosexual years the women I met were only slightly older than I, and when I started having serious doubts about my sexuality, I wrote to the Northern Ireland Gay Rights Association asking if there was any procedure for a man who liked women but was more interested in sex with men to look for a nice gay woman as a friend. I have never had a queer woman as a friend. A few years after my letter I had a steamy affair with the partner of the secretary of NIGRA, Sean McGouran - with whom Malcolm now communicates via Facebook. Our shared love-beast called Mark has disappeared from our ken, perhaps dead now.

Malcolm, when he manned the phones for the Gay Helpline in Belfast, came across the record of my plaintive search for a Platonic female soul-mate.

There is something that I do not understand about the way most men (mainly heterosexual) act and think. I find them inscrutable and daunting, often mildly threatening in their constant desire to be superior in their mean badinage ('banter'), their patronising or sneering, or in their self-proclaimed expertise. Apart from a few exceptions (the interesting, uncompetitive, and talented few) they are boring.

Unfortunately, the women I like tend to have husbands or partners with whom I cannot relate or who cannot relate to me, and so I am again out on a limb. Unattached people are, in any case, something of a problem for couples, and unattached antinatalists are quite a challenge for couples with children. I don't like groups or group activities. But I have never had any problem 'keeping myself amused' in my existential isolation (as this website demonstrates), which alienates me from the lonely people, too.

Although the household I was raised in was not normal, this never really registered with me. It didn't register that there was no male apart from myself. I had cousins in normal families, but I did not compare my situation with theirs. I had no feeling that there was an Absent Father. I guess this is strange, shows a lack of social awareness - or retardedness. Other children did not remark on it, nor on the fact that my two "aunts" (only one of whom was my aunt) worked for a living. I guess that middle-class children in the Belfast of the 1950s were kinder than children now. I was cocooned in a veil of unknowing, happy in my skin, in my own way, but made miserable when exposed to the horrible, hypocritical patriarchy which controlled my life until I left Campbell College.

All families have at least one secret or lie. In mine, the one secret withheld from me and almost everyone else was that my adopter was my mother. This is nothing compared with the secrets, lies and hypocrisy of most families, as can be learned from countless memoirs and biographies. And when I eventually found out the truth, it was no big shock; rather was it a pleasant piece of news. Because both my mother and aunt were very much themselves and not moulded into wifeness, there were no other secrets, no other lies.

My life at school was full of petty lies which failed to keep me out of trouble. Once I had left I tossed mendaciousness and falseness into the dung-heap along with everything else that my schooling entailed, probably inspired by the honesty and openness of my mother and aunt. Thus I made myself unemployable.

I have too keen a nose for falseness of most kinds, and too great an intolerance of sham, cant and hypocrisy to be a social person or a socially-acceptable person. I love dogs because they are readable and transparent. I am not so keen on cats because of their furtiveness, a furtiveness very similar to that of "homosexuals" in the old days.


Mattie (Martha), Yvette and Girlie (Marcella).

My mother (left) and her older sister in their late seventies, and the Girl Next-door (a little older than I),
back from Canada to see her mother and aunt, still living next door.
Her father "ran off" with another woman, partly because his live-in sister-in-law was such a pain.
I hardly ever played with Yvette as a child. I don't think she liked me. I found her inscrutable.

 

 

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