AT THE BEACH, VENICE, CALIFORNIA

by Chris Hewitt

For Gerard O'Neill

I'm hunched up
in my wheelchair on the boardwalk,
the purple sea inviting me
to its unfoldings;
I want to leap up—
miracles in my legs

and skitter like a mad sandpiper
into the waves.

It's not suicide I want,
no kind of losing,
but contact with the massive man inside me,
a woman's singing,
a unifying.

The sea says "Rise! Rise!"
I stick out my tongue.

As a child
I sat up in bed
in the middle of the night
and dangled my legs over the side.
I stared at those twigs
which didn't seem mine

white and goose-pimpled
in the moonlight.
I willed them to be healed,
to grow long, strong
and manly. If I had
faith enough, they said,
it would happen.

The sea accuses.
It calls me Coward and Unbeliever.
It says "Movement
of muscle, movement
of muscle."

I wheel the chair
past the palm trees
back to the squabbling town.
I rock in my machine
dreaming into a blaring bar.
I stretch myself up on my arms
tall as I can
to order a drink.

"I can't hear you," says the bartender.
"Speak up! Speak up!"

 

© 2003 Chris Hewitt

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CHRIS HEWITT's poetry and translations have appeared in The New Yorker, The Advocate, American Poetry Review, and The James White Review. His work is featured in "Queer Crips: Disabled Gay Men and Their Stories," edited by Bob Guter and John R. Killacky, Harrington Park Press, December 2003. Chris has osteogenesis imperfecta, "Brittle Bone Disease." Search Contents and Archive to find more of Chris Hewitt's work in BENT.

 

BENT: A Journal of CripGay Voices/May 2003