by Curt Stubbs

1.    Before Stonewall

A theater showing grunting Gay porn.

Blue light voyeurs sitting alone in the dark.

An approach … tentative… nodding assent.

Mutual furtive hand jobs under humping coats.

An escaping sigh, a stabbing light.

Chuckle.  “What you boys doing here in the dark?

Zip it up.  We’re going downtown.”

A meek trip in a paddy wagon.

Coats hiding heads / faces / self-respect.


Closets are built of billi clubs and baseball bats

wielded by cops or fag bashers,

The certainty of fear,

the uncertainty of brutality,

keep people from going out,

holding hands, showing intimacy.

“You a faggot?” shove, “I asked

you a faggot?”  You deny it,

but they shove again.

“You scared of me faggot?”

Again you deny your internal identity.

They hit you anyway,

blow after blow.

Broken bones, cracked skull,

internal damage, all depending

on how many attack you.

At first you don’t go out

because of the bruises.

Then because of fear,

your loss of self-respect.


A mafia owned bar.  Watered down

twice-priced drinks add insult.

A bouncer at the door to signal

an approaching raid.  Men and women

dancing with men and women to switch

when the bouncer hits the light switch,

boys and girls to switch to opposite sexes,

“Ok girls, you better have two pieces

of men’s apparel under those frocks.

Show time now girls.  Show and tell.”

A meek trip in a paddy wagon,

coats hiding heads / faces / self-respect.


Newspapers list those arrested, addresses, jobs.

Loss of homes / jobs / self-respect.

Lives of quiet desperation.


2.  The Stonewall Uprising

Street queens, hustlers, homeless youth, those

with nothing left to lose.

A mafia run bar that had not paid off the police,

a raid expecting quiet acquiescence

as in the past.  “OK all you dykes and faggots.

We’re going on a little trip.

Everybody in the paddy wagons.”

Maybe Judy Garland’s funeral has long fanned the flames.

Maybe an arrestee’s plunge from an upper story

police station window and impalement

on the iron fence below.

Maybe they were just sick and tired

of being sick and tired.  A whole lot of maybes

fought back, fought, the cops, threw copper pennies

at the coppers, locked them

inside the bar, uprooted a parking meter

to batter down the solid wooden door.

Inside the scared police lodged

a cigarette machine against the door

to keep the angry, growing mob out,

open unashamed faces / self-respect.

Six nights of taunting “Lilly Law.”

Always circling around the block

top confront the police phalanxes.

Kick lines taunting, throwing bottles,

bricks and witty insults.

60’s protests came to the Gay community.

Kick line sings: “We are the Stonewall girls.

We wear our hair in curls.

We don’t wear underwear,

We show our pubic hair.”

and other such slacious songs.

More performance art than riot


3.   After Stonewall

Riot leads to the Gay Liberation Front.

Leads to one year later – a commemorative march.

Will a hundred show their faces?

Saw thousand! marching proud and free.

G. L. F. all over the country – the world.

Fight the laws, the American Psychiatric Association,

change the definition of mental illness.

Everybody’s doing it, doing it, doing it

in the bars, parks and bath houes.

No limp-wristed faggots here.

Moustaches, leather men, gym toned bodies.

Then Redrum = AIDS spelled backwards.

Fear, decimation, abandonment by those in power.

Fighting Falwell’s lies for self-respect,

Fight back – ACT UP – silence = death.

Chalk outlined die-in at St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

Come out, come out whoever you are,

you sick bastards.

Lesbians tending the living,

dying Gay men.

450,000 March on Washington.

Thousands of grave-sized quilts

to mark those who’ve gone before .

Silence = death.

5000 couples speak their commitments

a forecast of things to come.

Soldiers don’t ask,

and sailors don’t tell

abolished – stories of abuse.

Lawrence Vs. Texas goes all the way

to the Supreme Court

making consensual sex legal at last.

Everybody’s doing it, doing it, doing it,

leaving closets burning in their wake.

Courts everywhere striking down anti-marriage laws.

President Obama mentions Stonewall

with other freedom sites.

Who’s next?  Who’s next?


Curt Stubbs



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