On Reading 'A Love That Dares Not Speak its Name' by James Kirkup.


Powerful icons of my childhood
Blaze inside my head in vivid recollection:
Painted statues of serenity and agony,
Poised in the tiled corridors of convent schools;
Plastic cribs with tinny music in department stores;
And waxy smelling candles in dark churches late at night.
And the crucifixes. O the cucifixes!
One on a rosary I begged
That I might touch and understand another's mystery;
More on glossy paintings in long galleries,
Which showed his marbled ribs and and rich red wounds.
I think of other paintings too:
Wimpled Madonnas holding Him, in saintly poses.
O! Noel! Noel! Sing out, you angels, sing!
For He is born
Into this crazy world of red-nosed, red-frocked men
Performing pagan rites with presents and with berries.

Reading , your words again,
I think about the treachery.
And tortured, nailed hands -
And crosses upon spicey buns
That come before
The gaudy dressed-up eggs
Of chocolate resurrection.

I run more images and then recall
His genitalia are always wrapped in tastefully concealing cloth.
The wounds are always gaping -
As if to underscore the pain for worshippers of naked men.
James Kirkup, as I scan your words again,
I wonder if these pulpitations come
From idle thrill at reading your forbidden work;
Excitement at your insight into worship
That delusions about science and life,
Have kept me from -
Or is it shared perception
Of that sensuality you mention?



And as my inner visions fade, I contemplate
Your careful claim on Christian iconography for gays,
And yet remain somehow,
Too skeptical and stunned by your Centurion's act,
To understand if, for me, your words are revelation
Or, perhaps, just something destined to become another
Shroud I'll use to bury my confusion.

Richard Napier