This poem was published in an academic peer reviewed journal aspeers – emerging voices in american studies (V. 6, 2013, Institut fur amerikanstik, American Studies Leipzig, Germany).
The latter narrative was written in 2012, and is a part of a collection of writing I refer to as my “long form declarative poetic narratives.”
When I was a child, we moved around alot. I went to eleven schools across Canada between grades three and eight. Throughout our families dysfunctional travels we lived in many places across Canada in three separate provinces. My parents liked taking pictures to savor the alleged ‘good times’ we shared as a family.
My position on cameras and pictures was indicative of my perspective on our family’s ‘good times’. I did not want any part of the family, the ‘good times,’ nor those damned pictures. I dreaded going on family outings to zoos and game ranches. I seen these animal sanctuaries as prison for animals, but there was even a bigger reason why I did not want to go. I was always berated when we went on these family outings because I complained a lot about my allergies; I did not know I had allergies.
My parents would bring the camera and we were told to smile. I hated cameras. I hated being told to smile. There was not much to smile about. I felt like I was being forced to lie about how I felt. I was expected to pretend we were a happy family even when my body screamed in pain on these family outings.
My eyes felt like I had pins sticking in the corners of my eyes. The only relief was to itch my eyes, but when I did so I squished the animal hair and dander further into my swollen flesh. After each rub the burning red sensation would ignite a fire in my child eyes.
My nose would dry out instantly. I was so allergic to the animals that the mere memory of the last zoo visit seemed to cause a major snot factory in my nostrils. Then my nostrils would dry out so rapidly that every breath dissipated every ounce of moisture in my sinus. My nose would get itchy due to the rapid drying and I would try to scratch. With each touch no matter how gentle my dirty lil’ boy finger attempted the dried out snot shards would cut into the insides of my nose. The nose bleeds would continue for hours as I attempted to dig out each dry clump of fractured boogers.
Consistently I was called a liar and a faker when I expressed discomfort as a result of these outings, no matter how much evidence there was on my child face. My eyes would get itchy, and swell up, while my breathing became difficult as my nose began to bleed. I would be called names that suggested I was weak and not worth the air that I struggled to breathe.
“liar! sissy. cry-baby. little girl. faggot!”
These words were not only stabbed into my heart when we went to zoos, but also when we went to family gatherings across the country. I was berated for complaining about me discomfort with travelling in a car filled with my parents’ cigarette smoke. We drove across Canada with the windows were rolled up in the middle of winter. I would choke, gag and cry on the smoky nicotine-stenched air. Powerless over adults’ decisions, afraid that if I made too big of a deal, over my need for air, a beating would surely follow. Often mom would reach into the back of the car with a cigarette hanging out of her mouth as she would yell at me. “Just take these and quit fucking complaining.”
She handed me a few assorted colored pills. My body would begin to feel weird and I would feel myself slip into a coma. Later in life I learned that these pills were Valium, Ativan and Gravol. When we arrived at our familial destination, the picture taking began. I was expected to be happy that we arrived to our families holiday cheer. The beer, smoking and dirty jokes. The incessant teasing of children followed by clicks and flashes of what are now called vintage cameras.
Our family outings were always filled with long drives, yelling, cigarette smoke, beer and sedatives. This had to have some long term affects on my little body. During my last year living with my parents, when I was twelve, we discovered that as a result of exposure to allergens a polyp had positioned itself in my nose. I had a giant sack full of pussy fluid blocking my nasal passage. I was forced to go into surgery. I was scared. After surgery my parents did not stop smoking in the car, nor taking me to the zoo. Shortly after my surgery I was tested for allergies and it was discovered that I was allergic to cigarette smoke and many animals. The allergy tests revealed I was allergic to 42 of the 56 things I was tested for.
I had severe allergies, a bleeding ulcer and a bad case of psoriasis. My doctor attributed all of these ailments to extreme stress. The doctor suggested that perhaps I had experienced some sort of trauma, whatever that meant. I didn’t know what “trauma” meant. My parents were not going to admit to any reason why I might be a stressed out twelve year old. They just called me crazy.
Thus, this ‘crazy-lying-little-faggot-sissy-girlie boy’ with an earring and long hair hated family trips. I hated zoos and those god-damned fucking cameras that were always winding and clicking and flashing stories and reminders of how much I wanted to die. I hated everything, including my life.
The camera clicked reminders of my self-hatred. I wanted to die. I wanted to scream. I wanted to punch everybody. I wanted to stick my middle finger up to the camera. My first memory of having my picture taken was at a family reunion. I remembered hating it. And hating everyone around me. When I look at that picture today, I see a wounded bruised faced child who was only living in order to anticipate death. I hated my picture being taken, except for once.
(spot the only one who does not want to be in the picture: me)
October 31st, the glorious hallowed eve was the only time of year I welcomed cameras and pictures. I could be anyone I wanted to be on halloween: Michael Jackson, the ‘black faggot’ as my step-dad would say; a rendition of KISS’ Paul Stanley, who dad also called a ‘queer’; or the character I created, Count-Punk-ula. Halloween was freedom and cameras were welcome because I could always express myself and hide at the same time. It was the only time that I could genuinely smile at the camera because I was somebody else.