• Lammergeier Staff

An Etymology for Faggot | Samuel J Fox

Updated: Jun 21, 2019



I.

A burning man walks through the city

unperturbed by the spittle

falling out of car windows like drizzle


II.

Once, yesteryear, a younger boy approached me

asked to see my genitals. I declined.

He walked away sounding like a brush fire

whispering uppity faggot under his breath.


III.

I pass shop windows, my scalp gleaming

like a signal flare. I look to my right

and find middle fingers raised in salute

to the fact I am wearing a turtleneck.

The sun hides its face in bosoms of clouds

and I am the only thing radiant for miles.


IV.

An old friend, roughneck, nail biter,

backhand-lifter, confesses he is bisexual.

He drives a lifted truck. His porch wears

a confederate flag like an ascot.


Someone calls him a word we both take

like the slash of a knife or torch to the skin.

No one regrets it more than me,

to have watched the word fall to the ground

limp as a dead bird, while my friend

adjusts his rings and pummels the mouth

that lifted the word off its tongue

not yet ready to let it fly true like an arrow.


V.

I was born here. I will die here:

in this word that I will not claim as mine

for it is not. It was always hatred’s.


VI.

1914. First recorded use. Abbreviated into fag.

From the Latin word fascis: a gathering of sticks.

Use: fagots (sissies) will be in drag at the ball tonight.


VII.

I will wear the word if it would fit

like a dress with a train long enough

to reach back through the centuries of pain

that arrives here to wed the present.


VIII.

I kiss a girl. I kiss a boy. I kiss the wind

until it sends the rain to drench me home

into this body still smoldering with want.


IX.

Middle school: I’m called a fag.

I am not sure I understood so I ask again

for the word I am called. Faggot.

Gay. Queer. Abomination on earth.


I quickly take the word in my clenched fist

crush it into my palm and dip

my knuckles into the boy’s face

as though through a mirror in which I am

finally allowed to see my soul.


X.

Violence is not always an appropriate response

to belittlement or chastisement.

It is, however, one of the only ways, growing up,

the men in my town were able to think.

I learn the language as though I invent it.

Every time a man casts the word out as though

a line on which to hook me,

I respond silently with the only words

he can truly grasp my thoughts:

right cross, left uppercut, fall and crash.


XI.

Ever since I learned masculinity defines itself

by what it cannot define itself through,

I have detested any man who does not understand

he has every right to be unsure

of what he’s told himself he is.


XII.

I want a world void of words that inflict

or infect or castrate or mutilate us.

But, so long as there are people against understanding

ignorance will be like gravel in a skinned knee.


XIII.

I still walk through town. I am on fire.

The world is on fire.

There are people like me burning alive for love.

And the rain cannot quench, nor can it speak for me.

Only this crackling of my bones will do.




Samuel J Fox is a queer poet and essayist living in the Southern US. He is poetry editor for Bending Genres LLC and appears in many online and print publications. You can find him in coffee shops, dilapidated places, and graveyards, depending. He tweets @samueljfox.


Twitter: @samueljfox

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