Tuesday, September 26, 2017
Robert Frost, 1874 - 1963
My long two-pointed ladder’s sticking through a tree
Toward heaven still,
And there’s a barrel that I didn’t fill
Beside it, and there may be two or three
Apples I didn’t pick upon some bough.
But I am done with apple-picking now.
Essence of winter sleep is on the night,
The scent of apples: I am drowsing off.
I cannot rub the strangeness from my sight
I got from looking through a pane of glass
I skimmed this morning from the drinking trough
And held against the world of hoary grass.
It melted, and I let it fall and break.
But I was well
Upon my way to sleep before it fell,
And I could tell
What form my dreaming was about to take.
Magnified apples appear and disappear,
Stem end and blossom end,
And every fleck of russet showing clear.
My instep arch not only keeps the ache,
It keeps the pressure of a ladder-round.
I feel the ladder sway as the boughs bend.
And I keep hearing from the cellar bin
The rumbling sound
Of load on load of apples coming in.
For I have had too much
Of apple-picking: I am overtired
Of the great harvest I myself desired.
There were ten thousand thousand fruit to touch,
Cherish in hand, lift down, and not let fall.
That struck the earth,
No matter if not bruised or spiked with stubble,
Went surely to the cider-apple heap
As of no worth.
One can see what will trouble
This sleep of mine, whatever sleep it is.
Were he not gone,
The woodchuck could say whether it’s like his
Long sleep, as I describe its coming on,
Or just some human sleep.
Monday, September 25, 2017
Sunday, September 24, 2017
by Believe Out Loud
Pictured clockwise: Ashley DeTar Birt, Hannah Soldner, Angélique Gravely, Alison Amyx, Keisha E. McKenzie, Beth Sherouse
No one human being expresses their sexuality nor their gender in the exact same way as another. Yet we are all a part of God’s grand creation and blessed under God’s love.
This is why, for #BiWeek, we wanted to know a little bit more about the different ways that folks of all genders experience their sexuality, and how they shared this part of their identity with the larger world. So, we gathered some questions and went in search of some of our favorite bisexual and bisexual-adjacent BOL’ers (check out their bios at the end!).
This is the result of a conversation we’ve started:
What term or terms do you use to describe your sexual orientation?
Hannah Soldner: I like queer, but I use bisexual because of visibility (and accuracy) and Lesbian (because it forces people to acknowledge my gender.)
Ashley DeTar Birt: Bisexual, Queer
Keisha McKenzie: I describe my orientation as fluid. I’m on the bi-spectrum and part of the bi community.
Angélique Gravely: I use bisexual or bi as the most specific description of my orientation and the term queer as a broad description.
Beth Sherouse: Bisexual or queer.
Alison Amyx: My primary label for myself is "queer." More recently, I've started to realize how much internalized biphobia has impacted my journey to accept and understand myself. This realization has made me rethink my relationship with the label "bisexual."
How did you first discover your bisexual identity, or the bisexual community?
AG: Although I knew that bisexual people existed long before I considered that I might be bisexual, I didn't know there was a community with thought leaders, researchers, activists, etc. until I created a Tumblr account not long after I came out. I owe most of my initial knowledge of the bi+ community and bi+ history to Tumblr.
ADB: For me, I always knew I liked boys, but I figured I just wanted to be really, REALLY good friends with girls. I had a crush on my best friend in high school, but I figured that was a one-time thing. When I got to college and fell for another friend, I started to realize that maybe it wasn't just the boys I was interested in.
AA: It took me a long time to take my attraction to women seriously because I didn't see bisexuality as a serious option. I discovered the Kinsey scale in college, decided I was a 1.5, and called myself "straight" for the next five years.
KM: Sometimes a trivial question cuts through the angst. I was on holiday with some friends on a lazy fall afternoon in Florida and one of them asked me, “If you could have ten of your celebrity crushes in a hot tub, who would they be?” My answer surprised me because three of the people I mentioned were women. I think that was the first time I’d ever acknowledged it, and because the question was silly and my friends were safe, it didn’t feel like a thing I had to dodge. I could take my time and figure out what, if anything, it was all about. When I started looking back, a lot more started making sense!
BS: I always had crushes on girls and boys, but didn't know that was an option. I learned about bisexuality at some point in my early teens and immediately realized that was me.
How does your experience of bisexuality relate to your gender?
HS: Um, well I think it is safer for women to be out as bisexual. As a trans bisexual person, I just don't have a lot of partner preferences. I like all the kinds of people.
BS: My gender expression has always been pretty queer, partly because a person's gender isn't all that important to me in terms of attraction or even friendship.
ADB: A lot of people make assumptions about my bisexuality based on my gender. Because I'm cisgender, people think I support the gender binary or am only attracted to men and women but not non-binary or genderqueer folk. Neither of those things is true.
AA: I think that I was able to dismiss my attraction to other women for so long because female sexuality, in general, is seen as a performance for men, or as frivolous. On the flip side, it seems that men who experience any hint of same-sex attraction are immediately labeled as "gay." At both extremes, bisexuality is erased as a valid experience or identity.
KM: For me, both my gender and orientation are fluid. Expecting shifts, however small, helps me not to put limits on how I perceive other people or what I expect from myself.
How does your experience of bisexuality inform your experience of your religion or faith?
HS: I think that sometimes there are hard rules for how love works, but I don't have a lot of those rules. This permeability of love works with how I think about a God of love.
AG: One of the biggest ways bisexuality has informed my faith is by making me more mindful of who is being included and excluded in religious spaces. American Christianity often relies on dichotomous thinking that leaves large swaths of people and their experiences out of church conversations. Experiencing this erasure in regards to my bisexuality helped me put words to the other forms of erasure or avoidance I've seen in Christian contexts and be more intentional about making space, even in my language, for people who don't fit either/or categories the church uses.
ADB: In SO many ways! I think I wrote a piece for Believe Out Loud a while ago about bisexuality being like the full humanity and divinity of Christ (an idea that belongs to a bisexual former student of mine). I still love the idea that the experience of bisexuality can connect me with Jesus. I love waking up proud to live and love and just exist exactly as I am, knowing that God made me. I love that I don't have to choose between any genders, nor do I have to choose between my orientation and my faith. They're all me.
BS: I'm pretty agnostic, but as a child, my family was very religious, so it was difficult to reconcile my sexuality and come out
Has your understanding of bisexuality shifted since you first learned about it?
ADB: Definitely. I used to see bisexuality with the older definition—attracted to men and women—but I don't really define it or myself that way anymore. I'm attracted to folks with the same gender identity as me and different gender identities. The "bi" in bisexual doesn't stand for binary and neither do I.
AA: My understanding of bisexuality shifted when I realized that internalized biphobia had kept me, for many years, from exploring the nuances of my attraction to different genders. Romantic attraction is different from physical attraction, for example, and experiencing one type of attraction to women doesn't invalidate the ways I'm attracted to men. The lesson of bisexuality, to me, is that I don't have to be defined by only one experience. I can be a multiplicity of things.
BS: I now have an understanding of biphobia and its effects on my life and the disparities bi people face. I also learned about non-binary people and that bisexuality isn't binary.
What’s one thing about bisexuality you wish people understood better?
HS: A lot of people think of bisexuality as a mixture of heterosexuality and homosexuality, but to me it feels like a freedom from rules.
ADB: We are not a monolith! There are as many ways to be bisexual as there are bisexual people. We are different genders, we're attracted to different people in different ways, and we’re attracted to people in varying degrees. We all do our sexuality differently, as do mono-sexual folks. That should be lifted up.
BS: All of it.
What’s one thing you love about being bisexual, or part of the bisexual community?
AG: I love how expansive and diverse our community is.
ADB: We are INSANELY good at coming up with "bi" based puns!
BS: We're resilient! I can love people regardless of their gender or sex.
KM: I love that my orientation gives me a really concrete way of seeing more than one possibility at a time. I think that’s a gift.
HS: My bisexuality can be entirely different from another person's yet we are both bisexual—there are less hard and fast rules it feels like!
And finally—who’s your bisexual superhero?
HS: OMG! Um...Some mix of Xena [Xena Warrior Princess], Wonder Woman, and Korra [The Legend of Korra]!
AG: I have so, so many! Today, I'll name Eliot Sutler, co-founder of Bi Women of Color Collaborative and BiNet USA board member. They are one of the best models of what showing up for your communities and owning who you are looks like.
BS: Sara Ramirez
ADB: Dr. Calliope Iphegenia Torres! I feel like I should say Sara Ramirez, since she's the actress who PLAYS Callie Torres and she's ALSO bisexual, but her character is the one who I grew up with and taught me how to be who I am.
KM: ABilly Jones Hennin is an epic human being and our community’s bisexual grandpa! He’s an advocate, a family man, and a ball of light. Google him!
Now it's your turn—tell us your answers in the comments below!
Meet the contributors:
Hannah Rachel Soldner is an Actual Transgender Christian who attends three churches.
Ashley DeTar Birt is the Director of Christian Education at Rutgers Presbyterian Church.
Keisha E. McKenzie is the Program Director of Believe Out Loud.
Angélique Gravely is a Philadelphia-based bisexual speaker, writer, and activist.
Beth Sherouse, Ph.D. is an activist, southerner, historian, queer, feminist, writer.
Alison Amyx is the Senior Communications Strategist at Believe Out Loud.
Friday, September 22, 2017
Thursday, September 21, 2017
Tuesday, September 19, 2017
By Georgia Douglas Johnson
The phantom happiness I sought
O’er every crag and moor;
I paused at every postern gate,
And knocked at every door;
In vain I searched the land and sea,
E’en to the inmost core,
The curtains of eternal night
Descend—my search is o’er.
Georgia Douglas Johnson was born in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1880. A member of the Harlem Renaissance, her collections of poetry include The Heart of a Woman (The Cornhill Company, 1918) and Share My World (Halfway House, 1962). She died in 1966.
Monday, September 18, 2017
On Saturday, I had to work, which wasn't too bad. I mostly worked on a project for my boss. If this project proves successful, it will be a success for me too. Here's to hoping it all works out.
On Sunday, I took it easy. In other words, I did nothing. I had a good reason though, I had a headache, and I really didn't feel,like doing anything. I accomplished exactly two things on Sunday. One, I got caught up on Project Runway, and two, I watched The Orville on Fox.
Sunday, September 17, 2017
Naomi entreating Ruth and Orpah to return to the land of Moab by William Blake, 1795
In our home growing up, photographs were often stored in shoeboxes that fit under the bed or up in the closet. Now and then, those boxes would come out, and we would begin our trip down memory lane. Scenes in black and white took me back to my roots, rekindling bygone feelings and reminding me of precious stories. Pictures and the memories they evoke help us to keep our story alive.
In the 85 verses of the book of Ruth we follow one family and a foreign woman named Ruth as they eek out a living during the difficult days of the judges - a time of moral chaos and national instability, described in the last verse of Judges by the frightening words, everyone did what was right in his own eyes (Judges 21:25). The story takes unexpected twists and turns that fire the imagination and soothe the soul.
Ruth is for people who wonder where God is when one tragedy after another pounds their faith. It is for people who wonder whether a life of integrity in tough times is worth it. And it is a story for people who can't imagine that anything great could ever come of their ordinary lives.
The book tells of Ruth's accepting the God of the Israelites as her God and the Israelite people as her own. In Ruth 1:16-17, Ruth tells Naomi, her Israelite mother-in-law, "Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me."
Ruth 1:16-17 is one of my favorite verses in the Bible. It shows the loyalty and love that one woman has for another. I was reminded of this verse the other day when I was watching Fried Green Tomatoes, my favorite movie. Idgie initially resists Ruth's attempts at friendship, but gradually a deep attachment develops between them. Ruth leaves Whistle Stop to marry Frank Bennett and moves to Valdosta, Georgia. Idgie tries to forget her but later, after receiving a letter with the Bible verses Ruth 1:16-17 included in it, visits her house to find her pregnant and subject to physical abuse from Frank. Against his wishes and violent attempts to stop her, she returns to Whistle Stop with Idgie, where her baby, a boy whom she names Buddy, Jr., is born.
Both the story of the biblical Ruth and the story of Idgie and Ruth in Fried Green Tomatoes are powerful stories of women. They give us a lesson of love and loyalty that we can't forget. If you've never seen Fried Green Tomatoes, you should. It's a lovely movie.
Saturday, September 16, 2017
Friday, September 15, 2017
While on military training during World War Two, Gilbert Bradley was in love. He exchanged hundreds of letters with his sweetheart - who merely signed with the initial "G". But more than 70 years later, it was discovered that G stood for Gordon, and Gilbert had been in love with a man.
At the time, not only was homosexuality illegal, but those in the armed forces could be shot for having gay sex.
The letters, which emerged after Mr Bradley's death in 2008, are therefore unusual and shed an important light on homosexual relationships during the war.
What do we know about this forbidden love affair?
Wednesday January 24th 1939
... I lie awake all night waiting for the postman in the early morning, and then when he does not bring anything from you I just exist, a mass of nerves...
All my love forever,
Information gleaned from the letters indicate Mr Bradley was a reluctant soldier. He did not want to be in the Army, and even pretended to have epilepsy to avoid it.
His ruse did not work, though, and in 1939 he was stationed at Park Hall Camp in Oswestry, Shropshire, to train as an anti-aircraft gunner.
He was already in love with Gordon Bowsher. The pair had met on a houseboat holiday in Devon in 1938 when Mr Bowsher was in a relationship with Mr Bradley's nephew.
Mr Bowsher was from a well-to-do family. His father ran a shipping company, and the Bowshers also owned tea plantations.
When war broke out a year later he trained as an infantryman and was stationed at locations across the country.
February 12 1940, Park Grange
My own darling boy,
There is nothing more than I desire in life but to have you with me constantly...
...I can see or I imagine I can see, what your mother and father's reaction would be... the rest of the world have no conception of what our love is - they do not know that it is love...
But life as a homosexual in the 1940s was incredibly difficult. Gay activity was a court-martial offence, jail sentences for so-called "gross indecency" were common, and much of society strongly disapproved of same-sex relationships.
It was not until the Sexual Offences Act 1967 that consenting men aged 21 and over were legally allowed to have gay relationships - and being openly gay in the armed services was not allowed until 2000.
The letters, which emerged after Mr Bradley's death in 2008, are rare because most homosexual couples would get rid of anything so incriminating, says gay rights activist Peter Roscoe.
In one letter Mr Bowsher urges his lover to "do one thing for me in deadly seriousness. I want all my letters destroyed. Please darling do this for me. Til then and forever I worship you."
Mr Roscoe says the letters are inspiring in their positivity.
"There is a gay history and it isn't always negative and tearful," he says. "So many stories are about arrests - Oscar Wilde, Reading Gaol and all those awful, awful stories.
"But despite all the awful circumstances, gay men and lesbians managed to rise above it all and have fascinating and good lives despite everything."
February 1st, 1941 K . C. Gloucester Regiment, Priors Road, Cheltenham
My darling boy,
For years I had it drummed into me that no love could last for life...
I want you darling seriously to delve into your own mind, and to look for once in to the future.
Imagine the time when the war is over and we are living together... would it not be better to live on from now on the memory of our life together when it was at its most golden pitch.
Your own G.
But was this a love story with a happy ending?
Probably not. At one point, Mr Bradley was sent to Scotland on a mission to defend the Forth Bridge. He met and fell in love with two other men. Rather surprisingly, he wrote and told Mr Bowsher all about his romances north of the border. Perhaps even more surprisingly, Mr Bowsher took it all in his stride, writing that he "understood why they fell in love with you. After all, so did I".
Although the couple wrote throughout the war, the letters stopped in 1945.
However, both went on to enjoy interesting lives.
Mr Bowsher moved to California and became a well-known horse trainer. In a strange twist, he employed Sirhan Sirhan, who would go on to be convicted of assassinating Robert Kennedy.
Mr Bradley was briefly entangled with the MP Sir Paul Latham, who was imprisoned in 1941 following a court martial for "improper conduct" with three gunners and a civilian. Sir Paul was exposed after some "indiscreet letters" were discovered.
Mr Bradley moved to Brighton and died in 2008. A house clearance company found the letters and sold them to a dealer specialising in military mail.
The letters were finally bought by Oswestry Town Museum, when curator Mark Hignett was searching on eBay for items connected with the town.
He bought just three at first, and says the content led him to believe a fond girlfriend or fiancé was the sender. There were queries about bed sheets, living conditions - and their dreams for their future life together.
When he spotted there were more for sale, he snapped them up too - and on transcribing the letters for a display in the museum, Mr Hignett and his colleagues discovered the truth. The "girlfriend" was a boyfriend.
The revelation piqued Mr Hignett's interest - he describes his experience as being similar to reading a book and finding the last page ripped out: "I just had to keep buying the letters to find out what happened next."
Although he's spent "thousands of pounds" on the collection of more than 600 letters, he believes in terms of historical worth the correspondence is "invaluable".
"Such letters are extremely rare because they were incriminating - gay men faced years in prison with or without hard labour," he says. "There was even the possibility that gay soldiers could have been shot."
Work on a book is already under way at the museum, where the letters will also go on display.
Perhaps most poignantly, one of the letters contains the lines:
"Wouldn't it be wonderful if all our letters could be published in the future in a more enlightened time. Then all the world could see how in love we are."
Thursday, September 14, 2017
Wednesday, September 13, 2017
Tuesday, September 12, 2017
By Timothy Donnelly
I saw a yellow butterfly
in my opinion
the wrong way, flying across
I saw a cormorant
close to the sea’s surface
as I floated on it on
my back in
the attitude of the crucifixion
minerals in my body
the minerals of the sea
about the sun
how can I possibly
to what’s already been said
by the ancients
and said with
an austerity I’ll never
it is an honor to take
a backseat to the ancients
who knew how
I was a fat white fish
under the sold-out stadium sun
like a god
but like a god
I could live through anything.
About This Poem
“I wrote the first three stanzas of ‘The Endless’ in my head while floating on my back with my eyes closed under the sun over Long Island Sound. I felt invincible. I left the water with the sense that the poem would end up taking off in an eco-theological direction, probably concluding with an indictment of human greed and destructiveness (or something like that). Later that night, when I started typing it up, the poem turned out to have other ambitions for itself, so I stepped out of the way and let it go where it wanted to.”
Timothy Donnelly is the author of The Cloud Corporation (Wave Books, 2010). He is a poetry editor at Boston Review and chair of the writing program at Columbia University’s School of the Arts. He lives in Brooklyn with his family.
Sunday, September 10, 2017
Unless the LORD builds the house,
those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the LORD watches over the city,
the watchman stays awake in vain.
It is in vain that you rise up early
and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil;
for he gives to his beloved sleep.
Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD,
the fruit of the womb a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior
are the children of one's youth.
Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them!
He shall not be put to shame when he speaks
with his enemies in the gate.
- Psalms 127
Psalm 127 is one of the most practical passages in the Bible. It deals with two areas of our life that demand most of our time and cause us the most trouble. They are also the two areas which often compete with each other for our attention and energy. The two areas are those of our work and our family.
In our “workaholic” society Christian men often have misplaced priorities with respect to these responsibilities. The workaholic pursues his career at the expense of his family. He is often oblivious to the implications of his conduct. Minirth and Meier, two Christian psychiatrists, give us a picture of the workaholic’s true nature and its results:
“… the selfishness of the perfectionist (workaholic) is much more subtle. While he is out in society saving humanity at a work pace of eighty to a hundred hours a week, he is selfishly ignoring his wife and children. He is burying his emotions and working like a computerized robot. He helps mankind partially out of love and compassion, but mostly as an unconscious compensation for his insecurity, and as a means of fulfilling both his strong need for society’s approval and his driving urge to be perfect. He is self-critical and deep within himself feels inferior. He feels like a nobody, and spends the bulk of his life working at a frantic pace to prove to himself that he is really not (as he suspects deep within) a nobody. In his own eyes, and in the eyes of society, he is the epitome of human dedication. … He becomes angry when his wife and children place demands on him. He can’t understand how they could have the nerve to call such an unselfish, dedicated servant a selfish husband and father. … In reality, his wife and children are correct, and they are suffering severely because of his subtle selfishness.”
Saturday, September 9, 2017
Friday, September 8, 2017
Thursday, September 7, 2017
Tuesday, September 5, 2017
The Sailor Boy
by Alfred Lord Tennyson
He rose at dawn and fired with hope,
Shot o’er the seething harbor-bar,
And reach’d the ship and caught the rope,
And whistled to the morning star.
And while he whistled long and loud
He heard a fierce mermaiden cry,
‘O boy, tho’ thou are young and proud,
I see the place where thou wilt lie.
‘The sands and yeasty surges mix
In cave s about the dreary bay,
And on thy ribs the limpet sticks,
And in thy heart the scrawl shall play.’
‘Fool,’ he answer’d , ‘death is sure
To those that stay and those that roam,
But I will nevermore endure
To sit with empty hands at home.
‘My mother clings about my neck,
My sisters crying, :”Stay for shame;”
My father raves of death and wreck,-
They are all to blame, they are all to blame.
‘God help me! save I take my part
Of danger on the roaring sea,
A devil rises in my heart,
Far worse than any death to me.’
Monday, September 4, 2017
Labor Day is a big day here in town. For such a small town, we have a fairly large parade. It probably wouldn't be a very large parade except that the whole Corps of Cadets from the school marches in it. They are a sight to see. They keep coming and coming. It's the highlight of the parade. I will sit out on my balcony which faces Main Street and watch the parade this morning.
Sunday, September 3, 2017
O what a foretaste of glory divine
Heir of salvation, purchase of God
Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood
I in my Savior am happy and blessed
Watching and waiting, looking above
Filled with His goodness, lost in His love
Praising my Savior all the day long
This is my story, this is my song
Praising my Savior all the day long