on the beauty of urinals & bodies by tomas moniz
on the beauty of urinals & bodies
my first night at a writing residency in the oregon mountains i struggle to build a fire in my cottage. & remember as youngchild camping w/my father. build it like cabin. like teepee. i failed. pushed out of the way & relegated to bunching newspaper. there was a lesson in this. i learned it.
recently at the eagle a gay bar in san francisco i pee into a trough filled w/ crushed ice. oh that smell. & a mirror lining the urinal. & all those cocks. flaccid & familiar. & the eyes. strangers. eyes hungrier than mouths. mouths more loving than hearts.
at dinner years ago i remember still. a friend stops talking. midsentence. we sit across from each other. beer to beer. he looks askance. he looks vulnerable. like he about to cry. like he weak. i look away. we avoid our eyes. if he were child i’d ask to hug him. if lover i’d ask to hold him. but he’s only friend
lately i find myself writing to my son. now adult. man of twenty six. but how to ask about failure. but how to bring up manhood. but how to lay bare what we have internalized.
son i write
refuse to be man like
instead perform man
_____like daydream like
_____silly childhood game
exuberant & reckless
_____the way someday a lover will hold
_____you & whisper you are such
a good good person
& i remember camping w/ my son alone. dusk on a lake. late july. we decide to eat watermelon for dinner. we discuss various ways to prepare the meal. we laugh together. widemouthed & unashamed. he says he only wants the heart not the white rind. crispy & bland. i say pick it up high in the air. drop it. a kid lofting a melon above his head is a glorious sight. w/ a scream he lets it fall. broken & freed. we gorge. faces covered in juice. our fists buried deep in the body of our desire.
at the residency in the communal room around a fire. roaring & hot. we discuss artmaking. resistance. we share our histories. one night we consider words like faggot & queer. we unpack the term cisgendered. one person explains that they refuse to use the word. you never know how comfortable someone is in their body. another says but it’s not about comfort. it’s about the privilege of never being uncomfortable. the fire burns to embers.
how do we learn to mistrust our own selves. i think of shittalking. i think of highfiving. i think of fistbumping & backslapping. i think my father’s walk it off boy. i think playground taunts to suck it up pussy. i think of the words i’ve used that have harmed & places i’ve never had to feel unsafe. i think of privilege that flaunts itself as normalcy. like in bathrooms. & at punk shows. & during late night walks. & as my partner catcalled jogs up bernal hill.
i recall potty training my son. as youngparent i didn’t realize you had to teach a child how to urinate in a toilet. pee happens. precision is learned. i instruct my son hold it & aim. years later i remember that language & cringe. what have i taught.
to build a fire is to welcome the flame. to raise a child is to ask what they desire. to relearn gender is to discover what the body knew all along.
i consider the first time i explored another person’s nakedness. to sniff armpit. to stroke body hair. to peek between buttocks. & then to reciprocate. to offer myself to their desire. trust them with the secret places of myself. bodies are beautifully simple. even in their difference. they are familiar. a place to call home.
i write to my son. & also though to myself. i write to declaim. & to resuscitate. & to make myself more human. less gendered. or more. & to imagine a new way of being.
son i write
trust me stay child & i will leave
& find you
©2017 tomas moniz
Tomas Moniz edited Rad Dad and Rad Families. His novella Bellies and Buffalos is about friendship, family, and Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. He’s the recipient of the SF Literary Arts Foundation’s 2016 Award, the 2016 Can Serrat Residency, and the 2017 Caldera Residency. He has a new book published with Hawthorne Books (Summer 2018). He loves letters: PO Box 3555, Berkeley, CA 94703. He promises to write back.
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