Growing up, my home was a closet. Not the metaphorical closet where I tucked my sexuality. More precisely, my home was an 8x11in guide to Colorado fish my grandfather gave me to mold my sexuality. Which I tucked inside my closet. In which were tucked letters to my adolescent loves like Jamie, Ally, Shelly, and Jack (especially to Jack). In which, I dreamed of our skeletal home without closets. Where my mother did not tuck her guilt, and the father did not tuck his abusive addictions. Where Jack drove the Hot Wheels car he gave me after our play date. Just like Ken in Aqua’s Barbie Doll.
There is no instruction manual with the postscript delivered by the owl to your closet proclaiming, “You’re a homosexual, Harry.” By trial and error, you come to understand the fragility of home. And the fragility of queer. And how both must often be constructed like lean-tos on the pull-out couches of allies.
Like tornados, like earthquakes, like tsunamis, like men in I.C.E. uniforms, my nature was a disaster a home could not weather. So, home became a lonely rainbow. A refraction of tears staining pictures of cutthroat trout.
Whether by cosmic dramatic irony or systematic oppression, when your home is queer, so often your home becomes a bar. Where fags bundle like fags. And smoke fags. And drink like, well, like fish. Most of whom are obsessed with being fish. So, I learned a new language that gave transformative space to my transient home. Sashay! Shontay! Cinched! Boots the house down! Beat for the gods!
I learned that language, too, was a home. Ours was one that could not be deciphered. Because no one cares to decipher why our family struggles with substance abuse at nearly twice the average rate. How our expansive forest of intersectional trees denoting our lineage drinks from a stigmatized watering hole. Yet, the branches stay sturdy enough for us to take our lives at five times the average rate.
I have read enough obituaries to know how mine may sound. Taken unexpectedly. After a long struggle. As if the struggle was never an indication of the homophobe. Or the revolver. Or how unsurprisingly often they’re the same. I mean, the gay homophobe with a revolver. Taking a family with him that would have died to show him how to live. In a home called queer.
I will be survived by a long list of family that never embraced me. With no mention of the love that allowed me to survive.
But I have found home.
My home is not a structure I ride shotgun to in Jack’s hot wheel car. Home is not a bed on which I lay my head when the world insists I don’t belong. My home cannot be taken by a natural or xenophobic disaster. Home is not a mortality statistic. My home is not an early grave.
My home is queer.
And I vow my home will always be open to anyone who thinks theirs is just a closet filled with unread love letters.
Caleb Ferganchick is a rural, queer, slam poet activist and author of Poetry Heels (2018). His work has been featured and published by the South Broadway Ghost Society (2020, 2021), “Slam Ur Ex ((the podcast))” (2020), and the Colorado Mesa University Literary Review. He organizes the annual “Slamming Bricks” poetry slam competition in honor of the 1969 Stonewall Riots and serves as a board member to Western Colorado Writer’s Form. A SUP river guide, Caleb also dreams of establishing a queer commune with a river otter rescue and falconry. He lives in Grand Junction, Colorado.
This poem is from South Broadway Press’ new anthology,
Dwell: Poems About Home. Purchase here.