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AC Benus

The Desolate

Here's a poem and my translation of it.


El Desdichado

de Gérard Labrunie, ou Gérard de Nerval


Je suis le Ténébreux – le Veuf – l’Inconsolé,
Le Prince d’Aquitaine à la Tour abolie:
Ma seule Etoile est morte – et mon luth constellé
Porte le Soleil noir de la Mélancolie.


Dans la nuit du Tombeau, Toi qui m’as consolé,
Rends-moi le Pausilippe et la mer d’Italie,
La fleur qui plaisait tant à mon coeur désolé,
Et la treille où le Pampre à la Rose s’allie.


Suis-je Amour ou Phébus ?… Lusignan ou Biron?
Mon front est rouge encor du baiser de la Reine;
J’ai rêvé dans la Grotte où nage la sirène….


Et j’ai deux fois vainqueur traversé l’Achéron:
Modulant tour à tour sur la lyre d’Orphée
Les soupirs de la Sainte et les cris de la Fée.



The Desolate

by Gérard Labrunie, aka Gérard de Nerval


I am the tombs – the widower – the unconsoled, 

The prince of Aquitaine in his tower abandoned: 

My one and only star is dead – my strings unfold  

Melancholy's black light whose sun is most weakened.


In the night of the graves, your tears held me controlled, 

So now return Posillipo, Naples' fair wind, 

The flower my afflicted heart liked so much of old,

And the trellis where grape and rose were jointly pinned.


Am I Venus or the Sun...? Brave king or coward?  

My brow is still flushed from the kiss of the sovereign; 

I dream yet of the grotto where swims the siren….


Twice crossing the river of the dead, I scoured

For my turn on Orpheus' lyre to play

For saintly sighs, and the cursed screams of the fey.





Note:  The poem was published in 1853 as part of a series of twelve Sonnets written while the man was incarcerated for mental instability. The title is Spanish means “the desolate”; “the wretched”; “the unfortunate” etc. For some interesting and detailed analysis of the poem and its images, see here: https://everything2.com/title/El+Desdichado



AC Benus

...for a special someone...





… no rights have I to feel a certain way,

… no claim not pleading in pentameter,

… no earthly grip or hope my words will sway,

or trace the scope of their parameter.

Like a lawyer, skirting nine tenths of the law

to avoid thoughts of what I don’t possess,

my sad voice still reaches out to draw

belief in your heart for the love I confess.

… although no claim I have to your control,

… although no rights I assert to your mind,

… although mere trace publicly may extol,

no loud statements can anyone find.

But in my way, I possess you all the same,

And no judge or jury would ever lay blame. 





AC Benus

A Full-Stop


Ode to the caesura.

It brings our thoughts to a stop.

It laps at our minds like a sop.

And halts coloratura. 


     How glad the many millions

     of notions are prevented 

     from finding full expression 

     in the boundless words of the world,

     for then, once spilled on paper,

     how might we ever gather them up again; 

     how might the bottle be re-plugged;

     how might the heart be re-assembled,

     if fancy-free reigned evermore…? 

     So, hurray for the period, 

     our friend, our lifesaver, our 

     paramour saving us from the 

     worst excesses of our best selves. 


Thus hail the caesurae.

You allow the needed rest.

You trump all efforts with the very best.

And cut through the heart of the imperfect ‘I’. 

AC Benus

Gay Song Six – Kissing her brother Paul


Note: for this series of postings, the term 'Gay Song' refers to music written to/for/by or about Gay men or women. A second category also deals with music identified as Gay because it speaks to the heart of the Gay Experience.


So to make this easier, I will call them Gay in the 1st Degree (to/for/by/about), or Gay in the 2nd Degree (like Judy Garland singing Somewhere Over the Rainbow).




This youtube creator has made a really cool video with this Gay in the 1st Degree number. Gender non-conformity was 'in' in the 1920s, and most of that was led by Gay men and women. Artists and performers were big stars on the stage as drag personalities that would rival the best of RuPaul. In fact, George Gershwin's classic Somebody Loves Me was written expressly for a drag queen.



So, what do you think?

AC Benus

Gay Song Five – Bing Crosby goes 'Gay for Pay'


Note: for this series of postings, the term 'Gay Song' refers to music written to/for/by or about Gay men or women. A second category also deals with music identified as Gay because it speaks to the heart of the Gay Experience.


So to make this easier, I will call them Gay in the 1st Degree (to/for/by/about), or Gay in the 2nd Degree (like Judy Garland singing Somewhere Over the Rainbow).




Gay in the 2nd degree is Bing Crosby's gloriously camp Gay Love! Positively dripping with innuendo, the languorous beat (….off beat, really) bobs along like a pair of lovers getting up to some hanky panky on the porch swing (in Ole Argentina!). People in the life back in 1929 knew exactly what this song was about, and that it was marketed to them. Gay money, in case you did not know it, has always been green ;)


As for the use of the word 'gay' in the lyrics, sadly when it comes to matters of LGBT history, homo-deniers have struck again and printed information designed to obscure the origins of our cultural heritage. What is known for sure is that Cary Grant uttered the immortal line: "I just went Gay all of a sudden!" This was in 1938, and Grant adlibbed the line for the film Bringing Up Baby. The image on screen left no doubt as to what he meant (…he was wearing a lady's dressing gown at the time, and did a little leap in the air for emphasis).


Now, how would Mr. Grant know such an insider's term? *clears throat* Cary's long-term partnership with another Hollywood heartthrob, Randolph Scott, was an open 'secret' for decades.[1]


Thank you Gay Love! We owe you a lot.



So, what do you think?






[1] Here, when I say well-documented, I mean well-documented! For Grant and Scott's love, see Full Service by Scotty Bowers (New York 2012), Completely Queer: the Gay and Lesbian Encyclopedia (New York 1998), Queers in History (Dallas 2009), and Vito Russo's classic, The Celluloid Closet (New York 1987). Also see Russo's book for the use of Gay in Bringing Up Baby. For the currency of Gay as a term for same-sex loving people before 1929, see Carter Bealer's first-hand accounts of being out in the Nineteen-teens and Twenties. His witty diary entries show Gay was not such a big deal at the time. Jeb and Dash: a Diary of Gay Life 1918-1945 (Boston 1993).

AC Benus

Gay Song Four – Rolling Stones


Note: for this series of postings, the term 'Gay Song' refers to music written to/for/by or about Gay men or women. A second category also deals with music identified as Gay because it speaks to the heart of the Gay Experience.


So to make this easier, I will call them Gay in the 1st Degree (to/for/by/about), or Gay in the 2nd Degree (like Judy Garland singing Somewhere Over the Rainbow).




"I'm a lonesome schoolboy, and I just came into town" is how Mick Jagger's Gay Song in the 1st Degree begins. What follows is an x-rated, explicit night of cruising in London. Funny lines follow about going to Leicester Square, and then later "leaning on Nelson's Column" while coming on to a young cop.


C*cks*cker Blues appeared in 1970 and was a surprising hit for the Rolling Stones, but that's probably due to the fact that the song is very good. We tend to forget, or are told to ignore, how the end of the hippy age ushered in a new respect for Bisexuality as a cultural element. No place more so than in rock-n-roll were men seeking out love and sex with other guys seen as so cool and desirable.


Mick Jagger's fey mannerisms and effete speaking voice was the perfect camp image of a superstar who 'swung both ways.' His one-time lover, David Bowie, was cast in the same performance mould.


Keith Stern, in his wonderful book, Queers in History,[1] has the following information about Jagger:


"Though his many affairs and marriages with women have attracted more of his (and our) attention, Jagger's longing for same-sex love was not limited to his art. He reportedly conducted affairs with David Bowie, Helmut Berger, and Rudolph Nureyev."



So, what do you think?




[1] 2009 Dallas, p.238

AC Benus

Gay Song Three – love betrayed


Note: for this series of postings, the term 'Gay Song' refers to music written to/for/by or about Gay men or women. A second category also deals with music identified as Gay because it speaks to the heart of the Gay Experience.


So to make this easier, I will call them Gay in the 1st Degree (to/for/by/about), or Gay in the 2nd Degree (like Judy Garland singing Somewhere Over the Rainbow).




Will Young won the first ever Pop Idol television show in Britain – the progenitor of all the other Idol contests around the world, including American Idol – and came out a few years after that. The video for his 2005 song All Time Love tells a story. I suppose one can interpret it differently, but as the woman is apparently jealous of the love between Young's character and the other handsome revolutionary boy, we can imagine she sold the young men out to the cops. If you have other interpretations, I would like to hear them :)


This song is definitely Gay in the 1st degree, as the lyrics, even sans video, speak to the basic longing of same-sex loving individuals to connect with another in a purely honest way. Will Young brings incredible depth to his music, and it seems impossible to imagine the same level of pain would be there if he were not Gay – but, thank God he is!


We love you, Will!



So, what do you think?

AC Benus

Gay Song Two …oh daddy…


Note: for this series of postings, the term 'Gay Song' refers to music written to/for/by or about Gay men or women. A second category also deals with music identified as Gay because it speaks to the heart of the Gay Experience.


So to make this easier, I will call them Gay in the 1st Degree (to/for/by/about), or Gay in the 2nd Degree (like Judy Garland singing Somewhere Over the Rainbow).




Ed Sheeran's phenomenal live performance/recording of "Be My Husband" falls under the heading of Gay Song in the 2nd Degree. He started out singing in clubs and this song became one of his standards, bowling audiences over with his passion and skill. For me, when he sings "Oh Daddy," he captures the heart of longing. Period. Incidentally, homophobia is alive and well, as after the release of this video, the hate-mongers rife among the anonymous names of the blogosphere started calling Ed the f-word. To his credit, he responded to reporters' questions with "love is love."


Thanks, Ed. This is an awesome Gay Song!



So, what do you think?

AC Benus

Gay Song One – quelle tragédie


Note: for this series of postings, the term 'Gay Song' refers to music written to/for/by or about Gay men or women. A second category also deals with music identified as Gay because it speaks to the heart of the Gay Experience.


So to make this easier, I will call them Gay in the 1st Degree (to/for/by/about), or Gay in the 2nd Degree (like Judy Garland singing Somewhere Over the Rainbow).




My first selection is definitely Gay in the 1st Degree! We tend to think that LGBT issues were so taboo, regarded as so 'dark' and 'sinister' by straight-dominated society, that even the mere mention of 'it' would send people running for shelter and the soothing grip of their stolen motel-edition bible.


Not true! The proof…? A little 1948 gem of a novelty song known as Queer Things, by Ruth Wallis. Please listen, and the conclusion is still the best advice today :)



So, what do you think?

AC Benus

Excerpt - Stave Three

"Touch my robe."


Scrooge did as he was told, and held it fast.


Holly, mistletoe, red berries, ivy, turkeys, geese, game, poultry, brawn, meat, pigs, sausages, oysters, pies, puddings, fruit, and punch, all vanished instantly. So did the room, the fire, the ruddy glow, the hour of night, and they stood in the city streets on Christmas morning, where (for the weather was severe) the people made a rough, but brisk and not unpleasant kind of music, in scraping the snow from the pavement in front of their dwellings, and from the tops of their houses, whence it was mad delight to the boys to see it come plumping down into the road below, and splitting into artificial little snow-storms.


The house fronts looked black enough, and the windows blacker, contrasting with the smooth white sheet of snow upon the roofs, and with the dirtier snow upon the ground; which last deposit had been ploughed up in deep furrows by the heavy wheels of carts and wagons; furrows that crossed and recrossed each other hundreds of times where the great streets branched off, and made intricate channels, hard to trace in the thick yellow mud and icy water. The sky was gloomy, and the shortest streets were choked up with a dingy mist, half thawed, half frozen, whose heavier particles descended in shower of sooty atoms, as if all the chimneys in Great Britain had, by one consent, caught fire, and were blazing away to their dear hearts' content. There was nothing very cheerful in the climate or the town, and yet was there an air of cheerfulness abroad that the clearest summer air and brightest summer sun might have endeavoured to diffuse in vain.


For, the people who were shovelling away on the housetops were jovial and full of glee; calling out to one another from the parapets, and now and then exchanging a facetious snowball – better-natured missile far than many a wordy jest – laughing heartily if it went right and not less heartily if it went wrong. The poulterers' shops were still half open, and the fruiterers' were radiant in their glory. There were great, round, pot-bellied baskets of chestnuts, shaped like the waistcoats of jolly old gentlemen, lolling at the doors, and tumbling out into the street in their apoplectic opulence. There were ruddy, brown-faced, broad-girthed Spanish Friars, and winking from their shelves in wanton slyness at the girls as they went by, and glanced demurely at the hung-up mistletoe. There were pears and apples, clustered high in blooming pyramids; there were bunches of grapes, made, in the shopkeepers' benevolence to dangle from conspicuous hooks, that people's mouths might water gratis as they passed; there were piles of filberts, mossy and brown, recalling, in their fragrance, ancient walks among the woods, and pleasant shufflings ankle deep through withered leaves; there were Norfolk Biffin apples, squab and swarthy, setting off the yellow of the oranges and lemons, and, in the great compactness of their juicy persons, urgently entreating and beseeching to be carried home in paper bags and eaten after dinner. The very gold and silver fish, set forth among these choice fruits in a bowl, though members of a dull and stagnant-blooded race, appeared to know that there was something going on; and, to a fish, went gasping round and round their little world in slow and passionless excitement.


The Grocers'! oh the Grocers'! Nearly closed, with perhaps two shutters down, or one; but through those gaps such glimpses. It was not alone that the scales descending on the counter made a merry sound, or that the twine and roller parted company so briskly, or that the canisters were rattled up and down like juggling tricks, or even that the blended scents of tea and coffee were so grateful to the nose, or even that the raisins were so plentiful and rare, the almonds so extremely white, the sticks of cinnamon so long and straight, the other spices so delicious, the candied fruits so caked and spotted with molten sugar as to make the coldest lookers-on feel faint and subsequently bilious. Nor was it that the figs were moist and pulpy, or that the French plums blushed in modest tartness from their highly-decorated boxes, or that everything was good to eat and in its Christmas dress; but the customers were all so hurried and so eager in the hopeful promise of the day, that they tumbled up against each other at the door, clashing their wicker baskets wildly, and left their purchases upon the counter, and came running back to fetch them, and committed hundreds of the like mistakes, in the best humour possible; while the Grocer and his people were so frank and fresh that the polished hearts with which they fastened their aprons behind might have been their own, worn outside for general inspection, and for Christmas daws to peck at if they chose.


But soon the steeples called good people all, to church and chapel, and away they came, flocking through the streets in their best clothes, and with their gayest faces. And at the same time there emerged from scores of bye-streets, lanes, and nameless turnings, innumerable people, carrying their dinners to the bakers' shops. The sight of these poor revellers appeared to interest the Spirit very much, for he stood with Scrooge beside him in a baker's doorway, and taking off the covers as their bearers passed, sprinkled incense on their dinners from his torch. And it was a very uncommon kind of torch, for once or twice when there were angry words between some dinner-carriers who had jostled each other, he shed a few drops of water on them from it, and their good humour was restored directly. For they said, it was a shame to quarrel upon Christmas Day. And so it was. God love it, so it was.


In time the bells ceased, and the bakers were shut up; and yet there was a genial shadowing forth of all these dinners and the progress of their cooking, in the thawed blotch of wet above each baker's oven; where the pavement smoked as if its stones were cooking too.


"Is there a peculiar flavour in what you sprinkle from your torch?" asked Scrooge.


"There is. My own."


"Would it apply to any kind of dinner on this day?" asked Scrooge.


"To any kindly given. To a poor one most."


"Why to a poor one most?" asked Scrooge.


"Because it needs it most."


"Spirit," said Scrooge, after a moment's thought, "I wonder you, of all the beings in the many worlds about us, should desire to cramp these people's opportunities of innocent enjoyment."


"I!" cried the Spirit.


"You would deprive them of their means of dining every seventh day, often the only day on which they can be said to dine at all," said Scrooge. "Wouldn't you?"


"I!" cried the Spirit.


"You seek to close these places on the Seventh Day," said Scrooge. "And it comes to the same thing."


"I seek!" exclaimed the Spirit.


"Forgive me if I am wrong. It has been done in your name, or at least in that of your family," said Scrooge.


"There are some upon this earth of yours," returned the Spirit, "who lay claim to know us, and who do their deeds of passion, pride, ill-will, hatred, envy, bigotry, and selfishness in our name, who are as strange to us and all our kith and kin, as if they had never lived. Remember that, and charge their doings on themselves, not us."

AC Benus

The Amazing and Wonderful Famous-Barr


As I begin posting my series of Christmas short stories and novellas set in this department store, I am struck by how paltry and sad the Wikipedia entry is for this amazing company. In an effort to improve that article, I have created this short summary, which I hope to tweak and eventually add to wiki.


My information comes from first-hand sources, primarily documents made by the company, such as employee newsletters and handbooks, and history books concerning the development of Saint Louis in the 19th century.


Please feel free to leave me any feedback, as I do wish this material to be rock-solid and accurate.






Famous-Barr Overview:


With origins stretching back to 1849, and hundreds of millions of dollars worth of annual sales, Famous-Barr was one of the oldest, largest, and most successful department stores companies in history. It was the flagship enterprise of the multi-national May Company, whose conglomeration of retail, department stores, and shopping malls were headquartered in the same downtown Saint Louis structure as Famous-Barr, The Railway Exchange Building. At the end of the 20th century, The May Company embarked on an aggressive expansion campaign, and by 2006, held more retail assets than their nearest rival, The Federated Department Stores Company. However, in that year, May merged with Federated, and all 30-plus Famous-Barr stores began operating under the 'Macy's' moniker.






  • William P. Barr and Company


William Barr was born in Scotland 1827 and immigrated to the United States as a lad at the age of thirteen. He entered the dry goods business in New York soon thereafter, and quickly rose to management positions. In 1849 he was entrusted by his firm with the capital to open a company in Saint Louis, which he did, and which quickly grew to be a major retailer and wholesaler. Barr's soon achieved financial independence, and through expansion and acquisitions grew to have no rival in the West.


By 1880, the store had annual sales topping $2.5 million and moved into the Julia Building, thereby making it the largest retailer in the world. This impressive granite structure, completed in 1869, covered half a city block, fronted Sixth Street, and offered a basement level perfect for special events and promotions. The store took advantage of that fact, and for the Christmas season of 1880 offered the first-ever department store Santa Claus for children to visit free of charge. Two other stores, one in New York, and one in Connecticut, claim to be the origin of the tradition, but in the 1890's (well after Barr's); the NY store put an Santa actor in their window where no one could visit with him, and the CT store's owner dressed as Santa for a holiday parade, but was again was not stationed in the store for visitors. Barr's originated the concept we know and love.


By about 1900, Barr's occupied the entire block between Sixth and Seventh Streets, and Olive and Locust Streets, roughly 310,000 square feet of showrooms. In addition, they had a powerhouse, warehouse, wholesale division, mail order section, candy kitchen and bakery, plus shipping and receiving in a ten-story facility one block away at Saint Charles and Seventh Street.


  • Famous


Established in 1870 as primarily a men's ready-to-wear haberdasher, the establishment apparently had no memorable name above its door. Company history has it that an early customer arrived one day saying that word of mouth was spreading rapidly in his rural area, and that the store was becoming quite famous in surrounding parts. The name Famous was instantly and officially adopted.


The business grew rapidly, primarily due to the fact that ready-to-wear was a new concept in the 1870s, and Saint Louis firms like Rice, Stix and Company were in the vanguard of making affordable clothing in factory-like settings.


The business grew rapidly, and became recognized as a leader of local civic pride with its entries in the Veiled Prophet Parades. They expanded their lines to full department store status with a move to an impressive structure in 1884, and then again to ever larger quarters in 1890, but still focused primarily on fashionable menswear.


In 1892, tragedy struck. A fire damaged a part of the store's facilities and much of its merchandise. The insurance company paid off the claim, but seized the operations.


This is where another immigrant and successful businessman enters the picture. David May bought Famous in a fire sale for $150,000. He had gone out as a young man from his native Germany to the Colorado gold rush. By the time he arrived, all the good claims were taken, but May looked around and saw the miners were flushed with cash but starved for clothes and other luxuries. He pooled his money and procured goods from wholesales like William P. Barr Company and made a fortune in Leadville.


He opened his own mercantiles in many Colorado towns and cities, but kept his eyes on the big-time. The fire sale of Famous was his 'in' to one of the largest business markets in the United States (STL was the fourth largest city in the country) , and a foothold to compete against commercial giants like Barr's.


May then formed a company to be a conglomeration of his different department store holdings, of which Famous was the new flagship enterprise. He procured a rental facility on Broadway and Morgan Streets, and the new Famous Company opened its doors in September 1892 with a gala event.


May continued to purchase department stores in other cities, and each operated with its original name under the umbrella of The May Company, whose headquarters were established in the same building with Famous.


  • Famous-Barr


In the latter half of 1911, William P. Barr and Company was in disarray. Earlier in the year, the massive store had temporally closed its doors to begin demolition and construction of The Railway Exchange Building. As the upstanding businessman that Mr. Barr was, he retained the entire staff on salary, but made an arguable mistake in not seeking out temporary space to keep Barr's operations going during construction. Cost overruns, particularly due to the enormous building needing to be built atop an ancient sandbar, made the board members nervous. When Mr. Barr passed away, these gentlemen approached David May.


The merger of The Famous Company and William P. Barr and Company occurred in 1911, and was finalized by the start of the new year. An advertisement in February 1912 announced the formation of the new 'Famous and Barr Company.'




Ad announcing the formation of the new company


from February 12, 1912.


The newly merged company continued on with The Railway Exchange project and moved in on September 8th, 1913, making Famous-Barr the largest department store in the world on that day. This beautiful building, clad in ivory-colored terracotta, covers an entire city block, rises 21 stories, and provides nearly 30 acres of floor space, or in excess of 1,300,000 usable square feet.


The structure remained the world's largest commercial building until the 40-story Equitable Building in Manhattan finally managed to offer more floor space in 1915.


Operations thrived, will annual sales topping over $40 million in the early years at a time when the Federal Budget of the United States was $69 million a year and Famous-Barr became a model for progressive business practices, offering employee healthcare, retirement plans, 40-hour workweeks, and equal employment opportunities at a time when most companies did not. The store eventually expanded to provide more than ten full floors of retail space in The Railway Exchange Building, and The May Company's corporate headquarters took up a large portion of the rest of the facility.


Plans were drawn up in 1940 to expand the operations with three satellite stores, but were shelved due to WW2. The expansion occurred after the war, and Famous-Barr was the first department store in the nation to have 'suburban' outlets.


By 2006 and the sale of The May Company to its longtime rival Federated Department Stores, Famous-Barr was pulling in $1.5 billion in annual sales, and had more than 35 locations, many of which have now been shut down by Federated.

AC Benus

The Last Word

The Last Word


sometimes a song says more than a heartbeat,
sometimes a glance through a windshield
shows the longest goodbyes –
but mostly it's the words in our hearts
and the view in our mind that says it best
I love yous
speak the loudest over time.

AC Benus

The Altitude Of Love

The Altitude of Love


maybe it's something more than faith...
beyond mere heartbeats and belief...
maybe this love is an absolute.
I want it to be.


I feel you so near to me all the time
I can see how it's already a conclusion
and not a supposition.
I need it to be.


those are the things I mean
when I say "I love you."

AC Benus

Excerpt Four from Becoming Real:


Hello, all! The book club this month is featuring my collection of coming out stories, Becoming Real. I will be live to chat today, 7 to 9 PM, but for those of you who may not know what to expect from the work, I think I will post a few sample excepts. These are a personal sampling, and just meant to give you the flavor of the seven short stories through the lens of some of my favorite moments.


Please enjoy, and please leave comments if you have any.






From Becoming Real:


Their first time together was quite a dramatic affair.


While somewhere, through the city streets, Josh's mother was driving to pick them up from Billy's grimy apartment building, the two boys found one another. The next day was Thanksgiving, and Billy after a moment's consideration of his own prolonged family strain, had accepted Joshua's holiday offer to spend the long weekend at his house.




"This feels great!" Josh said, excitedly running to the center of the floor. The boys had magically restored the space to wide-open life again. Billy ran out to join him. The pair threw open their arms and began to circle each other, fingertips just barely touching in the center of their own personal radius. Josh laughed: "Excelsior – you know what that means, right?"


"Ever upward!" called back Billy.


"Whitman's got a poem called that; something like:


ho thinks the amplest thoughts?

Who has made hymns fit for the earth?

I have, for I am mad with ecstasy,

And I make joyous hymns for all things.'


The two collapsed to their knees facing and panting towards one another. Their minds still spun in unity, admiring each wall in the netherworld light of the day's finish; the moving air of the late afternoon pushing past them on all sides.




The young men kissed, and passion followed without break. Shirts could not be taken off fast enough, the flesh of chest and abdomen met counterpoint, arms enwrapped arms, exploring muscles; dimensions of biceps, of the hollows of armpits, the curves of chests, the alertness of nipples. Soon hands found ways between jeans and flesh, and sank below waistbands, first to feel the hardness of backs, then lower to the more giving flesh of backsides. Soon came off the shoes in great kicking motions, followed by methodical and slow extractions of the socks by eager lovers. Belts were loosened, pants unclasped, and again, slow and longing hands pulled down the denim from the belovèd's legs. A brief reaffirming by kissing, and Josh slid in between Billy's legs to remove the last bindings.


A tender notion pervaded Josh's senses, for the scent of Billy was something like a musky rose, and it too was inviting and as mystical as any union ever promised. As he kneeled there, Billy stretched out before him. The young man sat up, kissed his chest and drew down Josh's own last scrap of hindering clothes. The shorts freed, the kissing progressed to a higher order and both toppled into the nest to explore, and feel, and be, with each other.




Their jeans slipped on, Billy said hurriedly, "We've got to close the windows."


They went to opposite corners, and still bare of foot and chest, they fought the rejuvenated drapes one by one, closing the line of windows. They met in the center, turning aside a single curtain in its wild motions to find the other standing there, blue-gray and unearthly beautiful in the deepening twilight. Slowly they joined; hands first, left then right, fingers laced through familiar yet different counterparts. They came together, the hug of bare chests making a sensual sound; hands freed, wrapped around shoulders. Together they stepped in a slow dance beat, swaying from side to side, bare foot occasionally brushing bare foot. Joshua couldn't stand it anymore. Though through his own pounding heartbeat he couldn't be sure Billy heard what he hadn't told anyone since Annette; "I love you" seemed to escape his lips into the side of Billy's strong neck.




In a typical suburban house, the corridor plays the most important function in imposing and maintaining the concept of togetherness. It is here that one family member is most likely to run into another family member when one is needed: this is where mother and sister run out, backs unzipped, seeking a helping hand.


It was here that Joshua had bumped into his mother and quickly asked if he could have a friend stay over Thanksgiving weekend. She agreed, hurrying off into the bathroom. At that time, just for a moment, Josh looked at her fleeting figure, wanting to tell her he was Gay. The idea scared him, not the saying of it, that held its own fear, but he was amazed and frightened that the notion had come to him so casually and sincerely. Standing in the corridor, he realized why; another piece of himself had congealed. He thought of Billy, knowing he was the cause. Some greater piece of him wanted to live out in the bright light of the truth, beyond the price of admittance to the self through denial of other kinds of love. At that moment he thought of his mother not as the person he had hated for years, only because he hated himself, silent with his 'vile secret,' but as he now began to love himself through Billy, he saw her in a new light of love too.

AC Benus

Excerpt Three from Becoming Real:


Hello, all! The book club this month is featuring my collection of coming out stories, Becoming Real. I will be live to chat on the 31st, but for those of you who may not know what to expect from the work, I think I will post a few sample excepts. These are a personal sampling, and just meant to give you the flavor of the seven short stories through the lens of some of my favorite moments.


Please enjoy, and please leave comments if you have any.






From The Willmore Pizza:


Nick smiled. "Oh Yeah?"


The bartender shot a flustered hand, standing upright. "What, are you jokin', he's Hot for you Honey – and look at him!" He made a falsely high kind of grunt. "He's gorgeous!"


Nick glanced over to where the shaven man had looked and saw a pair of eyes look away from him. Feigning apathy, Nick said with pursed lips, "Yeah, not bad."


"Well Honey…" the man's hands gripped his hips "…if he looked at me like that, I can tell you, I wouldn't – " the bartender paused, a shadow moved over his bright countenance. "Who am I foolin'? He'd never look at me the way he does you." Then earnestly added, "So, go get him, Tiger!"


Nick laughed, and the entire second-floor bar heard him, for he had a big laugh. "OK, mom. I'll see what I can do to get you a son-in-law." He laughed again, and infectiously, people turned their heads to catch a sight of the mouth that made it.




"You know," Nick went on in a new light, a happier one. "You're really different from the boys I usually have to talk to around here."


Josh said, "I know, I've heard that before, and somehow I think people tell me things they'd never tell another person."


"That's not exactly what I mean. I mean, most guys say…" he mimicked a dimwitted caveman, with a lisp "…Dah…Let's fuck!"


Josh chuckled. He looked into the popcorn bowl, at the kernel he had been holding for the last few minutes, stymied to set it down, or to do something with it. It seemed so far away, yet so near.


Nick reached out to place his large hand around Josh's forearm as it rested on the table. He so wished Josh would speak to him; say something real, just one real goddamn real thing to him. He whispered: "What's up?"


Josh took the hand resting on his arm, and pulled Nick halfway across the table. With his other hand he tugged on the leather-clad shoulder and bent Nick's ear to his lips. Josh spoke as if to himself, "God, you're so beautiful – can we just get out of here?"




The glass-fronted pizza shop on Hampton Avenue was pick-up/delivery only; no tables. The whole operation was open to the street via continuous, floor-to-ceiling, side-to-side windows. On their side, the sidewalk; on the other were the ovens, kitchen, counter and waiting area. As Nick opened the door with a broad smile, and a grand hand gesture, he caught sight of Josh's eyes scanning the several teenage boys in the waiting area. Nick puzzled a moment why their presence seemed to instantly put his companion on guard.


Inside the shop, Nick rubbed his hands together and surveyed the surroundings and the five boys who eyed him and Josh with hostile apathy. Some were sitting, a couple leaning; all the conversation stopped the moment they saw Josh. One boy, a bit more suave than his buddies, leaned against the wall with a foot propped behind his back. He had long dark hair, half hidden by a knit cap on his head, dark soul-searching eyes, and a puckered mouth that made little indiscreet noises as he shifted a plastic straw from side to side. Nick could instantly tell, the other boys looked up to this one. In some way he was the leader, and the example to their image of how a seventeen-year-old sophisticate should model himself. 'Yes,' Nick thought to himself 'a teenage idol, ripe for the picking.' He smiled and nodded at the leader, who shifted his straw and nodded back, much to the surprise of the other boys.




"We're going to eat in a park?"


"Yeah, why not? It's nice there. They've got a lake or pond or whatever, and nobody goes there this time of night. And, they've got ducks."


Willmore Park is a little over a hundred acres, spreading itself along a curving riverbank, and topographically diverse. A hollow meanders along its eastern side housing a lake. Across the narrow part of the lake is a modernist footbridge in a low concrete arch and stylish handrails. Rising to the west of the water is a hill crowned with a red-roofed picnic pavilion. Here barbeque grills await the ever-elusive perfect summer's day.




Suddenly Nick's hands came around under Josh's shit to his chest. He pushed him back. Josh blinked. The droopy eyes before him had never seemed as lovely, the lips that Nick licked, so appealing. Nick's visage grew oddly determined. He looked to the right, then to the left. Holding Josh's gaze, his hands reached down to Josh's fly. As soon as he grabbed onto the zipper, Josh stepped back, out of his reach. Josh tried to control his voice. "No. Not here…"


Nick looked stricken, like he'd made some unforgivable mistake. His surprise raised his brows into questions marks, then returned them to relax into sadness. Nick threw his arms over Josh's shoulders, and he felt Josh hold on to him.


Onto Josh's neck, Nick's breaths became choppy. Josh heard and felt the heavy voice come from the face he could not watch, "Oh God, I'll never see you again in my life…"


Josh pushed on Nick's chest so he could see him. "What made you say that?"


Nick sighed, a lighter look fell over him, the ends of his mouth flickered. "You're so beautiful – you don’t even know…"


"It's OK." Josh took him in his arms again; rocked him. "We have all the time in the world."




From In Six Hours:


Josh sat in the poolroom on the second floor of Blossom's. It was cracking on eleven, and most people had wandered down to the dance floor, or to other clubs. There were about eight guys left in this room with the four pool tables, but only the second table from him had a game on. There was something about the average-built guy with the light hair that worried Josh. It was an odd feeling, one he'd never had before, but it was almost uncontrollably strong. He felt he knew this guy. Not like they'd shaken hands at some point in time, but like he knew the man's deepest secrets; like he had lived a life with him. He shook his head: 'nonsense,' he thought, and stuck his hand in the popcorn bowl.




Sam pursed his lips, his fair hair shaking in the light from the streetlight outside. "I'd probably remember…" he stood up "…join us, if you want," he said, and walked away.


Joshua watching his retreating form, thought he was watching a corpse slip below the waves. Such felt the goodbye to one he had barely ever met. He thought he should go, not that home had any appeal to him, but he needed to get away from everything real for a while, and forget, maybe especially forget that he was 'gay.'


At the pool table, Billy made a couple of easy balls seem pained, missing a third as he examined the near tear-filled eyes of Josh, so close and seemingly so far way. He sank the cue ball.


Billy slunk back onto the stool across the narrow table. "Why do you like him so much?"


Josh thought he was going to cry, but he sighed instead. "I have no idea. In one word: connection."


Billy's grew suspicious, scanning Josh's features, but he saw only sincerity there. "Yes, he's very handsome."


"Handsome, yes, but if he looked like Donald Duck, I'd still feel the same way – I'm sorry! I don’t know what I'm saying…"


"Sounds like the truth to me."


"Yeah. It's the truth."




Sitting again, and Sam up for the second round, Josh continued with his last question for Billy. "Are you out to your parents?"


"I told them when I was seventeen."


"What happened?"


Billy smiled inanely. "They threw me out. Out of their house, and told me to do whatever I wanted as long as it wasn't near them." Billy drew in a sigh and tried to laugh it out. "I can still see it. There I was standing in the front yard. All the lights were on in the house and I watched my mom stomp from room to room, cursing at the top of her lungs. Then she went to my room, slammed my window open so she could throw my stuff out into the yard. And there I was trying to catch the incoming, pulling my clothes out of the dirt and praying she'd throw a suitcase, all the while, I was the one worrying what the neighbors would think. Fuckin' messed up." Billy shook his head from side to side. "My whole life had just ended, because I finally got the guts, for once in my life, to be honest, and the only thing I could think about was what other people thought."


'One step up,' Josh thought. 'Two steps down.'




Not many cemeteries are located on the top of a hill, but Josh knew of one. The ancient cut of the river gouged out the soft sandstone into tremendous bluffs that once served as the riverbanks carrying the melted Ice Age to the sea. At certain vantages, vistas cleared of trees opened up and looked down on the endless lights of city and suburbs. On nights like this with a new moon, the sky, and the dark landscape below the level of the ground, competed for the fairest show of sparkle and wonder. Josh's car was like a brooding lifeboat all alone on the South Pacific; the sky reflecting the water, the water the sky, and in the mode of conveyance the lowly survivors watched helplessly, and were not quite sure which way was truly up – the abyss above, or the one below.


Billy and Josh lay on top of a mover's blanket spread over the hood and windshield of Josh's car. Joshua had known about this quietly spectacular spot in the County since his high school friend had showed it to him a few years ago. The car was parked at the edge of the old iron gate protecting the blessèd precinct, and by getting on the hood, they could see over all the tombstones, which with the light coming from behind, looked like murky voids. The city lights stretched to the horizon away from their wheeled lifeboat on three open sides. This late in the night, the Milky Way arced rakishly across the western end of the sky and slowly threatened to retreat, lest the sun get a chance to melt it off from the east. The air was warm, and a gentle stillness pervaded where insect song had recently ripped it into incessant rhythm. Now, only the soft conversation of the young men lilted over the nightscape.

AC Benus

Excerpt Two from Becoming Real:


Hello, all! The book club this month is featuring my collection of coming out stories, Becoming Real. I will be live to chat on the 31st, but for those of you who may not know what to expect from the work, I think I will post a few sample excepts. These are a personal sampling, and just meant to give you the flavor of the seven short stories through the lens of some of my favorite moments.


Please enjoy, and please leave comments if you have any.






From The Old Man:


Joshua had awoken nauseous and lightheaded. Then as now, he wondered what exactly the last line meant. As if he were coming out of the dream for the first time, Josh's eyes wandered around the room he was in. The first thing he saw was the black guy coming on to him, then that dancers had arrived and the place was much busier than before. He casually looked over to where the white shirt was sitting, then his heart sank. He watched that ashen-haired boy smile and joke with a man who had sat down with him. So he watched the dancers dance and pondered 'If you want to live, Jump!'




"I just wanted to see if I wanted to talk to you or not. Anyway, why did you want to talk to me in the first place?"


Dick felt a pang of hesitation. Would honesty do, and yet somehow that doubt wavered in the lipid blues that Josh beat on him. "I thought – because, you look different."


"Different?" Josh wanted to know, "Like how?"


"I don't know. Just, you always look like you're thinking, and…" he paused again, not knowing how he'd sound "…I don't know, you look sweet."


Josh didn't know it consciously, but he bit his lip. He liked the always thinking part of the compliment, but the felt uneasy about the 'sweet' stuff.




Josh noticed that various pieces of tourist-trade art – like majolica plates – were carefully arranged here and there. To his immediate right was a hall, at the end of which stood the open door of the bathroom. Between him and where the hall started, a bookcase seemed singled out for special honors. Hands in his pockets, he bent at the hips and scanned the titles: the far left started with King Henry VI, Part One; in the middle, Much Ado About Nothing, and to the far right, King Henry the VIII. He stepped back, righted himself and saw that on the shelf below was a small bust of the author of the above.


Joshua turned to Dick, smiling. "And there he is now, the Old Man of Words himself" He pointed to Shakespeare.




Every part of Josh's brain longed for itself to shut down, and for Dick's hand to simply take hold of him. He was so tired in his mind, and needed rest in the physicality of his body. But Dick did not take his hand, and this moment so long waited for seemed to stretch out of reach into limbo, forever before his grasp. He turned to Dick, his voice a hushed pleading, "Do you think I'm handsome?"


From The Chary of the Heart:


He glanced over to the tables again, but quickly turned around because the guy with the mustache had already come down and was making his way through the crowd.


Josh thought, 'I'm not in the mood for this.' He watched the dance floor, wondering where that guy was headed. 'Probably to the rest room,' he hoped. Joshua tried to glance around casually. He turned an inch to his left and saw the guy standing there. Mr. Mustache leaned in a bit, his eyes inviting reassurance as he said, "Don’t you ever smile?"


Josh's face went blank, he could say nothing but: "Why?"


The guy leaned in closer, assuming greater secrecy. "Because, it's so pretty."


Now Josh could do nothing but grin like a fool, it sounded so silly, like something a villain would say in a 1940s movie to the good-girl seductress, but one look at the arching mustache, the sincere mood of the man's eyes, and he knew the corny comment was rooted in genuine feeling.


"And how…" Josh needed to find out "…would you know, if I never smile?"


"I didn't say you never smiled. But, you seem to smile only to your own thoughts. How about one for the rest of us?"


Locked in his stupid grin, Josh momentarily thought he'd begin to bawl like a baby, instead he stammered out, "And, what can I say to that?"


"Oh, I've seen you smile, I just want you to do it more often, and maybe, I can help."




"Chase? Oh, he's a cop, and one hell of a nice kid."


"And he's Gay?"


"Of course, at least as far as I know. He could be bi – but nah – I don't think so."


"How about you?" Josh saw the opportunity to ask without pressing.


"Me? Oh, I'm Gay, that's for sure, but I'm kind of an exceptional case. You know, everyone's path is different, and with me, I didn't realize I was Gay until late. All my life I had some feelings for guys, I never wanted to leave their company, liked looking at handsome guys, being with them and stuff, but I didn't feel much in terms of wanting to be physical with any of them. As for the rest of the feelings, I didn't pay much attention to them. I know it sounds strange – and all my friends ask about it – but it wasn't repression, cause the urge wasn't there to have sex with another guy, but then again, I didn't feel that urge towards women either. Sex with them was just like jacking off, a means to an end. But that all changed." Doug's mouth grinned all teeth and suggestion, like a lewd Cheshire Cat. "You want to hear this?"


"Of course I do – Yeah!"




Their tongues said hello, and soon Doug's big and commanding hand led Josh's into the bedroom, and onto the bed. They kissed, hands exploring one another, and Josh found out Doug's earlier boast was no exaggeration at all. He felt the dick grow hard in his hand, and harder between his lips. He heard Doug groan with pleasure and felt content. Giving pleasure, this is what Josh learned then and there gave him the most satisfaction. A happy lover meant a happy Josh. Later, after they discussed it in hushed tones, he watched Doug slip a light blue condom on and anoint it with lube. More lube went on Doug's fingers and Josh felt the tender preparation that Doug must always do for his lovers, or else they couldn't take him. Slowly, pressing, then releasing, Joshua felt that most intimate of touches for the first time in his life. In the position where Doug could lean over and press his eager mouth to Josh's, Joshua's eyes began to water, and soon Doug spooned the happy tears up with his tongue. But Doug wasn't done with him yet. He flipped Josh over and pressed his legs flat together on the bed and fucked him over and over again, so much so to Josh's delight, he thought the headboard would break through the wall. He momentarily thought about the neighbors on the other side.

AC Benus

Excerpt One from Becoming Real:


Hello, all! The book club this month is featuring my collection of coming out stories, Becoming Real. I will be live to chat on the 31st, but for those of you who may not know what to expect from the work, I think I will post a few sample excerpts. These are a personal sampling, and just meant to give you the flavor of the seven short stories through the lens of some of my favorite moments.


Please enjoy, and please leave comments if you have any.






From In the Cards:


She landed hard against the floor. One hand held backwards in desperate shield against the unseen, got caught and snapped beneath the ensuing force of her body. What pain there was, she didn't feel, for all her focus stayed on Jim. The punch that sent her down, shocked her, but not enough that she'd be off guard again, in case the man came after her while she was on the floor.




Her side of the room was decorated with muscle men smiling slyly from their tight jeans. They be-muscled greeting cards, posters and a special pop-up calendar, complete with red-letter days.


May's side in comparison, had fields of horses in flight, chaise lounges over-spilling kittens and puppies, while her calendar had scenes of Pegasus through the ages of artistic expression. This month featured a perfectly blue sky with a winged horse, down to a daisy clenched in its teeth.




"Where's Margaret tonight?" he asked.


"With Jim, of course," asserted May, joining them in the cozy space she had so lovingly built.


"Is she still seeing him?" he asked. "How many children does he have now – "


Helen interrupted. "You mean by his wife, or all together?" She shook her head. "You have to be more specific."


"Let's just say, the ones he knows about."


"OK guys." May was trying to restore her sister's honor. "He has two baby girls."


"So why didn't they spend the night here? She could have kicked you out," Helen asked. "And you stay with me, like the other times."


May said, "He doesn’t like the dorms." Her tone suddenly turned into a whisper: "I think it makes him feel stupid." Her voice returned to normal. "And, yesterday was Meg's payday, so they decided to splurge and go out to a motel."


Josh quipped. "Oh, Le Motel-Six, so très elegant!" The terrible parody of a French accent lingered in the air like garlic on the breath.


May pushed herself up, saying, "So let's get to the cards!"




"Did Jim do that?"


Margaret quavered between being offended at the intrusion, and relief that someone cared.


"It's over with him."


Josh inhaled involuntarily. He felt sad for her, because he had heard that before. His eyes flickered guiltily up to the beefcake smiling from Meg's wall behind her. He looked away, at the floor, but then suddenly he raised his head with pursed lips and looked his full.


Margaret now focused on the odd kid before her. He was haggard. Bags had formed under his eyes overnight. He seemed exhausted and like he had given up. This odd boy was so different from the run-of-the-mill guys in her life. For one thing, Josh never tried to hurt; any slight he gave was accidental. She had that 'old feeling' about him again. Something within her, maybe a long malnourished motherly instinct, wanted to reach out to him, but wiser wisdom knows all things happen in their own time. She couldn't force him, no one could.


She said, "You don't look so hot yourself."


"I've been thinking about what you said last night. I couldn't sleep, and you know what, I think it cleared out my thinking. You know what I mean?"


Meg really wanted to get up and sit by his side. She resisted and shook her head. "No."


"I'm so damn tired and exhausted and frustrated, that I just can't help but think straight. In a weird way, it's helped me relax." He folded the bills in his fingers over and over. "And I was thinking about you too; you and Jim. Then I realized we're in the same boat, you and I. You think you can't do any better than him, and hold on to something that's going to hurt you, and I'm looking at being alone the rest of my life, and think – I can't do any anything about it…" He looked her straight in the eye. "But we can."




From The Meeting in the Park:


Josh blinked, too uncomfortable to maintain eye contact. He could see the overall effect of Gary's face now full on. He was beautiful, in the way a lost child is. "Beautiful night." Josh was dumbfounded at himself the instant he said this, remembering he had already used this banality.


Gary really grinned now, his hands striking an akimbo pose as he sarcastically let out: "Yeah. Not too hot at all…"


"Yeah, I hate it when it's too hot."


Gary was astounded. "You mean, this is not too hot for you?"


Josh blinked. What did he say? What should he say? "Yeah – sorry, I hate the heat. I really hate it."




Gary peeled away and did a one-eighty in the road. They sped south a little way, then Gary slowed down.
A couple of cars with a congregation of young guys standing by was parked on Josh's side. Gary leaned across him and yelled out the window, "Where you going, girls?!?" The people on the street made broad grins at Josh, pursed lips at Gary. Then a chorus of differing answers made Gary shake his hand at them and say, "We'll be Diagonal's, if anybody cares…Tah!" and he drove away.


Josh had to ask, knowing he'd sound the twat, but: "Were any of them girls?"


"You are a babe in the woods! No, none of them were girls. That's just what you call your posse, your crew, your – your club buddies, the kind you're not going to sleep with. Get it?"


"Got it."




Josh looked around. He found a pen. There was a small notepad. He swallowed hard, uncapped the pen and paused. What was he doing? What was he going to write to Gary he couldn't say here and now? The thought of how to express so much content in a way that seemed to say nothing, stymied him. Josh wrote with shaky hand: 'Joshua (in your car at ATM) 314-555-8753. Call me, and Thanks.' He put the pen cap on, dropped it. Ripped the paper off and folded it once.


The car door flew open. Gary plopped in, all legs and smiles. "Let's go!"




"Shelia. Right – I've got to drill it in. I'm so bad with names."


The dance music abruptly ended. A new song started in a clear break with the dance beat. A twang of country guitar made the crowd cheer in wild enthusiasm. Lines coalesced on the parquet, perfect rows with everyone placing hands on hips. A line dance; people loving it, move by move, a head bob forward, a hip swivel right, a joyful handclap out in front.


Shelia insisted: "Don't you want to dance?!"


"I can't, do that."


Shelia let it drop. "You over eighteen?"




"You're older than Gary. Hard to believe."


"Yeah. Hard for me to believe too. He's…it's like he's lived a life already, and I've just been born."


"Let me give you my phone number. Anytime you want to talk…"


"Do you come here every weekend?"


"Yeah, honey. We can meet up here – though, I do like to go some places where I have a remote chance of meeting Mr. Right, at least one who'd look my way."


"Does Gary have a boyfriend?"


"Whoa, honey. Let me be honest with your virgin heart right now, and be straight up – forgive the pun – but you're not Gary's type. He's into older men, the 'daddy complex,' you know. You got a type, sweetie?"


Josh wanted to shake his head.


He stopped himself, and said, "Yeah, Gary."




Gary handed Josh a small piece of paper with Diagonal's logo, a printed line of numbers below, and the word 'Gary.'


Joshua kept looking at it as he asked, "And that higher power you live your life according to?"
Finally, he blinked towards Gary.


"I think you already know." Gary stood. He leaned himself so close to Josh that his bare leg touched Josh's jeans. He slowly leaned in. An image burned in Joshua's brain – on the Sistine Chapel ceiling, no matter if you were inches from it, or taking the perspective of a piece of dust on the floor, when you viewed it, the hand of God never really touches the lifelessly gripping reach of Adam. That infinitely small space, the place where the divine lives, is like two guys kissing. So longed for, so meaningful and beautiful, so much the spark of life, but never completed; always a potential of Love in the generation of a physical act. Where the lips meet, Love seems possible, and with it, life.


Gary pulled the short sleeve of Josh down to him, and for the second time in the evening, Josh thought Gary was going to kiss him, but at last he felt Gary's soft lips near his ear. He whispered: "Don't worry, you're gonna be OK."

AC Benus

For 'him'

Might jaded be the cruelest of concepts,

The one that will allow no sleep at night,

The tormentor with its holy precepts

That only might possesses what is right?

How many are the fucking sad moments

When doubt intrudes on dreams with its moaning,

To tick like a clock with its arguments

That nothing's ever come from my groaning.

How to pray for relief when even faith

Allows no creed to say I'm good enough;

How to foster hope when my mind's a wraith –

Ghostly concepts smooth as a voice that's gruff.

No answers come to me, and so it is –

No torment can relieve, when all is his.
AC Benus

Rhyming is Fundamental


I'm no great Rhymin' Simon, and make lots of 'mistakes' that would cause academics to wag boney fingers at my poetry night and day, but I do know something about the basics. I thought I'd share some information and thoughts on how you can be more comfortable making your own rhymes.


I'm not going to present these ideas in a 'right or wrong' method. Rules exist to be broken, but artistry means you know what you are breaking and do it deliberately.


No, what I want to give you are some guidelines and explain the concept of 'a natural' rhyme, that is a rhyme which sounds comfortable to the ear. 'Forced' rhymes can have a place too, but there is a difference, and should be used when dissonance is required in a poem, or when the sounds are close enough that they can slide by unnoticed.


The Basics:


Types of Natural Rhymes –


1) Perfect Rhyme:


So, first question to ask is, where inside of the word do I start the rhyme? The answer is, on a vowel sound.


Perfect rhymes use both the same vowel sounds AND the same number of syllables. For example: bring, sing, ding, fling, Ming, etc. all start the rhyme on the "ing" sound, and all have only one syllable.


That's easy enough when you have only one vowel to worry about, but the same form can hold true for any number of sounds within the word, as long as the rhyming starts on the same vowel sound every time. Thus: marrying, tarrying, burying, carrying, etc. are all perfect rhymes because the rhyming starts with the "ary" sound, not the "ing." Get it?


It's considered bad form to try and rhyme bring with marrying.


2) Near-perfect rhymes:


These are word combinations where the natural accent on the vowel sound makes them 'perfect,' except the two words have differing syllable counts. This type of rhyme is arguably the most useful for building depth and complexity to one's poem or lyrics, but the combination must sound easy to the ear. Put another way, the two words selected must sound like a natural pairing to be considered like they belong together. Oh course, this is an subjective matter of taste. The following are some combinations from one well-known poet as he actually published them.


Examples: roses, discloses; year, appear; mind, behind; here, uprear; other, smother; slide, abide; there, forebear (a random selection from Shakespeare's Sonnets)


Types of Forced Rhymes –


1) Eye Rhymes:


These are rhymes on paper only, but as long as these stay simple, and keep to the same number of syllables, then they can 'look' all right in your poem, but naturally loose effect if read out loud. You will find many examples of these in the generations of poets that include Marlowe, Shakespeare and Ben. Jonson. It is often argued that words like prove really did rhyme with love in their day, but that's still not certain.


Examples: love, prove; aid, said; earth, hearth; wind, mind; etc.


2) Near-Rhymes:


In the opposite way of Eye Rhymes, these can 'sound' all right out loud, but lose effect when seen printed on the page.


Examples: Shuttle, scuttled;


3) Consonant Rhymes:


Striven and seven are examples of consonant rhymes, for although the 'natural rhyme' wants to rhyme starting with the first vowel of the word, they do not match. The second beat of both words is the comfortable place for the stress, and can form a consonant rhyme: stri-VEN, se-VEN. There are lots of words that can be rhymed in this manner, but it's important to always rhyme at the place in the word where the natural stress is going to occur. Thus, English and ticklish (en-GleSH and TICK-lish) are not quite there.




A Final Word on 'bad form' –


1) Same Word Rhymes:


Generally considered undesirable are ends of lines rhymed with a repeat of the same word, or even parts of the same word. Thus, some sticklers would not rhyme: come with become; gloved with begloved; round with merry-go-round; etc.


The next point is along the same line of thought.


2) Homonyms:


As poetry is sound based, words that are phonetically the same but spelled differently are also considered undesirable rhymes. So avoid word pairs like: queue, cue; so, sew; bear, bare; and so forth.




This is a very basic overview, so if you have more information to share, I invite you to post it in the comment section.

AC Benus

answers to a quiz

I posted a little quiz in a status update. Here are the answers, and thanks for looking.



Original question: A little game – can you name two of the ways in which W. S. Gilbert (as in Gilbert and Sullivan fame) changed and contributed to everyday English? One is a two-word expression he coined, and the other has a definite Gay connection!



Answer one: Two word expression = "hardly ever." It all has to do with seasickness. In H.M.S. Pinafore, the chorus of sailors takes umbrage at the captain's assertion that he never gets it.



And I'm never, never sick at sea.



What, never?



No, never!



What? Never..?



Well, hardly ever.



He's hardly ever sick at sea!

Then, give three cheers

And one cheer more

For the hearty captain of the Pinafore!



That expression, and way of thinking, where we quantify 'never' into 'hardly ever' did not exist until Gilbert and Sullivan had a huge hit with this operetta. Now it's part of our everyday speech.



Answer two: Gay connection = "queer." The slag use of queer to mean Gay person is all on Gilbert's shoulders. None of the dictionaries before about 1900 have any Gay connection to the word at all – mostly it was slag for counterfeit money, or a generally offbeat person.[1]


But Gilbert used this adjective to do a send up of Oscar Wilde on stage. In 1885 everyone knew the up-and-coming poet and his advocacy of 'art for art's sake;' many joked, but few actually knew he was Gay. Gilbert had his Wilde-based character, "Bunthorne (a fleshy poet)," sing this on stage:



Then a sentimental passion of a vegetable fashion

must excite your languid spleen,

An attachment a la Plato for a bashful young potato,

or a not-too-French French bean!

Though the Philistines may jostle, you will rank as an apostle

In the high aesthetic band,

If you walk down Piccadilly with a poppy or a lily

in your medieval hand.


And ev'ryone will say,

As you walk your flow'ry way,

"If he's content with a vegetable love

which would certainly not suit me,

Why, what a most particularly queer young man

this queer young man must be!"



This show was another huge hit, and soon playing in every corner of the English-speaking world. Seven years later when Wilde was imprisoned for being Gay, 'queer' was intimately associated with him, and by projection, with all Gay people. The lyrics were altered by Gilbert after that life-ruing scandal, and productions were forced to use 'pure young man' if they wished for permission to stage the work. After WWI, slag dictionaries began to list the word as a derogatory term for same-sex-loving people, and it was all due to Gilbert.








[1] See the awesome slang guide The Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, from 1823: http://books.google.com.au/books?id=bJc-AAAAYAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=snippet&q=queer&f=false

AC Benus

Some Classic Tanka

Some translations from the Hyakku-nin Isshu,
or The Issue of a Hundred People




51 by Fujiwara no Sanekata


Why so strongly red,
As if I could tell of them
That sad mogusa[1]
Retains their own way of pain
And like love, must endure it.




52 by Fujiwara no Michi-Nobu


If the morning breaks,
The coming things are all there,
Whitened by their length
And all by the look of things,
Is nothing but morning light.




53 by Udaisho Michi-Tsuna no Hana


Little by little
The longer I stay alone,
Empty space becomes
Weary, and like me, wary
Of changing the things I know.




54 by Taka


Easy terminuses are
Perhaps just the way
That today is appearing;
Life's winding down to an end.




55 by Kintoh[2]


This waterfall's sound
Stands falling in my memory;
Its respiration,
Heard so long away from here,
Now in my hearing trickles.




56 by Izumi Shikibu[3]


From life's end I see
This world's way has another
Way of thinking in;
The people of now in time
Will have chance to meet again.




57 by Murasaki Shikibu[4]


There in moonlight-met
Was but a sight of that friend;
From my unknown space
The clouds obscured more than sky
As she moved just like the moon.




58 by Daini no Sammi


Under the mountain
On the wild moor where we met
The wind batters me
To look for what can be found,
And to think of you no more.




59 by Akazome Emon[5]


Easy slides the wait
As all the restless things here
Lie in bed with me,
Perhaps till the moon's setting
Will show me my moon once more.




63 by Michimasa


Now is but only
When death is the thought of you,
The many whispers –
If no one blocked our meeting –
That I would place in your ear.














[1] Mogusa = the herb mugwort. Also by extension the dried and caked mugwort pellets or sticks burned on the skin as medicine. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moxibustion


[2] The original is so charming, as the words sound like moving water:


Taki no oto wa
Taeta hisashiku
Na koso nagarete
Noa kikoe kere.


[3] This is a deathbed poem, and it is has always been illustrated to show that the beloved is another woman kneeling by her side.


[4] The writer's penname means 'Lady Purple,' and she is the same author of the great epic novel Genji Monogatari (The Tales of Genji). The nature of the attraction mentioned here is from the poet to another woman.


[5] The image is of a lady waiting alone in bed all night for her lover to come to her. When that person does, it will be as beautiful as the moon rising a second time.

AC Benus

This dawn I let me sleep my full

And found a dream reward –

A place within the living day

Where recall too can breathe.


Two boys came together once more

And though I've not seen them

For many years, still to my eye

They had not changed at all.


One hand into the other slipped

And off they went to be

Sequestered safe within their love

As if no time had passed.


How wonderful to dream like this

And present meld with past –

That wakes and carries what I've seen

Diffuse in me all day.






Note: This is the full version of a poem I wrote in response to Poetry Prompt 3. As you can see, I failed at the task because only two stanza were requested. In any event, I thought I should post the entire thing, and also provide a copy of a status update I made a few days recording that this was a real dream (you can click on the link to see all the wonderful responses). Thank you for reading.


Nov 03 2014 09:42 AM I let myself sleep in this morning, and had the most wonderful dream. I dreamt about the two real boys who inspired Ryan McKay and Jerry. We were alone in a classroom, and the boys came together for a reunion. Ryan took Jerry's hand and led him off to sit together with his love. It was so wonderful to see the boys again exactly as I remember them…why do dreams often feel so real..?

AC Benus

Ok, here's my own attempt at the challenge:



This dawn I let me sleep my full

And found a dream reward –

A place within the living day

Where recall too can breathe.


How wonderful to dream like this

And present meld with past –

That wakes and carries what I've seen

Diffuse in me all day.

AC Benus

Here's my own attempt, as I rarely write Haiku



Nature Haiku:


A poppy amongst

The bushes of rose, will bow

When a chill winds blows.




Urban Haiku:


Shy dog and hydrant

Stand off 'neath the noonday sky –

Which one will get wet?


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