DAN GOODWIN

Harvey Milk Finishes his Term of Office

After various Gay poets and people. Inc. but not limited to Harvey Milk, Moisés Kaufman, Bill Hayes, Andrea Gibson, your dad.

 

Harvey Milk, first homosexual in California’s public office, walks
into San Francisco city hall     and cleans               his desk.

Finishing his second term of office early, he leaves, looking at the office door next to his own. Dan White.

A perfectly     kind hearted colleague.

He has spent six years now as city supervisor, choosing halfway through to    'Depart gracefully'. As he puts it, staying longer than the average would be gauche. After all he’s got   'things to do and men to sleep with.' A closing statement in his farewell speech to thousands. The Castro   a sea of rainbow and glitter on skin. He finishes by saying, 'you know   we’ll have to clean this all up later?'

They do.         At the same time

A boy in an Orlando gay bar has the night of his life. The beats of a song on Latin Night only the beats of a song. His chest warms to the feeling of bass that is too loud, heart    rends in this amazon of sweat and shirtless men. Multicolour carnivore eyes glow towards him in the dark corners between beams of green and blue   disco howling  for the raving  animals  calling out each other's names in the distance. Ancient names like 'nice eyes,' 'cute jeans,' and  'Hey … wanna get out of here?'

This boy goes home with a stranger called 'can’t remember'. Rests his cheek against the drenched bark of a tree stump chest, felled and thick bodied with black hair.     4am   so he decides might as well stay up until work. Watches this sleeping giant next to him
and ponders;

        'Isn’t it a wonder             how "hosting" is just a sexy name for home?'

He stares out a window that does not belong to him

And a boy in Wyoming meets his dream man at a bar, tentatively asks if maybe he is gay and the man smiles.      Buys him a drink.       And when they lean against the fence of the prairie at midnight, the only thing they think of is stars and shortgrass.         How Laramie has a way of making everything feel small and yet in their eyes      they see a lifetime unfolding.

​The man goes in for a kiss and the boy grips the fence. Some lost instinct from another time. He catches himself. Says it must just be nerves. The man asks if he would like him to stop. That the most important thing is that this boy feels safe. The boy says I do. Leans in. Lets go.

Harvey Milk retires.                                   And nobody notices.

His friends are all dying of natural causes, but not him.      Not yet.

​Owns a camera shop in The Castro with nudes on the wall. Erotic shots of men in 60s swimwear and Tom of Finland bursting out their jeans. The shop is old.

Polaroids give it away. Local homos confess he is becoming a problematic hippie as politics leaves him behind,   but   'at least he knows it.'  Careful not to outstay his welcome, he says

        'I’m aging, but not old!              A fruit wine! If you will.'

He hits on us and we turn him down. He flirts and says, 'Hey,      gotta have hope.'

We laugh alongside him but he ends each flirtation with the same reminder

        'I still think you are beautiful, kid.'

We all understand he is a gay man growing old. Another old gay man, not relevant anymore, but still. We walk away and look back. We leave and say to each other;

        'He changed the world once.'

        'Remember? He changed the world once.'

 

author photo Dan Goodwin credit to Andi Crown Photography

Dan Goodwin (they/them) is a Scottish-Pākeha performance poet, actor, and writer. In 2016, they completed their Masters of Text and Performance at RADA and Birkbeck, University of London, before returning to Aotearoa. They are the 2021 New Zealand National and Auckland Regional slam Champion. 

Their work focuses on the fusion of poetry and theatre, with a focus on queer identity, mental health, and accessibility in form and content. As a maker they have worked extensively across Aotearoa and the UK. Their performance poetry has been televised through news outlets RE:, Attitude, and TVNZ, and they have performed within the Auckland Pride Gala, Cabaret Festival, London’s Bloomsbury festival, NZ Young Writers Festival, and the Auckland Writers Festival. 

In 2023, they completed their final year of study to become an NZSL interpreter. Their second show Chrome Dome and Schizo was performed to sell out crowds in 2022, and is set for a return season in 2024.  

Dan comments: 'Damn. I shouldn’t have put a joke in the "after" line, huh? 

 '"Queer history is often defined by tragedy." A common adage.  

'Queer artists rebel against it and explore it and embrace it, sometimes. Even when we try to ignore it, we still place ourselves in relation to the idea; defined by tragedy.  

'In a sense it’s one of the big motifs still of being queer; always existing in relation to something you can’t control. Something decided and fulfilled before you even come to know of its existence. Our history, as much as our "self", is inescapable. So how can we accept it? How do we act on it? How do we move forward while holding what’s come before?  

'I need to give thanks to the artists referenced in my after line, who have captured the events referenced in this poem before me in meaningful and important ways; theatre-maker Moisés Kaufman, the photographer and writer Bill Hayes, and the poet Andrea Gibson.  

'Kaufman’s "The Laramie Project" was one of the first texts I encountered as a theatre novice, and the life of Matthew Shepard has stuck with me ever since, in a way I think only "first encounters" can.

The line "beats of a song on Latin Night only the beats of a song" is a direct homage to Gibson’s poem "Orlando", itself a response to the tragedy of Pulse Nightclub, June 12th 2016. This was one of the first poems that made me feel the potential of poetry when spoken in real time, in specific context, as well as the role of the poet in relation to history and how it is remembered. 

'The poem ends in retirement. More importantly, I think, it attempts to slow down. I don’t believe there is a way, currently, not to exist in relation to the statement above, concerning tragedy. But to spend our time oscillating between embracing or rejecting it is exhausting, and to pretend it doesn’t exist through humour is a bad habit. This poem began as an attempt to shift that habit. To embrace sincerity, hope, and joy without pretence. At the end, I try to embrace stillness. To retire should be a soft joy and celebration of life beginning to wrap itself up. Hopefully neatly! And it’s a joy I’d wish for all queer and trans people. We’ll get there. 

'Lastly, it’s important to say, despite using words like "reclamation" and "reimagining"in no way do I wish to diminish the pain of those who have proximity to the events referenced. 

'In "reimagining" we sometimes treat past events as "settled" and "fixed", which can lead to artistic manipulation that disrespects those still entwined with said events. As "global" as these events became, I wish to respect those for whom they will always be personal, and tied to your sense of belonging: to home, to community and to families, not just "queer history". For your loss, I am so sorry.

'To Nex Benedict, and every other trans soul we haven’t worked fast enough or hard enough to save … I’m so sorry. Rest in Power 🏳️‍⚧️'

  

​Poem source details >

 

Links

Dan Goodwin's Instagram page

Overcom website

 

Photographer credit: Andi Crown Photography