queer tier

They took the queers out to shower yesterday. Real fags with bouffant hairdos, earrings, they leer & preen, make you think they’re wearing makeup when they’re not. Terror, fascination, catcalls on the tier. One middleaged black guy railed hysterically.

That was yesterday when the “faggot tier” was a projection of our fears (mine too). Today, they sent me there.

My tier friends smile enigmatically as I wrap my gear in my blankets & head into the sexual fog. A mist of suspicion falls. They don’t think I’m queer, but then why am I being moved? Or, there but for the grace.

O’Shea enters the tier, cigarette dangling from mouth, trying to look like a mix of Jean Paul Belmondo & Humphrey Bogart. The queens ogle.

“Say, sweetie, why’d they send you over here?”

“I don’t know. Must be overcrowded.”

Well,” says Chief Queen, “I know what I like.”

They pout while I’m locked in my double cell. First words from my cellmate, who looks faggy: “I’m not a fag.” I stare at the toilet. O’Shea ain’t about to shit while the queens stand around & watch.


white stripe

The truth as it now appears:

The chief trustee, who has keys to all the cells, is not a queen & I’m not the only straight guy on the tier, in fact the tier is half straight & half queer, divided (dig it!) by a white stripe painted across the tier floor like the 50-yard line, like the chalk line that divided the girls' & boys' playgrounds at my gradeschool. Queers in the rear,  straights up front.

My cellmate claims this is the best tier in jail. “No one bothers you.” My heart stops palpitating, I pissed & no queers gathered round. Feel like a fool.

Still they cast dread. I think, Maybe they’re waiting for me to lower my guard. They know they have this power, know where they stand in our subconscious. I don’t think I know a homosexual outside, they’re invisible to me. I imagine pogroms against them. Every fag here could be killed & no straight would feel worse than relieved. Sexual shadows sharper in jail than on the street.


midnight sounds

Queens shrill across the tier, cell to cell in the dark:

— Oh you naughty boy!

— and all of a sudden that flashlight was on us, & I said “uh oh!” & the man caught me with my head down just as she was coming in me.

Wino drops his throat into a toilet.

Loud fart & a giggle.

The wino slaps his own face hard every 2 or 3 minutes.

Water in a tin cup.

The click of the tin cup set down.

Chunk-boom of bunk metal under shifting weight.

My heart.