Wednesday, May 20, 2009

James Kirkup 23 April 1918 – 10 May 2009

Damn the culture ministry

My lover from Asakusa, a blooming boy,

He who adorned his amber body
With a swirling tattoo
Of the goddess Kwannon surrounded
By ferns, wildflowers, flags
And had a capering carp
Illuminating each vigorous buttock —

He whose suit of ink,
Blue and black and dogrose pink,
Was the one garment
I could not divest him of —
When he pulled back
His periwinkled foreskin, he discovered,
Always with a broken smile,
A gay butterfly on the glans penis.

Now the Culture Ministry
Has proclaimed him
Not only a National Treasure, but
An Intangible National Treasure!

Now I no longer
Hold him in my arms like a warm
Sheaf of poppies and wheat, no more
Stroke that golden-amber shoulder
Stained with a lace of sugarbag blue,
No more bedew
With tears and kisses his
Empurpled butterfly...

I can't get my hands on him.
Our love is finished,
Broken by banal politicians.

Now he belongs to the Nation,
Which means he belongs to no one,
And especially not to me.
I always put him on a pedestal,
But not like this!
He might as well be behind glass,
Stuffed and docketed in the National Museum.

This poem appeared in the seminal anthology of gay
male poets edited by Ian Young in 1972: The Male Muse.

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