Wednesday, August 11, 2010

A Repost Riff on "Bless Me Anyway"

Recently, I had the chance to watch the HBO production of Tony Kushner’s “Angels in America” for the first time. It made me recall our Twin Cities Gay Men’s Chorus experience with some of Kushner’s most powerful words. This is a reposting from 2009, which also seems apt in these days that are hopefully gathering steam to overrule all of the divisive marriage laws, after Judge Vaughn Walker's masterly decision overturning Prop 8. Here it is:

So we in the Twin Cities Gay Men's Chorus have been singing a wonderful new setting by Michael Shaieb of some words by Tony Kushner from his play "Angels in America," centered around the phrase "bless me anyway." This phrase has affected me since we began singing it. It makes me think about those plucky figures in the Bible, Jacob and the Syrophoenecian woman, one in the Old Testament and one in the New, one going up against Godself, and the other against Jesus himself, who demand blessing in their beings from the deity who in some way created them, yet who have been told that they do not deserve such a blessing, or must fight to get it.

My life has been one in which I have both been the grateful and lucky recipient of unconditional love, from family and friends, as well as the need for years and years and years to defend my own being, sensitive, gay, or otherwise, against various people and institutions who have told me that I am deeply and existentially wrong. But, you know, bless me anyway, right?

The following are some words that came out after thinking about this phrase, "bless me anyway." This is yet a work in progress.

To the totality of the world's rejections:
The minor rejections of saying 'no' to liver and eggs;
the major rejections, hearing you say 'no' to me.

To the 'yous' who have told me who I am,
rather than letting me figure me out for myself.

Bless me anyway.

Even if you don't consider me worth it.
Even if my skin says "liar" to you.
Even if you think my dick should not go there.
Even if the folds of my skin obliterate
the smooth straight line
that you suppose would make me beautiful.

Bless me anyway.

What does a blessing cost you?

Does a blessing cost you your life?
Your job?
Your wife?

Does a blessing cost you your country?
Your place in the world?

Bless me anyway.

For I will have worth without it,
but with it,
we can love those we were meant to love,
in the open.
We can bless the skin that contains

our bones
our life
our blood,
if not our souls.

Bless me anyway.

It costs less than a tower,
less than a bomb,
less than a college education,
less even than an egg
from which life can come.

Bless me anyway.

But blessing is powerful.
Yes, blessing costs more than money,
more than position, power,
and all the water in the world.

Bless me anyway.

Bless the water that makes me more
than a pile of dust, more
than a pile of crap, more
than a pile of me that makes you weary,
that you wish would go away

Bless that shit machine
that embarrasses you.
Bless that $22.95 in basic elements,
not quite enough to buy Manhattan
four hundred and fifty years ago,
but enough to pay off the sum total
of a pile of humanity.

Bless me anyway.

More than the sum total,
more than the blue of my eyes,
more than the gnarled toenails,
the middling nipples,
the less-than-perfect hairline,
the zit on my left temple.

Bless me anyway.

The Jewish part of my heritage,
obscured by name-changes.
The happy sodomite that would do me, maybe.
The D-student wannabe.

Bless me anyway,
and I will bless you too.
I will bless your assumptions,
your experiences,
your attempts to reach out,
that get caught in your throat.

I will bless your struggle to live
in a world that kills us all,
that resolves as we do,
into a pile of minerals.

However it turns out,


I will bless you.

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