Poem: Nicole Blackman, ‘Get Your Hands off my Brother’

(for Bobby)

Get your hands off my brother
I don’t care if his name is Stephen or Daniel
or James or Billy or even if I don’t know his name at all.
They are all my brothers and you have no right
no right at all, to attack any one of them.

What is it about love that makes you so scared and angry?
You fear what you don’t understand
but how could a gay man earn such a beating?
You think you are mighty because
you are 18, ineloquent and full of rage
standing over a man with blood pouring from his nose.
Where in the world did you get the idea
that murdering a man will make your life any better?

These men are all my brothers because
they were the ones who came
to pick me up from a phone booth
after I got thrown out of a car.

They rubbed my shoulders in taxis when I was tired
and bought me a drink when I didn’t have the money.
They went with me to Audrey Hepburn films
and taught me the meaning of words like ‘fierce’ and ‘worthy.’
They made me understand that life should be about
things that are wonderful, things that are beautiful.

These are the men with whom I have the most in common
and they taught me more than Cosmo ever did.

They drank cup after cup of tea with me
when I was unraveling and reeling from being dumped for no reason.

They taught me that love is love
and who should be the one to judge?

We used to say that if I was a gay man
or they were straight
that we would be lovers.
But in many ways,
they have been more loving to me
than the men I loved.

When my courage failed
they showed me the power
of a good Billie Holiday tune.
They told me to do what I believed in,
that a glass of wine can fix almost anything,
that the music you listen to
is the soundtrack to your life,
that $1.25 and a sense of style
will take you anywhere in this city.

They said Everyone is a star
and everyone shines
it just may be that yours
is a little different than mine.

They taught me that everyone wants
someone to come home to,
someone to look after,
that everyone adores a tender touch,
that everyone needs someone to hold them
and say shh when they cry,
that everyone likes to talk and laugh
and cook and watch TV and kiss.
They taught me that being a loving person
means sometimes getting your heart broken.

Whether by violence or virus
I’ve lost some of my guardian angels.

Patrick was killed in Boston
and I never had the chance to say thank you.
Lee died in New York
and I never had the chance to say goodbye.
Peter didn’t want me to see him sick
so I didn’t know until after he’d gone.
I hated him for that.
I loved him for that.

I made them promise they’d be at my wedding
and they made me promise that there would be
balloons at their funerals.
And I did because they taught me
how important promises are.

But it’s not his time now
and I will not let you take him from me,
so get your hands off my brother.

(You have no right, no right in the world,
to drive through the city
breaking the wings off angels.)

He may be face down on the pavement but I’m not
and I will fight you to save his life
because every day
in so many ways
he saved mine.

For today, a little poem about the (often denigrated) friendship between gay men and heterosexual women told from the woman’s point of view.  I could live without the ‘guardian angel’ bit, but otherwise I like it and it’s probably even more powerful when performed live.  I came across this poem on the greatpoets livejournal community, which is a very good community if you’re on lj and like poetry.

Nicole Blackman is a New York based performance artist, poet, author and vocalist.