Saturday, January 13, 2018

A Manifesto

If you’ve never read the work of Fenton Johnson, start now.

Geography of the Heart, Johnson’s chronicle of his three-year relationship with a beloved who succumbed in the health crisis, is one of the finest AIDS memoirs ever written: passionate, wise, enraged but shot through with  a faith that love is stronger than death, and grief ultimately more fundamental to our lives, and to our getting of wisdom, than anger.


 
Keeping Faith: A Skeptic’s Journey is part reminiscence of growing up Catholic in eastern Kentucky--quite literally over the back fence from Thomas Merton’s Gethsemane Abbey--and part comparative exploration of the Christian and Buddhist monastic traditions.


 
But while you’re waiting for copies of these to arrive--if you don’t simply download the e-books--you can read “The Future of Queer: A Manifesto” in the current January issue of Harper’s.
It’s a cri de coeur for what we lost (and what we desperately need to find again) when we as queer men settled for a place at the table of Business as Usual, in a materialistic society obsessed with advancing the small, isolated selves that we misrecognize as the essence of our life. It’s a call to value friendship over the conventions of marriage. It’s a call to say no to late capitalism’s rape of the planet and cooption of our souls.  It’s an uncompromising assertion that the one best hope for the earth, and for a society that doesn’t consume itself in untrammeled greed and mutual suspicion, is for us to reject  the comfort of the mainstream and to become more truly queer. Queer in the sense that the Buddha was queer, leaving his family behind in his search for the Noble Truths of our existence. Queer in the sense that Jesus was queer, setting aside the ties of blood relations to embrace the poor and the marginalized as his true family.
It’s an exhortation to dream, believe in, and desire a world that’s not yet made. And you need to read it.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Radical Drag of the Soul

I recently published this essay in the current issue of RFD, "Finding Center," which takes as its theme the need to engage evolving standards of inclusivity while honoring long-held core values. It touches on themes I've written about before, but it offers a new take on a ritual practice dear to me heart. 

I enjoy a loose but ongoing connection with a gay men’s organization that I admire, respect, and hold in great affection. I remember years ago coming into the main assembly room at one of its gatherings to find silhouette symbols of major world religions hanging in the windows.
Notably because uniquely missing was the Cross. The Sanskrit calligraphy for the sacred syllable Aum was mounted upside down. I’m guessing there were no Hindus in the room to point that out. And then there’s the frequency with which gay spiritual gatherings get scheduled smack in the middle of the Jewish High Holidays. As for calling the directions--well, what overwhelmingly Euro-American New Age gay group hasn’t appropriated that particular ceremony from Native American spiritual practice?
I totally get the toxicity of Christianity for those who’ve suffered the homophobic, anti-erotic pronouncements that so often poison its well. And I’m the last person to fault queer men for piecing together ritual patterns and spiritual expressions we can live with from as many traditions as we find available. It’s our genius as faggots to deck our deepest selves out in borrowed fashions, our radical drag of the soul. We found something wonderful at the back of Aunty’s closet. She may not be too happy about what we’ve done with her Dior gown, but we know we look fabulous in it. Angels in America is as brilliant an example of that as you’ll find, but hardly the only one.
Still, I agonize a lot about appropriation and exclusion, twin moral perils of life as a privileged, white, cisgendered gay man. The more so when I officiate at a ritual I first created seven years ago and have been leading since--a Lingam Puja that borrows its name from Hindu practice, but strays about as far from authentic Hindu ritual as Mass at St Patrick’s Cathedral parts company with a Passover Seder. Instead of the smooth, abstract cylinder that stands as the focal point in a Shiva temple, the Lingam we gather around is a very recognizable sculpture of an erect cock. Then too, I’ve developed parts of the ceremony straight out of a high Episcopalian Eucharist--though no one who doesn’t make the connection for himself needs to know that. Sometimes I include readings from contemporary Buddhist teachers, or from Rumi and Hafiz. I am, after all is said, a slut who will pray with anybody.
 
My fellow devotees and I are risking the alienation of established spiritual communities left and right in this ritual. But the centrality of an anatomically accurate Lingam isn’t potentially an offense only to Hindus who see us ripping off a venerable tradition that doesn’t properly belong to us--a formerly colonized one, at that. A twenty-inch wooden dick on the altar makes it pretty clear that this ritual addresses humans who have a penis and have gathered to own and honor the Divine’s presence in the wondrous bit of flesh that hangs between our legs--“the exposed tip of the heart, the wand of the soul,” as our Prophet St. James Broughton put it.
 I’ve spent the last sixty years falling deeper into the truth that the Sacred is in this body, in all of this body. In the specifics of this body. This heart. These hands. This cock.
I’ve spent decades striving to claim fully my desire for the tribe of those who experience a similar truth. My tribe. The tribe of penis-bearing humans who love other penis-bearing humans. Who through our experience of jacking alone and with friends, of frotting and sucking and fucking with each other, are diving deeper into how living in a body with a penis shapes our relation to the world, and our relationship to the Sacred.
None of this is unconditioned truth. It’s not the working out of some universal archetype. It’s a result of living in this body, in these bodies, with these bodies’ histories. It’s my embodied truth, not identical with, but akin to, the embodied truth of my comrades. To live out this truth in their company is the deep desire of my heart and soul. My cock is a key to the inner temple, and I long to gather with others whose cocks are keys to the inner temple. There are other keys to the inner temple. There is conceivably a point when the inner temple is opened so wide that keys are no longer relevant. But I need the companionship of those who know, from deep, embodied experience, how this key fits into the lock. Who know the feel of this key turning in the lock, the sound of this key opening the lock.
 
I don’t believe any of this this has to be viewed as an attempt at exclusion. I know some people will say this is a dodge. But I still insist on owning my experience and staying true to it. I’d be deeply uncomfortable with the idea of shutting others out of the circle--cisgendered and trans women, trans men, cisgendered men whose erotic lives aren’t focused on cock. But there’s no denying that the ritual I lead isn’t focused on them and their experience of the world. Instead, I’m open to welcoming such fellow humans into the circle as visitors, much as I might welcome a Hindu friend attending Mass as a visitor, much as a Muslim friend might welcome me to his mosque, much as the rabbi of the shul my partner attends in the summer would tell me, I’m pretty sure, that no matter how many times I come to services, no matter how many times I put on my prayer shawl, no matter how glad she is I’ve come, I’m still a visitor, and not a Jew.
People I respect have asked whether I’m not really perpetuating imperialist attitudes to world cultures by drawing on them. They’ve asked whether I’m not perpetuating patriarchy by encouraging cisgendered men to gather in celebration of the beauty and holiness of the Lingam. But imperialist patriarchy hasn’t flourished because white cisgendered men are comfortable with our bodies and bond successfully with other men. Patriarchal privilege and misogyny are founded, paradoxically, on the insistence that cisgendered men deny our own vulnerably embodied experience. Patriarchy demands that we pretend our unpredictable, permeable, changeable, leaky bodies are irrelevant to our privileged place in the world. Patriarchy wants us to see other men as rivals who either pose potential threats or can be dominated. I borrow from the wisdom and practice of as many traditions as I have access to. I reject the homophobic crap that virtually no tradition is innocent of. I claim my experience of God in my faggot body as my own and forge a community out of what I share with my fellow travelers. This is as anti-patriarchal as I know how to be.
 
 

Friday, December 29, 2017

A Queer Utopia, Concluded: Topsy Turvy, The Eighth Chapter

...and the last.

When the late daffodils were finished in May, we took up the flower bed at the side of the house by the stairs to the back door, moving everything to make space for the wheelchair ramp. By that time, Paul had already pretty much moved in full time, and the last haul of his stuff from his sister’s place was just a few boxes of things he hadn’t wanted for weeks. The electric chair-lift is finally arriving next week, which will make Paul’s daily routine a lot simpler. We decided it made sense to give him the bedroom at the head of the stairs with the door directly onto the bath; we moved down the hall to a room with less of a view of the garden, but a little bigger, and so all the better for the king bed it now holds.

Paul only shares it with us one or two nights a week; a few times we’ve chewed over the prospect of moving it back to what’s now his room and all three of us filling it nightly, but it’s a plunge none of us is quite willing to take--at least not yet. Now and then one of us spends the night with him solo–a noisy proposition when it’s Jim, and likely to keep me awake, till I finally drift off, happy hearing him getting something he needs from our other lover, safe at home at the other end of the hall; a quieter though often giggly time of it when it’s me. But it takes Paul and me together to top Jim the way that really quiets the craving deep in his pysche–just as it seems to take Jim and me to reaffirm Paul’s full sense of his erotic and emotional power; and the two of them together for me to reclaim parts of my soul that went missing for so many years.

Saturdays when the three of us go out, Paul’s sexy smile and winning come-on often entice a trick of his own back to the house. His luck at pickups is certainly better than mine–or for that matter, than Jim’s. Our prowls are more complicated than they used to be. We’ve ended up a couple of times each with his own mate at a breakfast table of six the next morning; but mostly we turn out just to want each other, and of the hookups we’ve had since Paul moved in with us, the best times have been when our threesome has turned into a nexus of four or five, piled into one room, or spilling amorphously out of it and into the next.

Strangely, guys who’d come home with us entertaining an unstated hope they could pry Jim and me apart as a couple no longer seem under the illusion that we want more from them than uncomplicated fun. Somehow, oddly, they treat the three of us more unquestioningly as an item than the same men, earlier, were prepared to treat two of us. It’s not that big a town that you don’t cycle back through to playing again with a buddy you’ve hooked up with before. When Kurt next put the make on Jim at the bar, it was Paul who made it clear who had ongoing title to my first mate’s backside, if it came to that.

We’ve replaced the garden paths of uneven limestone flags with a wider course of level bluestone and raised a couple of the beds to make it easier for Paul to do some of the gardening from his chair. He’s partial to long swaths of perennial herbs and has staked a lot of time lately on his faith that the planting we’ve done this season will take root. Come three years from now, the lavender should be incredible in July, a mass of bees swarming through indigo mist. I would never have bargained on this. Not on Jim, nor on Paul. Nor on a Victorian folly now shared by the three of us at the edge of a flaky little college town. Sometimes life’s the strangest thing you’ve seen; and you get luckier than you’d ever dreamt possible.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Topsy Turvy, Chapter Seven

...in which the sum of two and two is three. 

Paul hesitated. Jim’s smile faded as I held his gaze, and a hard light began glinting in his eye. I pressed my weight into his biceps, pressing his shoulders against the wall behind the bed. “Do it,” Jim said to Paul, and stretched his arms out towards the posts.

Paul started to leave enough play in the rope for Jim to bring his hand forward toward Paul’s arm as he worked. “Tighter,” I said, and took up the slack myself while he tied the knots. I grabbed Paul by the back of the neck and the base of his dick at once, planting a deep, sloppy kiss in his mouth, then whispering in his ear, loudly enough for Jim to hear, “He likes it rough, and I want to see you give it to him.” Hearing me, an expression of wolfish hunger spread over Jim’s face. “Look at him,” I said to Paul. “He wants it bad.”

Paul leaned forward to force-feed Jim his cock, which had risen impressively to the occasion. Jim started to gag and the muscles in his arms strained against the rope as Paul pushed in the last inches, then slowly withdrew and plunged again.

“Take it, cocksucker,” I muttered to Jim, my arm around Paul’s tight, lean waist, my own cock wrapped in my other hand a foot from Jim’s right cheek. Paul hesitated, then settled his weight onto the headboard to do pushups in and out of Jim’s mouth. Jim’s gag subsided, replaced by a muffled grunt each time Paul withdrew, just before the next thrust. Watching Paul’s triceps pump in unison with the roll of muscles in Jim’s neck and arms, I couldn’t hold back. My load sprayed over my lover’s cheek and forehead. Paul slowed his pumping, withdrew, wiped up a few pearl droplets with his fingertips, and thrust them into Jim’s mouth.

“OK, what else does this big whore want?” Paul asked, riffing on Jim’s greed as he slurped.

“It sounds like he’s already had his hole stretched out,” I said. “I’d say you should find out just how far.”

“Is that right?” Paul said, leaning down to plant a kiss between Jim’s eyebrows, then waving his erection again in Jim’s face. “You want this piece up your backside where you had one last night?”

“I’m already ragged, you bastard,” Jim spat out. “Yeah, I want it again.”

“OK, let’s see what that guy did to get you ready,” Paul said, throwing both Jim’s legs over his right shoulder, licking the knotted muscles at the join of his hip and ass and spreading the cheeks open with the prying fingers of both hands. I’d never seen Jim like this before. The dark pink striations of his pucker were like a cherry bitten in half. Paul laid the flat of a fingertip quietly on it, bent down to drool saliva into the depression, then traced his finger out from the centre out as if along the spokes of a perfect wheel, while his thumbs dug deeply into Jim’s hard glutes. As Paul slipped his index finger into him and twisted it, Jim started to writhe, then raised up, straining against the ropes to snarl, “You fucking pansy. You’re not man enough for it.”

Paul snapped his face up to meet Jim’s gaze and froze, his finger still planted up his ass. “No, you don’t think so?” he asked. His arm went up, and the palm of his hand came back down on the dome of Jim’s buttock with a resounding smack. “I guess you’ll let me know when you’re convinced.” To me he said, “I need lube, and a condom.” He went back to the work of slamming his palm rhythmically onto Jim’s backside.

I reached over to the bottle where it lay tipped over on the night table and opened the drawer below.

“Grease him up for me,” Paul ordered.

When I’d drizzled a stream of the lube into Jim’s crack, Paul began burrowing further in, two of his fingers soon buried up to the last knuckle, palm up. Uninitiated as I was, I knew that inside he was curving the tips up to search out Jim's prostate.

“These ought to help keep him in line,” I offered, holding up two clips on a chain. I’d never seen them on Jim, only heard his satisfied reports of one of his über-daddies putting them to use.

“Snap them on,” Paul said. “I’m busy back here.”

When I hesitated, Jim turned his attention to me. Paul’s rhythmical slaps stopped. “Pinch the skin behind the nipple so you can get some purchase,” Jim told me, half directive, half pleading. 

When I’d snapped both clamps into place, a red grimace of stifled agony spread over his face. I looked back to Paul to find four fingers of his hand coned into Jim’s opening chute, his thumb massaging the perineum just forward of the opening hole. Jim’s cock stood against his belly, rock hard and straining up towards his navel

“So who’s in charge here, mack?” Paul demanded.

Jim spat at him. Paul reached out the hand that wasn’t wedged in his ass to slap his face. Not hard, almost playfully. “We’re going nowhere till you get this right. Who’s in charge?”

Suddenly, the stress in Jim’s face vanished, and he collapsed back into the pillows. “You are.”

“You sure about that?”

Jim just nodded in reply.

“Good boy,” Paul whispered. To me he said, “Why don’t you jack him a little so he knows we’re happy with him?” Jim whimpered as I poured lube over his shaft and began to stroke. For a few minutes, I just continued with an easy, long rhythm. Jim began sobbing, “Please don’t stop.”

“Now we’re back to having to talk logistics,” Paul said, leaning forward, speaking gently. “I know you need a good pounding. Which takes thigh muscles that, as we can all plainly see, I don’t have. But I bet a slut like you would sit right down on me in one go.”

“Or maybe I’ve got something to offer here,” I said.

Paul reached behind him to hand me the condom I’d dropped on the sheets. “No,” I said. “You’re still going to do the fucking. I’m just going to provide a little backup power behind you.” I tore the packet open and handled him back the rubber inside. “Put it on and get into him.”

Jim’s defiance had collapsed completely. He lay quiet, his hips undulating almost imperceptibly as I held my fist loosely around his shaft, his eyes full of raw, unmediated, wordless longing. Paul rolled the condom down over himself and caressed the crack of Jim’s ass again with the flat of his fingertips. “I don’t know about this, guy,” he said, hesitating again. “It may not be what you’re hoping for.”

“We’ll see,” I said, moving around to straddle behind Paul, pressing my torso from crotch to chest into his buttocks, back, and shoulders, Jim’s legs now hooked over Paul’s arms to rest his heels on either side of my neck. I reached around Paul to grab Jim by the top of his thighs. “Let’s see just how hard I can ram you into him.” I slammed with my full weight, yanking on Jim’s thighs to pull him towards us as I shoved my groin forward into Paul’s ass. Paul’s big hands were braced further down, under Jim’s waist, pulling up at the same time. The lower half of Jim’s torso lifted off the mattress with our pull and thrust, his shoulder and chest muscles growing taut again as he strained against the ropes.

The rhythm turned as even and as powerful as winter surf smashing into a beach. For maybe five or ten minutes, the three of us together were the ocean, fucking the shore forever. My spent dick thickened again, angling against Paul’s buttocks, then slipping upright into the crack of his ass. I picked up the lube again, streaming it down over the two of us, ramming the flat of my cock and the front of my ballsac against him as I lent him strength to plow harder into the man I loved.

Into the other man I loved.

Then Paul’s leg started to buckle where he knelt between us. Withdrawing his cock, he rolled to the side, gasped, and stretched his right leg out frantically, then stood to lean against the wall. “Shit,” he yelled. “Charlie horse.” He hobbled twice around the room, then came back to the bed, chagrin and defeat in his face. “Like I said,” he muttered, half to me, half to the man tied to the bed, “not what you bargained on.”

“We’re not done yet,” I said, and grabbed the largest of Jim’s four dildos from the night table drawer, the ten-inch, thickly veined monster a former lover had bought him, as big around as my wrist with a flaring head, modelled on some porn star I’d never heard of. Slathering it with yet more lube, I handed it to Paul. “Ream him out with this. I want to watch you stretch him.”

Paul slapped the rubber club on Jim’s chest, then across his buttock a few times, then teased it around the circumference of Jim’s stretched hole. I watched mesmerized as it gradually disappeared into him, the handle of a churn into soft butter. Withdrawing it an inch or two, Paul stretched his hand forward to cradle Jim behind the neck, his gaze alternating between Jim’s face and the business of filling him up. “That enough sausage for you yet?”

Jim twisted his neck to suck Paul’s thumb into his mouth, whimpering, “I want it. I’m a fucking whore and I want it. Shove it in some more. I need it all.”

Paul widened his eyes as he held Jim’s gaze. “Yeah, that what you want? Are you my little whoreboy?”

Jim only nodded in answer, and Paul withdrew the dildo half its length, then twisted it to the side as he plunged it slowly but inexorably back in to the base. “Yeah, that’s right, you take it. You’re my good little whore, you know that? You’re my good little whore, and your guy here gets to watch you take it up the ass and see just how big a slut you are.” Turning to me, he invited me into the scene. “Did you know he was such a hungry piece of trash?”

“Yeah, I can see for myself,” I said, astonished at Paul’s mastery of the moment, unable to match it. All I could do was tug gingerly on the chain between the clamps that still bit into Jim’s tits.

“OK, so now I’m going to go on fucking this into you till you’re good and raw,” Paul said. “And when I decide I’m going to let you cum, Timmy here is going to jack you off for me. I hope you’ve got another load in you after last night, because I’m not going to stop with this thing till we see you shoot. I want you to make it good and thick for us. If we don’t see enough white stuff, maybe we’ll leave you tied up here and try again later. But you’d probably like that.” To me he said, “Start stroking him real slow. Make him beg us for it.”

I reached forward and took hold of his cock backhanded, twisting up over the head, then squeezing it as I slipped my curled fingers back down to the root and swirled up again. It seemed to break Jim apart, and his whimpers started again. “I’m a good boy,” he whined. “Good boys take it up the ass.”

He wasn’t the Jim I knew and made love to at least once a week. And yet was. But then Paul wasn’t the playful, confident, gentle man who’d caressed my cock into a full-spated geyser while he’d kissed me deeply and gently a few hours earlier. And yet was. Where the hell am I in this, I wondered, suddenly abstracted for the moment. Who am I in this? I’m paralyzed at the sidelines while this man with barely functioning legs tops my perfect daddy. And yet I’m the one who helped him pound into Jim, handed him the dildo, put the clamps on Jim’s tits, in fascination with every second of it.

I came back to myself with Paul’s next direction to me, “OK, I think we’ve given him enough. You know best how to get him off. He’s been a good boy. Let’s let him blow his wad.”

I continued with the same stroke, picking up the tempo, and massaging his balls loosely with the palm of my other hand, the tips of two fingers pressing between his scrotum and the dildo that, though motionless, still plugged Jim’s overtaxed backside. Jim’s breathing quickened, and an arc of sperm coursed up out of him to rope across the side of his neck and upper chest, followed by three more. By the end of his run, Paul and I were both screaming hoarse encouragement at him.

“Now feed him his load,” he said to me. “If he does a good job cleaning it up, we’ll untie him.”

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Topsy Turvy, Chapter Six

...in which the light of day brings new revelations.

Light woke me angling up off the night’s fast-melting snowfall and through the bedroom’s south window. I’d never gotten around to drawing the curtains. Stretching, my arm grazed Paul’s chest where his torso lay curled up and over my shoulder, his face nuzzled into my hair. My feet were untied, the rope lying near the foot of the bed. My head clearing after a minute or so, I started to grasp that what had seemed a wonderfully bright morning was in fact the light of mid-day. The clock, confirming the worst, read nearly 11.30.

Oh, hell. Paul had stirred, settled back into me, his lips languidly browsing the back of my neck, his hand grazing the left side of my chest. I broke the embrace, prodded his shoulder, heard the anxiety in my own voice as I announced we’d overslept. I leapt out of bed and into the robe draped over the armchair by the window.

“I don’t know that I can get out of your way before Jim’s back,” he said. “My morning routine’s a pretty slow deal.”

“It’s OK,” I told him. “Best thing is I let him know I slipped up, then you come down so I can introduce you. I just don’t want him to walk in on us still up here in the thick of it. Take your time getting up.” I hesitated. “Or do you need a hand?”

“I do it by myself all the time,” he said. “Just hand me the braces.”

Passing them to him from where he’d dropped them on the floor, I gave him a last kiss and tore downstairs, started the coffee, set out juice and muffins. Overhead, I heard the toilet flush, then the sound of water running in the sink. Out the kitchen windows, wet snow lay over the herb garden, the beds mounded in stippled, spiky relief against the paths’ framing grid. As the coffee-maker went into its final asthmatic spasms, I tried with a rising sense of unease to parse apart the roiling mix of what I felt: the exhilaration of meeting a sweet, hot man I wanted not just for the night we’d just passed, but again; my fantasies of how I wanted to get it on with him already outstripping the memories of what we’d done; the remorse of knowing I’d already crossed a line; the knowledge that Jim wouldn’t hold it against me; and the knot of panic in my stomach that none of the above could explain, as though the fear of being caught out had little to do with the situation, and everything to do with the anxieties escaping from my own Pandora’s Box.  With the desire to have a man in my life who took as much pleasure as I did in the sex I really longed for. With the edge of frustration I felt with Jim’s ever-uncensored demands for what I couldn’t give. With the contortions I had to go through to divert him from his own sexual agenda far enough to meet me halfway to mine on uneven common ground. With the satisfaction of his companionship from day to day, which felt as essential to me as food, clothing, and shelter.

Shaking off the flickers of irritation I didn’t want to deal with and reining in my anxiety, I imagined how Jim’s homecoming would play out.  A welcoming kiss. A first cup of coffee as we sat down at the table and he gave me his report of the night before. My explanation of the trick still upstairs amidst our Sunday ritual. By the time he walked through the kitchen door, I’d settled enough to feel confident it would all unfold benignly.

He wore an ear-to-ear grin above the heavy knitted muffler that burgeoned out of his leather jacket. His eyes dancing, he reached for my waist with both hands and pulled me into a tight hug. Underneath the smell of soap, his beard still gave off the faintest whiff of crotch.

“You had a good night,” I ventured.

“I had a fabulous night,” he said. “And now I’m home with my fabulous husband. Whose car’s in the drive?”

“Uh, yeah. Sit down and have some coffee and I’ll tell you about it.”

Annoyance flickered across his face as I waded into the explanation. His face softened again when I got to Paul’s living arrangement.

“Well, he’s still here, and no harm done,” he finally broke in as I continued tripping over myself, assuaging the guilt that kept welling up from within. “Sooner or later something like this was bound to happen.” The ice of his blue eyes warmed to summer sky, and his grin turned to a smirk. “More to the point, is he as cute as you say? Let’s not call him down for introductions. Let’s go back up so I can see for myself.”

Before I could answer, he’d risen from the table and was bounding up the stairs.

Paul was standing next to the bed in his paisley boxers, his braces at an angle against the edge of the mattress, his head through the neck of his sweatshirt, his arms tangled in the sleeves, his cheeks flushed with embarrassment. The fly of his shorts was a little tented. The dusting of black hair across his pecs, the trail of it down the cleft of his belly to his waistband stood out stark in the bright light of noon. Jim’s greeting came a little too loud, his cordiality laced with a little too much mischief, however friendly his tone. Paul lost his balance and flopped onto the mattress.

“Oh, jeez, sorry,” Jim said.

“So Paul, meet Jim,” I said.

“I guess I just did. You should know I don’t always fall for guys like this,” Paul offered.

All three of us cracked up with the tension’s release. Jim offered Paul his hand, but Paul righted himself to sit on the edge of the bed. “Let’s just compromise with gravity for the moment and leave the standing for when it’s absolutely necessary,” he said. “I gather we’re working outside the standard repertory here.” His own embarrassment showed in the slightly disjointed delivery of this last quip.

“Pretty much,” Jim offered. “So I figured I might as well come up to meet you as ask you downstairs. Can’t say I can blame Tim for bringing you home,” he smiled, turning to me with a wink that Paul could see as well. “I’d have made the same call myself, I bet.”

An awkward silence opened up, till I offered, “I’ll put the breakfast stuff on a tray and bring it up for the three of us.”

“Maybe later,” Jim said. “I was kind of hoping you guys would replay a little of last night for my bleary eyes. I’m way too fucked out, I’m happy to say, to do more than watch,” he went on, brushing a hand along the inside of Paul’s leg, the fingertips just inside the leg of his now more prominently distended shorts and laying the other over the mound at the crotch of his own jeans, “but I bet what you’ve got in there kept my Timmy happy till the wee hours, and it looks to me like you’ve maybe got a little something left to work through.”

Paul looked toward me a little confused, clearly waiting for me to call it. When I hesitated, Jim slid up to sit with his back against the headboard and started undoing the buttons of his fly. “Usually all I get is the second-hand report. I promise to keep out of the way if you can fill me in on some of the night’s high points.”

With another horny grin, Paul shucked his boxers back down below his hips, patting the mattress as his already swollen cock started to twitch across his thigh. I shrugged back out of my robe and lay down on my stomach, splayed between his legs, and began to lick him in long, slow strokes up the length of his shaft, from the loose hang of his scrotum up to his frenulum, still salty with the last of the load he’d fired all over me as I’d lain beneath him most of the way to dawn, hips pinned to the mattress by the weight of his torso as he straddled me. Suddenly aware that most of the night’s cum was still encrusted on my belly, my gaze floated to Paul’s face and then on to Jim’s, who had finished pulling himself out and stroked languidly as he watched us. “This is how I tongue another guy’s dick when you’re not around,” I slurred.

“Well, not quite the same way,” Paul chimed in. “If Jim really wants a replay, we’re going to have to tie you back up.”

Jim cocked an eyebrow at me in silent query.

“No,” I said to Paul, as a dozen stray shards of myself suddenly fell back into their rightful place. I nodded toward Jim.“We’re going to tie him up.”

“No way,” Jim said, laughing. “I’ve got nothing left.”

“We’re not asking you,” I shot back, gathering the rope up from where it lay snaked at the foot of the bed. “I’m telling you.” I pulled his jeans down his thighs and ripped the buttons off his shirt pulling it apart from the collar. “Tie his wrists,” I said to Paul. “But never mind giving him room to manoeuver. Make it nice and snug.”

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Five and a Half Objects

The Sacred isn’t just something we discover out there, or within. It’s also something we invent with our bodies. And something that invents us.

That’s my summary, in twenty-four words, of Brent Plate’s A History of Religion in 5 1/2 Objects (Boston: Beacon Press, 2014). It’s that rarest of all phenomena, a book by an academic who can write clearly and accessibly for an intelligent non-specialist, without sacrificing subtlety or suggestiveness. It’s the kind of book that will unsettle anyone who thinks his own spiritual path offers an exclusive or unique access to the Divine. And it’s an antidote to what I’m going to offend some people by calling mystified shamanic woo-woo.
Plate starts by making in his own words a fundamental point about our experience in human bodies--we’re not complete. We feel partial, because we are partial. We’re not each a whole, but a half. We long for completion, and we try to find it by a whole slew of means: drugs, companionship, sex, the perfect relationship, our i-Phone, the touch of a dog.
We also look for it by reaching out further, when these stopgap measures fail to satisfy, toward the Mystery. We create religion. But we get sidetracked into believing that religion is about disembodied teaching, or that the spirit is separate from our flesh, even antithetical to our flesh. Religion, Plate insists, is about tying body together with the longings we experience for relation to what is beyond us. And we do that through the means of the senses.
Plate’s five objects are stones, incense, drums, crosses, and bread. In each case, it’s the physical practice of what we do with these objects that comes first, not an abstract understanding of the meaning of our action. We act, then we think about the meaning of our action. First comes practice, then comes belief. We set stones on top of one another to mark a place out as noteworthy, or even sacred. Later, we create an explanation for what made us do it.
We make a memorial quilt panel for someone we’ve loved. Only later do  we experience what our grief might mean in the larger world, when we see our handiwork incorporated into a display that honors hundreds or thousands of those lost to HIV-AIDS. We lay a bouquet of flowers in a public space to honor someone who’s died. But the meaning of what we’ve done depends on the offerings that others have already made there, and on the offerings that will follow. We witness our love for someone by buying a cheap lock and shackling it to the grate on the Pont des Arts in Paris. All this is not only about discovering or expressing what’s within us. It’s just as much about inventing it, making it real through the senses and through the body.
This turns our understanding of the relationship between ritual and the soul inside out. We want the rituals we participate in to be immediately and easily meaningful. Many of us want their purpose and significance spelled out for us ahead of time, and we’re uncomfortable with doing something before we understand why we’re doing it.
It’s not a bad idea to resist this impulse for clarity. “Listen to your art,” says Marina Abramovic. “It knows more than you do.” The same can be said, sometimes, of ritual. Long ago, Pascal said, “Kneel down, move your lips, and you will believe.” Walk into the river and submerge yourself. Afterwards, you may understand that you longed to be cleansed. Ring a bell at the door of a temple, and afterwards you may get it that you needed to announce your entrance into the Presence of what’s honored there. Bow to someone who smudges you with sage, and later you may understand that the smoke has prepared you to take what happens afterwards more seriously. Hold your wrist out and let someone tie a red thread around it, and days later it may go on bearing witness that the ritual it was part of is still working its way through your consciousness. Your urge to sit quietly at the back of a church with your eyes closed for five minutes every afternoon doesn’t require your belief in a creed.
First we do. Then we understand.
But the reverse of this trust in the integrity of the ritual before you completely understand it is also true. Plate’s approach also invites us to build ritual from the roots of our experience up, when we need to, instead of waiting helplessly for some expert to hand it down to us ready-made. Your favorite park bench may work better for you than the back pew of a cathedral. A ritual doesn’t depend for its authenticity on an esoteric meaning fully possessed only by some master of the tradition. Being recited in a language no one in the room knows except for the officiant doesn’t make a chant more effective. Exotic materials aren’t necessarily preferable to what’s around us from day to day. Something as ordinary as water or wine or bread or a candle becomes extraordinary because of how it’s used, and the care with which it’s treated, and because of how its use encourages us to sink further down into its deep multiple meanings for our life.
“...one point of a history of religion is that all these sacred rituals were, over time and space, made up. All traditions adapt and change, fitting new environments,” as Plate puts it (p. 133). If someone tells you that a ritual is legitimate because it was transmitted by astral projection from a palaeolithic holy man, run, don't walk, in the opposite direction.
We build a spiritual practice for ourselves out of the materials that are on hand. There’s nothing to wait for, no expertise you need that you don’t already have, no clear understanding that has to come first. Pick up the tools. They’ll teach you what you need to know.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

A Queer Utopia, Continued: Topsy Turvy, Chapter Five

...in which our heroes conclude their first evening together.

His rhythm solidified. As he stroked himself, his dick was about a foot away from my face. I took in the undulation of his abs at close range, then the skinniness of his thighs offsetting the heft of his pole.

His rhythm slowed, and he came up off of me. “Freaks you out a little, doesn’t it?” he asked.

“No,” I said. “Actually, it’s really hot.”

“Trust me, it’s not,” he said. “It’s just the way it is. Some guys just don’t call me back, or else they think it’s exotic.”

“Can’t it just be different and sexy without being exotic?”

“You tell me.”

“Yeah, it’s sexy without being exotic,” I said.

“Good answer,” he grinned, pinching my cheek, then settling the palm of his hand onto my belly. “So why’s a hot man’s lover out prowling the snowbound streets when he could be home with you?”

“Special needs,” I said and then immediately winced. “Sorry.”

“No offense taken. I gather that doesn’t mean he’s tooling around in his own wheelchair.”

“Hardly. More like he’s been tied up a lot tighter than you’ve roped me, with something about the size of that club of yours up his rear door.”

“Ooo. Not something you’ll do for him?”

“No way. My sex life stops just south of my nuts.”

“You don’t know what you’re missing.”

“Yeah, I do,” I fired back, tensing up. He immediately got it.

“Sorry.”

I just shrugged. Then my own curiosity kicked in. “I guess you’re something of a top on that score too,” I said tentatively.

“Top maybe isn’t quite the way to put it. There’s only so much you can do with no thighs to match your stomach muscles. But it’s fun when somebody’s willing to sit down on me and do most of the work. As they say, I’m versatile. Which is the butch cliché for I love getting plugged, too. Like I said before, when I’m horny for too long, I get really inventive. I’ll pretty much put it anywhere it fits. This one, for instance,” he went on, turning the palm of his hand over to cradle my cock, his fingers forking to either side of my ballsac, then drooling onto the underside and laying his other hand palm down in a long, slow stroke, “fits just fine right here.”

I’d never felt a touch quite like his. Jim knows my trigger points almost perfectly, but I’m always aware he’s focusing on them because he knows it’s the right thing for me. This was different, driven by the abandoned gratification the contact obviously brought him as much as by a desire to please me. As I began writhing with the pleasure of it, a rope went taught to remind me I was half tied up.

He shifted to sit up, a wicked crook to the corner of his mouth, and his eyes lit up with god knows what as he withdrew his hands to stroke himself. “Don’t get your hopes up too high just yet,” he said. “We’ve got miles to go before we sleep.”

“And you’re the one hung like a little horse, you queer.” I parried.

“Thanks for inviting me to stop by your snow on a woody evening,” he quipped. “So shake my harness bells, already.”

We went on like that for several hours, exchanges of hot touch almost up to the point of no return alternating with goofy banter.

Around three in the morning, I lay pinned beneath his weight as he straddled my stomach, his hard-on waving again in my face. He gently laid his hand over my hand, removing it from his shaft as I tried to pump him. “Let me do that,” he rasped. “I pretty much have to be in the driver’s seat for this.” He took me by both wrists, laying my palms down on the tops of his thighs. “Hang onto me here,” he said, “and dig your thumbs in hard right under my nuts.”

He got lost in it. Looking up into his face, I watched his arousal mount into disbelieving, almost alarmed amazement. His balls swung past my fingers with the force of his rhythm. He’d all but forgotten me, except for the pressure as I dug into his pelvic floor with all the strength I had. I didn’t want anything from him but his pleasure. Watching him, all I could think of was what a fucking miracle it is that we get to do this, that we get to see each other do this, get to deliver one another’s bodies into such joy. All that mattered to him at that moment was that he was going to cum; and all I wanted was to cheer him on, as blinded to everything else as he was.

As his last jets trailed into the hair on my chest, he collapsed forward onto me, nuzzling his forehead into the nape of my neck, his hand still clenched around his softening shaft, still kneading it intermittently against my belly. I reached up to run the fingers of one hand through the hair that rioted over his forehead.

We basked in his afterglow for a while, and in the deep, sufficient contentment I’d felt as I watched over his climax and cradled him through the aftershocks.

I must have dozed off till his voice woke me, and the brush of his lips against my ear as he spoke. “What do you want now?”

I wanted my own release, but couldn’t bear the thought of breaking the perfect tranquility in which we floated.

“I want to just lie here while you kiss me on the lips and stroke me over the edge,” I said.

Sliding down to press his torso along the length of my right flank, he laid his left forearm over my belly and chest, his elbow pressing into my nipple as his fingertips began feathering my cockhead. His big hand gently turned my face towards him, and our mouths opened for each other, our tongues firm and sure in their dance. I was so focused on the pleasure of his lips gliding unpredictably over mine that I felt the warmth of my semen gushing onto my belly before I fully registered the orgasm, now pulsing through my loins, that somehow had begun in my mouth.

It took all the focus I had left to ride the wave of it all the way in. I was fast asleep before I could reach for the T-shirt thrown next to the bed to wipe up some of the flood I’d stored up through three hours of unrelenting play.