It has been about eight years now since I have come out of the poetry closet and started sharing my poems with the world – okay, TRYING to share my poems with the world; the world just isn’t that interested in receiving them. And, really, that’s okay.
And, yes, I understand, that with my addictive behavior, once I stepped out of this closet, my poems did not just trickle out, like from a garden hose, but came shooting out, like from a fire hose. Almost daily, and, sometimes, multiple times a day, I would post yet another poem. But hey, they have been building up inside of me, secretively, for over 50 years. When the dam breaks, the water does not trickle.
So, I realize I have created my new world order. I understand that it is my behavior that has changed your behavior. I am responsible for the fact that many of you now cannot help yourself from saying, anytime I am with you and something happens, unusual or routinely, “Hey, I guess Joe will now write a poem about that.” The closet I lived in was built by those kinds of walls, so I recognize them easily. I just don’t allow them to hold me in any more.
People do not intend to build the walls of one another’s closets, but that is what we do. Whether being gay and afraid to show it; or, sensing we should have been born the other gender but being afraid to live it; or, liking to dance but having no rhythm; or, liking to sing but being tone deaf; or, liking to collect stamps; or, play with dolls; or, dressing up; or writing poems. It is the reactions of those around us, often unintended and seemingly harmless, that construct our walls of secrecy.
Now, my closet did not hold a secret that others find offensive or amoral, but it did imprison a part of me that makes me whole and it was an enclosure of which I was always aware. I struggled for years with wondering whether or not I wanted to come out of this closet. Being a poet, or poet-wannabe, just did not mesh with the way the rest of me fit into this world. I knew it had the potential of making people see me differently – not always in a positive light. I knew it had the potential to create the not real flattering remark, “I guess Joe will now write a poem about that.” But, finally, at fifty years old, I tore down my closet walls and freed my soul of the burden of secrecy.
Not really that big of a deal.
But you know what it did do? It allowed me some empathy into what people that live in those much more controversial closets have to go through. Poetry, in reality, is a very small part of who I am. I can’t imagine what that closet must be like that imprisons the most significant parts of its prisoner. I can’t imagine the pain, fear and torment of having your heart and soul living in a closet with only a small façade of you being all that you feel safe to show. The horror of that closet is terrifying to me. And, the courage it takes to open those doors simply overpowers me.
And, I understand, why, when the closet walls are broken down, the water does not trickle.
To many, people coming out of a closet, no matter which closet that might be, seem flamboyant, over-zealous and in-our-face. But, try to imagine how you would feel when first coming out of a small, dark room that has held you captive for all of your life. You, too, would probably raise your hands high and shout out, “I am free, I am free. God almighty, I am free, at last!”
Some of you reading this may still be enclosed in one closet or another. I hope, one day, you find the courage to break down those walls, no matter how trivial or how controversial the subject of your prison may be. And, when you do, if I should ever unintentionally belittle your accomplishment or demean your passion in a thoughtless attempt at humor, feel free to let me know. The last thing I want to do is to be responsible for reconstructing walls that you so courageously broke down.
Just be aware, there will be some who love you now who will no longer love the you that steps out of that closet. But then, just like you were not being you, their love was not being love. And others, please be aware, when someone you love opens up a closet door that you, up until then, were never allowed inside of, you will be met with the force of a firehose, because …
… when the dam breaks, water does not trickle.