About jftoomey

I'm many things, among which is a linguist, a therapist, a scientist, a business owner, a student, a traveller, a dreamer, a poet, a friend, a dog lover, and I'm sure some other things that I'd rather not mention here.

Balance Beam

What matters most
is living
a life in balance
between being
and doing
with the emphasis
on being

Open
without hesitation
to experiencing the moments
when chattering thoughts and
to-do lists, take up residence
somewhere else

Like a child
tinkering joyfully
– in the background
with puzzling
projects
other than me

Have I really, never? felt their rage

Have I really,
never felt alone
– isolated
among the very people
I’m almost certain I’m supposed
to feel a part of?

Have I really,
never failed to speak
a glaring truth
to appease a pack
whose membership
requires submission
to clan-think
threatening silence
– segregation
for daring to use
a voice
I’ve far too often
failed to use?

Have I really,
never felt emasculated
demoralized
dehumanized
by the din of a silently-sanctioned
no tales out of the testosterone-fueled
school of the bullies will be bullies club
only to find myself
– complicit
in its jeering assaults
each time I turn a blind eye
to its oppressive imposition
of fear mongering and intolerance
in exchange for hypnotizing
promises of safety
status and financial reward?

Like when the recent law school
graduate who’s jumped through
every convoluted hoop
was left to discover
her new position involved a
service far too unseemly to
discuss in polite circles?

Like when the Speedo-clad
Jewish man, lounging peacefully
in the sun, on an inner-city beach
when suddenly,
he found himself being beaten
and disabused of an eye for
“appearing gay” and wearing
the wrong kind of cap?

Like when generations
of innocent children
were abused by religious captors
in a grand & mighty church?

Like when a young black NFL
quarterback found himself isolated
from the league for his unpopular
political opinions?

Like when a courageous
middle-aged mother lunged
at her terrorized gay son’s
tormentors only to find
her naked neck impaled
on the glistening cold steel
tip of a restaurant kitchen
carving knife?

Like when a hulking
anxiety-ridden NHL player
found himself haunted
by nightmares of long-gone
days of humiliation
by his non-Latino peers?

Like when a soul-tortured veteran
finds herself torn by loyalty to
his training and the need
to purge her memory of the
atrocities of war?

Like when a gang of inner-city
teenage boys hopped on a bus
to go “fag bashing”
– as if it were just another team
sport to distract themselves from
the boredom of a monotonous humid
summer afternoon?

Like when the people on the
periphery, invisible
as they may seem, the homeless
transgendered
the handicapped or obese
those
– so addicted
to a drink, a cookie
a line, a needle
that she finds herself
shunned by a world
who says it loves him
but then absconds
with her dignity
when he has a slip?

Have I really,
never been stoned by insults
spat on, threatened
beaten, arrested
for being
in the “wrong” kind of bar
in the “wrong” part of town
at the perfectly
“wrong” moment in history?

Have I really,
never turned my head
as a spirited, little butch
girl or a chubby, effeminate
school boy is pummeled
mercilessly by taunting
bullied,
threatened, battered
for simply
being
the most authentic version of
himself
that she knows how to be?

How can I watch these things
and pretend
I have really,
never felt their rage?

That I have really,
never secretly sought
to settle these insults
with silent fantasies
of sweet, but holllow
revenge?

That I have really,
never secretly felt the fear
that in one bone-chilling
icy moment
– for no good reason
it will be mine
whose soul they’ll seek
to lynch?

The innocent
– abandoned
bullied, battered
& left to fend

defenselessly

On the ostracizing
outside
longingly looking in..

Jack Tar & the Gay Pride Angels

“So I told the chef I have celiac”, I explained to an exuberant waiter.
In a charming, slow, deep-bass southern drawl, he replied: “You must really miss fried chicken!”
I said: “Not really, that’s not as much a thing in Boston as it is in North Carolina.”
“Anyway”, he insisted, “take a bucket of Cheerios and pulverize the f’ out of ’em, add onion and garlic powder…. the best damn fried chicken she ever f’n ate!”, assuming I knew whom he was refering to.
“Thanks for that”, I answered: “I’ll let my partner know, he’s the real cook in the family.”
Nostrils now pinched in icky pose as blood pooled in the pulsating fold of flesh between his glasses and upside-down, V-shaped bushy, black eye brows, he snorted, not a little threateningly: “WTF, your partner’s a duuuude!?”
“Thanks for the recipe Colonel S!”, I retorted, in my most reflexive, Boston Irish Sarcastic while simultaneously, choking back a gut wrenching howl.
I paid my bill & left Jack Tar’s with an extra spring in my step, suddenly reanimated by the irony in the uplifting vision of the passing Durham Gay Pride Parade.

Vagabond Valentine

Lounging lazily
like a Fort Lauderdale lizard
on this Florida lanai
I listen thirstily
for the luscious
tones of the salty, crashing
warm, winter waves

They drown
my silence-starved brain
with relief
– distraction
from the constant pulsating
electronic pitch of
pounding in my ears
and lull my thoughts
into the peaceful void of
silent suspension

The ripple of wind chimes
breaks my trance
your name lights up,
I feel warmth
and I smile.

I listen
to the tension
rise…
in your sweet, raspy voice
you drink a breath, then sigh
you swallow, jolting me
your words trumpet
into my ear
the buzzing baritone dissonance
of utter
and complete frustration

Like a brilliant silver bolt
the quivering image
of Munch’s muffled Scream
flashes ‘cross my mind
like a dream…
your staccato speech
betrays your struggle
to harness the power
in your pain

Is it perhaps, because
you want more
to swallow it?
than to disturb
your vagabond valentine’s
precarious, fleeting
imperfect peace

You Do love me.

And I Do so
love you too

Money & Muscle in the Bathroom at La Concha

I met a very good looking, glistening buff Black man in the bathroom today. He said hello and started up a rather awkward conversation. I was standing against the wall waiting for the young Asian man, who’d beat me to the only available stall, to finish. The tall, handsome, 40-something Black man, now frenetically washing his hands at the high-end designer sink with a purple orchid posturing proudly on its pinkish porcelain surface, asked directly with a pinch of arrogant insistence: “Why don’t you go ahead and use the urinal? – no one else in here.” I waited an awkward minute of quiet indignation releasing a long muffled sigh before responding and told him I needed to use the toilet. “Ah…” he said sheepishly, “Gotch’a…” with a sinking intonation revealing his embarrassment for the misaligned presumption. This felt a smidge uncomfortable, a tad too intimate a detail – to discuss my bathroom needs with a complete, but very sexy stranger. Mostly, men tend not to speak to one another in the men’s room, where straight men want to assume everyone’s on the same team – his, and gay men fantasize the same, bar the occasional eye-avoiding smirk, nod and grunt: “What’s up?”
“Man, it’s 11:30, just woke up!” he randomly announced. “Sounds like a good sleep” I laughed. “You like this place?” he prodded, nose wrinkled as if smelling something foul. “Yeah, few problems, but nothing too bad overall.” He started: “It’s too hot in my bedroom – doesn’t get below 68 degrees, at home I crank the AC to 67 – year ‘round, and the ceiling fan’s going – constantly. Here, I wake up at 3, 5 – two nights in a row, then I can’t go back to sleep, at 6 I’m already late for the gym and I need to start making calls, the market’s already opened and closed by 6 in Japan.” Feeling the pull of empathy and wishing him the ability to find some peace, I thought to myself: “This mania for ceaseless production is truly a curse, an American epidemic – not even an ocean-front, lush tropical paradise get-away offers sanctuary to the frenzied pursuit of money and muscle. Relaxation and contentment elude us when alone we compulsively focus on output to measure our worth; misery assured is all we can count on in this ironically self-defeating philosophy of success.”

Actresses

Expertly managing the cunning of a used Subaru car salesman, teeth clenched in a Cheshire-Cat-like grin, she gushed: “Oh no, I like him very much!”, in a vain attempt to mask her intention to pawn this rhetorical lemon off, on her skeptical one man audience. Daily theatrical masterpieces of mistruths and soul-selling, ‘till’n entire addled lifetime has passed when she’d realize: she’s never actually said quite exactly what she really means, only slick verbal abstract representations of what she believed the situation called for. Plainly insisting on my tacit collusion in her pseudo-feminist philosophy, she pressed: “Well we can’t simply all go around saying e-x-a-c-t-l-y what we’d really like to, now can we love?”, in her best-affected, forward-thrusted lower locked-jaw, nasal New England drawl. “Can’t we though?”, I think as my thin, closed-lipped, ironic grin and muffled groan reveal my masked disapproval. “After all, we women have had to learn to communicate in strategic ways, indirectly – with men I mean, it’s how we get things done! – to get the things we want, eh need – for our children, I meant to say”, she added with an awkward mix of pride and regret following an uncomfortable, protracted, sufficiently pregnant pause. “For yourselves”, I mentally interject, when suddenly, a piercing sliver of silver light reflected off the crest of jewels sitting atop her diamond, sapphire and green emerald encrusted right middle finger, momentarily blinding my view. I’m often happily reminded of the gratitude I forget to feel for the double-edged sword of the complicated, but fundamentally more authentic life I’ve been required and more importantly, teemingly squired to live as a mostly happy gay man.