Dennis Milam Bensie
Love enters, unasked.
On a hazy Sunday afternoon
The side garden was packed with watchful family and friends
Bearing flowers, cake, and punch.
Not too showy
A sense of relief and pride,
The gallant pair,
Hot and flushed,
Stand hand in hand
On a little platform at the foot of a tree.
There is no preacher.
The two handsome men get tangled up in their love-talk,
Then they kiss with gaiety.
Husband and husband
At last, queer rights.
Two men can marry
And settle down
Despite the sex.
The family church sneers loud:
“Men are to be men”
Jesus peeps down on earth.
He glitters in silence.
—a mashup using only the words found in DH Lawrence’s Sons and Lovers (1913)
A Bill With The Devil
Dennis Milam Bensie
Too painful, too extreme,
In a small town in Kentucky.
–I wished I was dead.
I tried to like girls.
My queer boyhood
Was a prison of straits.
The hardness of my own sex.
My Christian family had
Straight, unworldly wisdom.
They knew I was gay and told me
I was running up a bill with the devil.
Sobbing compulsively, I confessed.
Finally, my admission of the unwelcome truth.
I was their little abomination
With a palsied heart that could feel nothing.
The family pastor suggested my parents
Obliterate what ailed me
By sending me to a special shock camp.
He said say there was no choice.
A benevolent sanctuary in the woods;
Some hoary, old saints worked there every summer
For the comfort, instruction, and improvement
Of the low-minded, ill-used gay boys like me.
Their moral and religious sensibilities
Hopefully carried young men
Into great sacrifice and reflections
With some practical godly results.
My gross sensualism was not to be found in nature.
Called out for being hopelessly sordid,
The mountain missionaries promised me that
Someday I would marry a Christian woman.
Shock camp viewed, nor offered,
Any social science or hard evidence;
Just God then God then God
And a convulsively brutal load of perplexities.
Twelve sad weeks of doubtful schemes,
My pious trepidation increased.
I pushed away from the helping, praying hands
With my own question of authenticity.
Trust in God?
He made me
And let these things be so.
I needed, demanded, some satisfactory proof.
Don’t look or listen.
Constrain those feelings.
Just pray and pray and pray.
Shut your eyes and your ears.
As long as you behave well,
You will be free
A pathetic benediction I felt.
My flesh and blood, tight and snug
Didn’t convert or contend.
There was nothing from above.
The camp dispersed and I was still quite frolicsome;
Unbridged by religion.
That summer, I had found
My own new twists and turns.
I announced to my parents
That there was no bill with the devil,
That there would be no rooms for me in heaven,
And any bill from God had already been paid in full.
—a mashup using only words found in Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852)
Dennis Milam Bensie’s poem “Eight Ball” was published in Greater National Society of Poets, Inc in 1980 when he was a freshman in high school. It was featured thirty years later in his memoir, Shorn: Toys to Men. His short stories and poetry have been featured in Short Fiction Break, Burningword Literary Journal, Chelsea Station, The Ink and Code, Everyday Fiction, Bare Back Magazine, The Round Up, Specter Magazine, Fuck Fiction, Cease Cows, and This Zine Will Change Your Life and his essays have been seen in The Huffington Post and The Good Men Project. One Gay American was his second book with Coffeetown Press, which was chosen as a finalist in both the Next Generation Indie Book Awards and the Indie Excellence Book Awards. The author has been a presenter at the Saints and Sinners Literary Festival in New Orleans and at Montana’s very first gay pride festival. Bensie’s latest work, Flit: A Poetry Mashup of Classic Literature will be released by Coffeetown Press in October 2015.