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Before the Melbourne Reading

By Norman Erikson Pasaribu

As gay people, on the other hand, we grow up alone; there is no history. There are no ballads about the wrongs of the gay past, the gay martyrs are mostly forgotten. It is as though, in Adrienne Rich’s phrase, if you were gay, ‘you looked into the mirror and saw nothing’.

– Colm Tóibín

You spent

the entire morning


out the online dictionaries


for how to utter


it’s fascinating

after years and years


(a)   of living   (b)  of living      (c)  of living  (d) of living     

  with this name    in this name   for this name      through this name  

(e)  of living      (f) of living       (g)  of living         (h)  of outliving

     by this name     down this name      out this name          this name


of troubling your lips

to sound

like a native (speaker)

you still distrust

the tongue

to appropriately

say ‘heterosexual’

or ‘vegetable’

or ‘loved.’



you muttered

to the mirror


how this face

would react

Hetero sexual


what creature

this so-called

most honest thing

would give back

Het ero sex ual

He te ro se xu al


It’s such a hard word to say, is it?

You kept going                       and going

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