poem: an unlikely love story inspired by Bent (the motion picture)

an unlikely love story inspired by Bent (the motion picture)

we meet
on the train
a concentration
of downcast eyes
in the wooden belly
of imminent slaughter

you wear
the pink triangle
(they say
you are bent)

you tell me
how to survive,
so i murder
my lover
i rape
a girl child
i earn
the yellow star

the storm troopers
walk by
snickers marching
across their faces
by the rhythm
of their feet
as they fall into rank
for the little man
behind the holocaust

they coax us
to complete each load
of this futile work
moving rocks
from one pile
to another
and back again

they are trying
to drive us mad
they pride themselves
in the unique quality
of our demise

but we have
a secret
they cannot bully
all of our smiles

i hold you
to me

in the moments
they allow us
to stand still
we whisper
touching places
we’ve never actually felt
beneath the dry, cracked pads
of our fingertips

my ears burn
with the distant sigh
of your pleasure

even when the snow falls
and we have no gloves
to protect our fingers
i hold you to me
in words
and you imagine yourself
warm again

we have a code
you touch
your left eyebrow
to say
i love you

they do not know
i hold you to me
they do not see
our embrace
written on flesh
by voices
they cannot quiet

or maybe they do

they are walking
us someplace
we haven’t been

we are close
to the fence
to the outside
we have almost

they tell me
to watch you

they tell you
to throw your hat
on the fence

i hold you
to me

the dread
fills me
raging butterflies
of torment
in my empty belly

i hold you
to me

you throw your hat
he commands you
to retrieve it

i hold you to me

you touch your left eyebrow

i hold you to me

there is a ringing
in my ears

i hold you to me

you crumble

i hold you to me

they tell me
to get rid of the body
(you were never
human to them)

for the first time
since we met
i hold you to me

April Cheri 7/1999 and 10/2014




Poem: Basquiat

(a young artist who died
of heroin addiction)

this needle tells me
bedtime stories
as the pillow
swells my comfort
with this liquid caramel
slipping under my covers,
touching me here
in the crook of my arm,
a seduction leading
to kisses and fingers
between these thighs
between my eyes

i watch
the mad hatter
play solitaire on my bed,
in my head,
ring around the rosie lullabies
rocking me to sleep,
keeping me awake,
i follow my tracks
to a holiday in Paris
without ever leaving home

my hollow reflection
in the mirror
makes me giggle,
so i paint my ghosts
with joker smiles
and freedom guiles,
i am drooling,
i am schooling
the children i will never have
in the art of dying
with a monkey on your back.

April Cheri 6/97 : published in PIF Magazine


poem: where you came from (poem for my daughter)

where you came from
(poem for my daughter)

the words came home today
unexpected, though i knew
they were inevitable

they didn’t knock at the door
they stumbled in
awkward and young

“I want to know about my dad,”
you said , six years old
unable to know what you are really asking

i tell you…
the thin but short legs
the round little butt
the Buddha belly
they are his

the rosebud lips
the soft brown hair
the swirl of ear
they are mine

the golden skin
the gray-blue eyes
the spirals of curls
they are yours


i tell you…
the remarkable temper
the bug-eyed glare
the exaggerated sins against you
they are his

the need to please
the easy tears
the ability to lie with a smile
they are mine

the screechy whine
the hypochondria
the desire to be center stage
they are yours


i tell you…
the charm
the leadership
the ability to inspire
they are his

the intelligence
the fierce independence
the obsession to learn and create
they are mine

the natural comedy
the gymnast tendencies
the touch that can heal
they are yours


i do not tell you…
the prison walls
the ability to rape
and to murder
they are his

and he will not give them to you
the invisible scar
the gun against forehead
on the night you were made
they are mine
and i will not give them to you

the innocent smile
the easy laughter
the life free of violence
they are yours
and we will not take them from you

April Cheri 1998

Poem: I Know (For Virginia Woolf)

I Know (For Virginia Woolf)


“Five hundred a year stands for the power to contemplate,…”

when you grow up
eating white beans
and ham-hocks,
peeing off the back porch
of a condemned house
without plumbing,
and wearing your mother’s
wedding dress
for eighth grade graduation,
self confidence
is as unattainable
as your own room

when you birth
your first child
at the age of seventeen,
learn neither friendship
nor romance will
play in your sandbox,
and survive on three hundred
a month and food stamps
to earn your diploma,
the dream of composing poetry
is as impractical
as a prom date

when madness
creeps in to take
your wits hostage,
a naïve choice in a lover
leads to his gun
in your bedroom,
and your second child
is conceived in rape
rather than love,
freedom of mind
is as hopeless
as a safe place to sleep

when your days become
blurred snapshots,
writing research papers
while nursing at midnight,
picking lice from your
daughter’s corkscrew curls,
and crumpling into bed
alone and weeping,
the power to contemplate
is as unlikely
as finding a devoted father
for your children

when winning bread
means struggling
to keep poverty
from possessing your family,
success entices you
to give up your imagination,
and the american dream
attempts corporate
conquest of your heart,
your greatest power
lies in your courage
to pick up a pen and write


“…a lock on the door means the power to think for oneself.”

my stories are not
hidden behind wiggling
door handles,
my insights strut between
silly songs and giggles
with my babies

my stories are not
opened with brass keys
tinkling on a silver ring,
my brainstorms swirl and burst
among homemade bubbles
in the back yard

my stories are not
bound by scrawls on paper
or pixels on a computer screen,
my tragedies bleed from
tiny fingers with splinters
and paper cuts

my stories do not
wait for a quiet room
to reveal themselves,
they run naked through
my house and office
when least expected

my stories learn with me
that privacy is a luxury
a mother must demand
after so many years of interrupted
movies, meals, showers,
and sexual tanglings

my stories gather in my lap
each day as the sun sets,
where I kiss them one by one,
tuck them in a pocket
of my heart and whisper,
“Our time will come.”

April Cheri

* * *

This poem was written in the early 2000s as part of a submission to a competition for a writing grant for women, in response to Virginia Woolf’s quote about a woman needing a room of her own and an independent income in order to be able to write.

Ten Years Ago

Ten Years Ago – I was on the brink of a year of tremendous life changes. It was a brilliant and brutal year to come.
I believe it was this month ten years ago that I ended my first marriage, or I had just done so, and then he refused to move out of the house for several more months so home life was challenging.
In January I would join my two partners in heading up The Impropriety Society and we would produce our first sex positive party, Cherries Jubilee, in May. I also met my Beloved at this time, as they became our head of music, although we wouldn’t get together till 3 years later. The party was stunning. We knew how to create beautiful spaces. And it was exciting because all the volunteers were falling in love with each other and so there was an abundance of flirting and affection. I played my first (and only) game of the Spin the Bottle, with a set of dice that suggested above-the-waist sexy things to do with your partner, and I felt like I won because the bottle kept stopping on me so I got to play with everyone. Then our staff party two weeks later was magical with kissing circles and cuddle puddles and we were so high on the freedom and love we were sharing.
I started dating as a polyamorous single woman, so my social life and sexual expression was off the hook after 8 years of monogamy and little kink. I learned how there are many kinds of chemistry so that I had cuddling friends, kissing friends, a hot gay man friend who loved to make out with certain women of which I was lucky to be included, BDSM play partners, and lovers. I learned that nearly everyone is hungry for touch and permission to be affectionate and that cuddle puddles are medicine. I learned that I didn’t have to be a “beautiful person” by society’s standards in order to have a rich dating life and that plenty of people liked my transgressive comfort with my fat body.
In June my son graduated from high school and I would see my mom for the last time. She died two months later.
I was laid off from one job and hired for another just a few days before mom died. And then I came down with a systemic case of poison oak that lasted six weeks after I came home from handling my mom’s death business. Watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel got me through those isolated and grief ridden weeks. My sweet and funny office mate would become my surrogate mom in ways while I worked with her.
The same month my mom died my son left for college on the other side of the country.
And then my ex-husband finally moved out so my teen daughter and I were living on our own.
Ten years ago I had no idea I was on the brink of everything changing. Finally ending my unhappy marriage was a big step in taking charge of my life. My mom’s death set off an intense grief and healing process that took years. And The Imps transformed me in more ways than I could describe over the five years we created events and lived life together. I experienced deep love and deep hurt with my partners, friends, lovers, and the greater community. And because of the Imps I now have my Beloved, my birth son, and my adoption triad (the adoptive mom was one of my producing partners).
Wow. That woman ten years ago. She had no idea what it would take to liberate herself from generations of trauma. She had no idea the soaring highs and the on-her-knees lows that she would need to finally see her inherent worth as a human. She knew healthy, loving partnership was possible, but she had no idea the journey required to eventually create it with the hot goth DJ she felt a spark with the moment they met.
I have to admit, I hope the next 10 years are gentler. I hope I’m on the brink of creating a new career. I hope I’m on the brink of finding/creating community again. I hope my marriage remains vibrant.