Tuesday, October 14

Our Kingdom

Our Kingdom

When things seem unbareable I remember this--"Do the Dance"--life is not a battle.

In the poem by Mark Doty "Homo Will Not Inherit" the speaker faces his own spiritual crisis. He asks why god has forsaken him. The revelation comes when the speaker is "worshipping a while in his church"--while he is engaged sexually with an unknown stranger. The stranger replies "I’m going to punish your mouth."

The speaker of the poem says:

"I can’t tell you what that did to me.
My shame was redeemed then;
I won’t need to burn in the afterlife."

Before the first ever Queer Fest Midwest Art Exhibition in 2007 I met (again) Professor Robert Stiglicz who went by "Zack."

Professor Zack was drawing furiously in a stechpad from a series of paintings at the HIV clinic NorthStar. We talked and he told me he was creating a new body of work--a body of large and small paintings entirely dedicated to ghost bodies. He said he needed to get all the ghosts out from his past and into the world in paintings. Ghosts of the departed, via AIDS, cancer, accident, war, or an Unknown Scourge.

As Professor Zack put it the paintings were of "a random assortment of men (and women), whose spirits briefly touch, as they pass through some Ether of Being, The Bardo, Whatever"

Professor Zack was in the late stages of HIV/AIDS when I met him, he was sore, had arthritis, was losing his vision and would break out in sweats constantly.

In the basement of his small bungalow house he worked tirelessly to produce his last works. Hundreds of paintings lined the walls stacked up against each other. He was making 3 sometimes 4 paintings a day.

The Queer Fest Midwest lasted only a brief day, this is the only and last place these final paintings were show. He was so grateful get his work out there, to give himself up to the world. The fight as he saw it was over, "time to put down the gloves" he told me.

In Doty's poem the speaker gives up on the idea of eternity. This is the important lesson I have learned from my friends and peers with HIV/AIDS. When we stop trying to live forever we can truly begin to live.

Queer Fest lasted only one night. It was a one night stand of emotions, excitement, rage and, lastly, grief. I wished it could stay, we all did. I lost two friends who helped me put on the one night exhibition.

My friend Gilana Alpert who died an untimely and unexpected death by slipping and hitting her head. Also, Professor Zack Stiglicz, who passed away from an HIV related illness shortly after the exhibition. What they say--Ars Long, Vita Brievis--is wrong. Life is Brief, but so is art. Queer Fest is just a shadowy memory. It is another ghost from Professor Zacks paintings.

I honor and dedicate myself to the ephemeral, because everything in life is passing and that is all we have. When I asked professor Zack why he kept painting even when he was suffering, sweating, and losing his vision he simply said "I want to Live."

There is the truth: even when there are more wounds than skin, more delusion than thinking, and all is pain, we must put down the gloves and stop fighting, and, because life is still splendid, we must "Do The Dance."

When things seem unbareable I remember this--"Do the Dance"--life is not a battle. Life is an emphemeral dance, the dancer passes and other people pick up the moves, beauty never passes into nothingness.

-Justin Polera