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Friday, October 24, 2014


by Robert Farmer

BEREA, Ky. — I WAS raised amid the coal fields of eastern Kentucky, but I was always drawn to nearby Berea. The hamlet, tucked into the lush green hills on the western side of the Appalachians, has a long legacy of equality and free inquiry — among other things, it’s home to Berea College, the first integrated and coeducational college in the South. There are lots of folks like me in Berea, who came here for its professed openness and diversity. But we had a rude shock last week, when the City Council voted 5 to 3 against an ordinance to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The vote illuminates a new reality for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans. The equality divide we face is no longer between red and blue states, but between urban and rural America. Even as we celebrate victories like this month’s Supreme Court order on same-sex marriage, the real front in the battle for equality remains the small towns that dot America’s landscape.  --Small Towns, Small Hearts, The Battle for Gay Rights in Rural America, Silas Housecoat, NY Times, October 22, 2014. Image source: Angela Worldtrekker.

Whatver happened to Johnnie
who wouldn’t dress out for high school gym,
loved chatting up the girls,
rode them around
in his blue convertible back in ’48.

Once later when we gathered,
smug from foreign places,
he spoke of wild parties in San Francisco
and looked the part
long before our little mountain town
woke up to the world and The Castro.

I’ve looked everywhere.
We’ve lost him.
He’d be about 83 now.
Probably dead.
Back then they just disappeared
from little towns all across the country.

Robert Farmer is a retired forester who lives in Cleveland, Ohio and occasionally publishes poems in small journals.