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Button Poetry - Lafayette Street lyrics

On my way from the Nuyorican poet's cafe to my boyfriend's apartment, I'm walking on Lafayette Street, when a man confronts me.

"Where you goin', princess?"

When I don't acknowledge him at all,
He shouts "Faggot!", "p**y!", "b**h!",
And I should've been angry, but internalized homophobia is quite the saboteur.

So I spent the next three days wondering where I slipped up.
Too often,
Young queer people have to learn to hide their own names, Remove the switch in their step,
Blend in with the wallpaper.

So where had I failed in this chameleon training?
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How could he tell?
Maybe he looked into my mouth,
Saw the quivering tongue, afraid of betraying years of speech therapy to straighten my lisp.

Maybe he saw the anchors I fixed to my wrist to make them anything but limp.
Maybe he saw through the masks I've built ever since I realized that sometimes it's safer in costume.
Maybe he just thought that was the worst thing he could call me, like he had chewed on my name, and spat out new ones for me.

"Faggot!', "p**y!", "b**h!'

Or maybe,
Maybe he could smell the child fermenting in my own shame,
That child didn't know the meaning of shame,
That child only who only answered to his own name,
That child, even now, rotting away, somewhere inside me.

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