The first time I saw David Bowie it was a man who took me
to a cinema in Huntington 12 miles from our town
where they were showing
Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars,
the concert film with backstage footage of Bowie
during costume changes talking with friends he obviously loved.
He was young, with milky skin, as excited about the show
as his audience—no matter how garish the makeup,
how spiky the hair. He was, that is, an ordinary person
saying, “Wow, isn’t this a blast?” saying what I would say.
Soon he’d go back on stage in another skin-tight outfit,
the crowd would spend half a song wondering where his dick was,
before surrendering again, singing along to that big voice
as crisp and thrilling as sanity. He was so full of plain goodness,
yet also a space alien, truly fierce, a little grotesque, though I knew
he was nothing to be afraid of, for I was Ziggy Stardust too.
Soon I’d go away to college, putting distance between me
and the man who drove me to see Bowie. For a while he wrote me
letters mentioning other beautiful men. Richard Gere
was on Broadway playing a gay man in a concentration camp,
the Nazis made him wear a pink triangle, and perhaps, his
letter suggested, I might want to try on that triangle too.
Did I tell you he was my 12th grade English teacher?
His understanding of metaphor was quite limited,
but I’m glad I at least got to Bowie, who was so far beyond
gay or straight, a creature so wildly human
there was no word for him yet, which is why he needed
another planet to be from, a planet I needed to find.
from In America
2017 Rattle Chapbook Prize Selection
[ download audio]
Diana Goetsch: “I’m basically a love poet. I’ve started to understand that after all these years. No matter the subject, I think my mission has something to do with redemption. And I just go for the hardest thing to redeem.” ( website)