“Some of My Best Friends” by Kris Beaver

Kris Beaver


What a hoot! we’d whoop out the windows
driving around our redneck town in Derek’s rundown
lavender ’59 LeSabre. With a maniacal front grill grin
and spaceship tail wings, she was a stellar vehicle
for hauling three high school misfits circa 1970.
There was no going incognito in that beauty.
She rumbled like a diesel truck. The steering wheel
was bigger than an extra-large pizza, her front seat
sagged so low, Derek had to crane his neck just to
peer over the dashboard and glimpse where to go.

We were living in the glare of here and now
back then. Certain we were immortal
and everything awesome was still possible.
Our hurt, just good material for comic relief.
We didn’t need seat belts or wear helmets.
Jack was tan, buff, with perfect teeth,
leaning over the front between me and Derek,
laughing, gesturing. Not emaciated and studded
with purple sores, blindly flailing after ghosts,
and wailing at Sacred Heart in Spokane.

Thank God for those boys who gulped life
when the nuns forbade a nibble,
who adopted lonely strays like me
and fed them friendship in a hometown
extra cruel to fat girls and gays.
While I was busy dodging oinks and butt grabs,
jocks threw guys like Derek and Jack in the creek
that snaked through the high school campus.
Our science teacher took attendance by calling
out faggot after the names of guys in drama
or with long hair, commie if you were antiwar.

All junior boys were forced to get a military cut
for mandatory ROTC. When Derek tried to refuse,
his dad had him locked up in the county jail
for a weekend to teach a manly lesson he’d remember.
That summer Derek tried to die. When Jack and I
visited him in the hospital, Derek jumped up on the bed
in his floral patient gown, wrists wrapped in gauze,
and told psych ward stories like some comic on Carson.
We sat eye level with his unbalanced legs, ready to catch.
Fuck the bullies and abusers. Fuck them all. We’d survive.

Saturday nights we cruised through the cemetery
swearing, telling jokes about the craziness we lived,
or we’d turn the headlights off and straddle
the middle of a long empty unlit road, trolling
toward the only blinking yellow traffic light in town,
pretending it was a demon we could overcome.
We even won a golden trophy at the state one-act
play festival, got a blurb and photo in the paper.
High school? We thought we slayed it.

When Derek’s car was on its last leg, he donated it
to St. Mary’s Demolition Derby. The night of the event,
we squeezed between farmers and cowboys
on the fairground bleachers, cheered for every scrape,
dent, spark and missing part his car inflicted or endured,
then stood up applauding away tears as they
towed the mangled pastel wreck of what was left
out of the spotlight and off the sawdust field.

from Poets Respond
June 23, 2019


Kris Beaver: “On Monday this week, I came across an article in my former hometown paper. The mayor of Walla Walla, Washington, declared June 2019 as its first Gay Pride Month. Bravo! I thought back on the amazing gay friends I’d been lucky to have growing up in that beautiful and wonderful small town in the late ’60s and early ’70s. We had fun, but my gay friends endured bullying, harassment and even assault. It seemed almost accepted. I knew of some of the trauma they endured. I’m sure much has changed since I moved away over 40 years ago. Although it’s terrific news Walla Walla is finally honoring their LGBTQ citizens, how awful that it’s taken fifty years. This response poem weaves the truth of several friends’ stories. There is some poetic enhancement and names were changed. There were many caring teachers, students and community members in Walla Walla who would never behave as described in this poem. Some just remained silent when witnessing the oppression. The title refers to a saying some folks use when starting to defend their inaction on behalf of the mistreated. I love so much about Walla Walla. I was blessed to have kind, creative, brave, open-minded and delightfully funny friends growing up there. I am so pleased the community is working on social justice and celebrating diversity.”

Rattle Logo