David

David rutiezer

David Rutiezer, the grandchild of Jewish immigrants, was raised in Illinois and Massachusetts, and lives in Portland, Oregon. He holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the Rainier Writing Workshop and a TESL certificate from Concordia University. David's poems have been published in Drash, Harpur Palate, Jewish Currents and the North Coast Squid. He helped to found the December First Writers, who give readings about HIV/AIDS to increase awareness of AIDS and build support for local AIDS organizations. David sings and plays keyboard and ukulele, has a background in music therapy, has performed in nursing homes, memory care communities, and rehabilitation centers, and released a music album for children, The Kid in Me, in November 2014. He has performed and taught Israeli and International folk dancing for people of all ages, abilities, and backgrounds across the Pacific Northwest. David tutors ESL and writing at Portland Community College, and he volunteers for numerous community organizations, including Cascade Festival of African Films and the Oregon Holocaust Memorial. 


You can learn more about David at CreativeDavid.com


Email David david@creativedavid.com

image12

Poetry

lillian

folk dances in a handmade dress

green and purple as crayons

and decries the lack of sense

in her fellow Idahoans. I didn’t know

splitting her Seattle hotel room would mean

sharing a Queen-sized bed while she 

paws my chest, asking Why label yourself?

saying under the right conditions she could 

easily love a woman instead of 

her rigid husband from the Department of Energy. 

When I tell her I’ve lived in Portland half my life 

she cries Don’t say that! and I have to clarify 

that I don’t mean my life is half over. 

When Yet Another Straight Woman Asks Me Why I'm Not In A Relationship

I could tell her the only place 

as I child I saw two men hold hands 

was in Italy back in 1978. It wasn't 

a gay thing. Before they watched 

American TV and movies 

and learned real men don't do that 

and stopped. Folk dancing 

has worked for me since, 

holding hands in a circle of dancers, 

and for 30 years he's had no idea I 

spend nights dreaming I can 

feel each hair on the backs

of his blessedly thick fingers. 

I was visiting Milan with Sam, 

a boy from school, divorced parents 

as mine soon would be, 

whose father lived there with 

an Irish woman named Muriel 

who'd learned to concoct macedonia, 

fruit salad with just a dash

of kirsch. The city was awash 

with more bicyclists than I'd ever seen

as we sipped frappes and stepped around

the dog bm. We were ten. 

But even now, scanning the parks 

on particularly crowded sidewalks, 

I can't tell. It's hard to admit this 

when I know I'm just supposed 

to know. Two brothers? 

An uncle and nephew? 

Maybe two men whose wives 

are sisters? I always end up 

convincing myself no—

come on, say it —not gay — as if 

two men's happiness couldn't be real

but today I think back

on all the years I never thought 

I could enjoy work,

didn't know anyone had 

a good boss who never hovers, 

who treats us like adults and 

even thanks us every day and, well, 

at 47, here I am. I finally 

have that. So I've learned 

to say: Why do you ask? 

because I won't force the day I love 

the way they did in Milan in 1978,

two men friends walking hand in hand

who never knew that an American boy 

watching alone from a stranger's window

would long for it all his life.

after the parade

The man two folding chairs away 

who passed out in the August heat,

slumping to the pavement, knocking over 

the arrowed sign that reads antiques,

is sitting upright, wiping his face

from the water someone threw,

able to tell the paramedics 

his name, and no he’s not a diabetic,

and though the danger seems past

I’m thinking how years ago a friend,

diabetic and HIV+, so big he could
barely walk, sleeping on a mattress 

black with mold from his night sweats–

I should get a plastic bag to seal that in he'd said–

paid me to wipe his blood from the walls. 

While he discussed world religion 

I collected the half-emptied frozen food trays 

that littered the floor. Once, a neighbor came: 

Gary, you can’t let it get like this 

and he, just back from the hospital, 

told her by Christmas he should be 

driving again. “Gary needs assisted living,” 

a mutual friend had said, and though just 61, 

he had only me and the young nurse 

who visited once a week, tingling 

over his swollen limbs: “I love wound care.” 

In the January ice storm they went in 

and found him dead on that bed, 

a heart attack, and I ask myself 

is this some kind of man thing, 

how even we gay guys 

learn to tough it out, say we’re 

okay, that we can take care of it 

ourselves? And is this why Steve, 

when I tell him he has apnea, 

that he’s swallowing his tongue in his sleep,

apologizes, embarrassed to have kept me awake? 

The point, Steve, I wanted to tell him,

is to prevent yourself from dying. 

Or is death itself a neglect

as I, two chairs from near-death

remind myself about the heat, 

crack open a water bottle, and drink. 

be careful

My father’s admonition 

lurked in shadows, always, like a predator.


Now, we folk dance friends 

drive to a leaf-canopied house

where Danny turns splotch brown

as steadily as an aging pear. 


Kaposi’s sarcoma

a friend tells me later

whose own son will soon succumb.


All those years I heard my father’s warning

as You’d better not be gay

when he meant this. 

almost by accident (aaron/arnie)

"Mom, that David is gay."


When I first came out to my mom, she didn't believe me. Mom, I told her one day, I think I was meant to be a woman

After my mother had stared a few moments, she asked, Have you tried liking girls? I hadn't. Then don't worry, just be an adult first. Get a job. Live your life. 

But I knew that I loved Floyd Parker on Guiding Light, and the only one loving him was Leslie Ann. So clearly, I was meant to be Leslie Ann. Or maybe Connie Selleca's character on Greatest American Hero, since she loved William Katt.


I'd met Arnie once, at Israeli folk dancing in Portland, Oregon where his mom Sylvia and I and about 40 dancers went every Tuesday night. We sat at the edge of the big stage in the big room at the Mittleman Jewish Community Center, Arnie's big, blue eyes so like his mom's. I was in my early 20s then, Sylvia was still married to and dancing with John, and Arnie was moving to San Francisco. I wore loose sweatpants to dancing, to hide the hard on Dwight gave me, and oversized t shirts with zippers I'd had put into the crew necks so I wouldn't gag when they touched my skin. 


I was the closest to being in the closet that I could have ever hoped to be. 


There were no gay people at folk dancing that I knew of. Why do straight people assume that there would've been? Are they still subconsciously thinking that all men who dance are gay? Or just that folk dancing is gay? 


Later, as Arnie lay in a San Francisco AIDS hospice bed, he told Sylvia, "Mom, that David is gay. And I just don't have the energy to tell him." 


Aaron/Arnie would die of AIDS in 1992. Sylvia would ask me, the first person from folk dancing to ask, if I was gay, and I would say yes and come out. I would keep writing poems, and she would write and publish a book of poems about him, and we would read her poems, her part in her voice and Arnie's part in mine, including when she was the keynote speaker at Pride Portland, probably in 1999 or 2000. 


I would read at these events, and years later, almost accidentally, found December First Writers, and we began to give readings together of our own work about AIDS, not because I'm an expert on AIDS, having come out after so many had already died, or because my story is that remarkable, but to tell what stories I do have, not of the elation or relief but of the terror of coming out when being a gay man was synonymous with AIDS and death, and because AIDS is still here, and in the hopes that people will listen to other people's stories, and in honor and respect for so many like Arnie who are no longer here to tell theirs.