Ancestral Duty

Father marvels at the woman on the television screen
          That's the kind of woman you should marry
          Tall, leggy, and lean like a Doberman
          Notice the fine neckline without a double chin
          She will age beautifully

I remain engrossed in my dinner and newspaper
Lines of text enter my eyes like impotent missiles
Each word becomes meaningless and incomprehensible
Patriarchal sermon wields its power to distract

The virtues of female physique is listed like a shopping list:
Tall but not taller than you
Slender but not anorexic
Athletic but not butch like an American broad
Not to forget legs like Princess Di

Dishes clamoring in the sink
Mother continues her kitchen duties without a word
The sermon grows louder
Frustration builds up inside me like a brain aneurysm
Incessant voices from past and present lecture me like a dwarf

Heart beats racing from trepidation
Neck stiffening from humiliation
I violently turn the page of inscrutable text and shout
          I told you already I am GAY and
          I am not marrying a woman!
My eyes remain fixed on the inscrutable text
Never have I talked about this dark subject with father
He recoils from my voice

          What do you mean you are not going to marry?
          What kind of nonsense is that?
          You are put on this earth to reproduce!

Silence fell like historical landmarks and cultural bastions
I sat in shock as divinity is summoned
Divinity has never played a driving force in this family

          You need to continue the next generation of this family.
          This is your duty to your ancestors.
          How dare you disrespect your ancestors!
          How dare you!

JL Dec 2001


This poem describes a conversation I had with my father one night. He had known through my mother many months ago that I was gay but we had never talked about it. The conversation degenerated even further after this initial exchange.