Will Vigar

poet. writer. imposter.

Learning Shame and Anger in the Midst of a Moral Panic.

I’m often asked why I don’t write more about being queer. I find this to be an odd question. As far as I’m concerned, all of my poetry is queer poetry. From my perspective, it can be nothing else. All of my thoughts and observations are queer ones. In only the second overtly queer poem I’ve written, I recount an event that happened when the full-on HIV panic of the mid-80s took hold.

Picture the scene: A group of students arrive for the weekly GaySoc meeting…

Learning Shame and Anger In The Midst of a Moral Panic

It came as a surprise that the doors
were locked. We were informed by note,
hastily scrawled on crumpled A4 paper,
stuck to cold pane, with hard and hairy

blu-tack, to wait for instructions.
While we stood for too long in winter
drizzle, and watched as uni(n)formed
men frenziedly rubbed disinfectant

into desk top veneer as if their lives
would be forfeit. Doors opened
by remote control – room keys strewn
carelessly, and a slack gesture towards

them as they ran to safety. Slatted blinds
shivered as they watched from behind
glass portal. A feeling of free fall pulled
at our stomachs and we knew, oh we

knew what they were thinking. It was
written in fear, trembling on every wrinkle
and soaking their brows with a coward’s
sweat. Shaken by  implications, we took

the keys, blinds snapping shut in a tragic
post-mid-life crisis game of peek-a-boo.
We moved to our meeting room
that now seemed alien, cold, unwelcoming.

A pointed stench of disinfectant - green slicks
of astringent pine accumulating in between
terrazzo tiles - made our eyes run.
Atmosphere thick and muted, devoid

of salacious banter, a scheduled movie
night – “Cruising,” with Al Pacino
since you ask - replaced by an impromptu
discussion that tried but failed to answer

an elephantine question - ‘is this
what it’s going to be like for us, now?’
Bewildered and tearful, we picked our coats
and bags as a strident alarm splintered

a tangible gloom. A lack of movement
from other rooms and an empty stairwell
raised suspicions and we learned that this
noise was just for us - an underhand,

craven way to alert us that security
was ready to usher the unclean.
Other meetings in other rooms had
been informed - via neatly printed

leaflets - that this tocsin was a test
to be ignored. In previous weeks,
we had shared many a ribald joke,
but now ‘insecurity,’ as they were

renamed had decided, without mandate
or provocation, that we were now
an unacceptable risk and that humiliation
was the only answer to moral panic.

Waiting for us on reception was a large
glass jar filled with bleach and a hand-written
message instructing us to:

“drop the keys

in the jar

and leeve.”


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This entry was posted on July 30, 2022 by in creative writing, Poem, poem of the day, Poetry and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .
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