Dee Stribling
Overall Winner, OUTSpoken Contest


Because when I was six I went to bed with a blistering sore throat and fell in a jumble of bones the next morning unable to walk. Because I watched my mother sobbing while I floated above my hospital bed. Because at nine I helped my father carry my crying, miscarrying mother to the car in a chair and spent the rest of the evening looking blankly at him in the General Green diner while she stayed in the hospital. Because I started seeing things when I was so young I didn't know any different. The shadows danced and the spirits talked and God was omnipresent because no kids or adults were and I was just fine with that. Because trees and wild things are my best friends. Because I made it to twelve but missed my coming out party in Rochester, NY because of snow but managed to come out later anyway. Because when I made it to thirteen the magic world of the country and cedar trees and birds and lake and spirit friends changed with one phone call from my mother. "We'll never see him again, he's dead." How could he be, he just dropped me off at school that morning and now I become the man of the family and an overnight adult. Because I didn't tell anyone I heard the most beautiful music I'd ever heard that night and saw little lights sparkling in my room. Because my great- grandmother was part Native American and every one of her genes pooled it's way to me. Because I absolutely hated my father's side of the family in all their well-meaning pretentiousness. Because I loved Nieda and Odessa and all the rest of their house staff more than I loved my family. Because I still get Christmas letters from them talking about the ships their sons are buying and selling. Because I finally made it through my teen years and high school and college without ever telling my family a damn thing. Because my aunts kept trying to marry me off while I was in gay bars in Charlotte and Boone and Atlanta trying to figure out who the heck I was and why. Because I got egged and pulled a friend off the sidewalk after she was stabbed and comforted another because someone had mocked him and torn his new dress. Because I was refused service at a restaurant because someone thought I was Jewish. Because I lost good friends to AIDS. Because I loved my first partner the minute I saw her when I was nineteen through fourteen more years. Because we built houses together and I slugged the guy laying linoleum because he wouldn't take his hands off me. Because his brother pulled him off me while he tried his best to rape me and because his brother pulled me off of him when I tried my best to kill him with a crowbar. Because first my partner stayed my beloved friend through all our other relationships before suddenly passing away leaving me comforting her last partner and writing her obituary. Because I held a small Hispanic boy in my arms and comforted his aunt when I responded to a house fire with the Red Cross where the rest of their family had perished. Because I have a team of friends who would do anything for each other. Because I finally get to see two friends who've loved each other for 30 years get married in a state where it's finally legal. Because I love people in the general but only let in just a few. Because my mother held my hand and waited until the X-Files was over before she gently breathed her last breath. Because I do still laugh, because I am still blessed. Because I have enough food to eat and a place to stay. Because I stay angry that there are so many people in this country and world who don't have either of those things. Because the mystery is still there on dark, starry, and stormy nights. Because the ocean, mountains, and New Mexico high country still breathe life into my soul, because the sun still sears my skin, because I am blessed with friends like all of you and the yearning to write down the words. All of them.

Dee Stribling lives and writes in Hillsborough, North Carolina. She has published locally and in "200 New Mexico Poems." She has crafted three chapbooks and is currently focusing on a prose memoir and full-length poetry collection. Other creative adventures include songs, theatre, and a documentary.

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