my relations with father Baldwin are complex. of course the magnitude and wealth of his work serves like no other. But his contradiction around race (the focus on queer white men as objects of desire sometimes and the down playing of Black male intimacy) get to me. To be clear, we all have our contradictions and i love James Baldwin. But just as I love him at times and am “over him” others – the same goes for me and the people who love or observe me.
that aside, this book is like my Bible. It inspired my pen name and dozens of other meditations and reflections. This particular passage approaches queer Black male relations with an honest and prose that has yet to be matched for me. The reflection and introspection is amazing. From the act of giving head to the holding of one another- the navigation of space and flesh for us (Queer Black men) comes with many entanglements. He articulated them so well and from there, gave us some solutions, if we are willing to see and dream them.
well done brother.
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They curled into each other, spoon fashion, Arthur cradled by Crunch.
They did not sleep long. Arthur woke up, and peed in the sink, as quietly as possible. He ran water as quickly as possible. He lifted the shade and looked out the window. It was night, he had guessed it to be around nine or ten o’clock; thee were not as many people on the street as there would have been on a Saturday night in Harlem. most of the people were already inside some place, or they were on their way, and their voices, and their music muffled, filled the air, filled the room. He dropped the shade.
Crunch lay as he had left him. One arm was at his side, one arm lay stretched where Arthur had been. His breathing was deep and slow- yet Arthur sensed that Crunch was not entirely lost in sleep. Arthur crawled back into bed, pulling the covers back up. The moment he crawled back into bed, Crunch, still sleeping, pulled Arthur into his arms.
And yet, Crunch lay as one helpless. Arthur was incited by this helplessness, the willing helplessness of the body in his arms. He kissed Crunch, who moaned, but did not stir. He ran his hands up and down the long body. He seemed to discover the mystery of geography, of space and time, the lightning flash of tension between one- moment? one breath and the next breath. The breathing in- the breathing out. The miracle of air, entering, and the chest rose: the miracle of air transformed into the miracle of breath, coming out, into your face, mixed with Pepsi-Cola, hamburgers, mustard, whatever was in the bowels: and the chest fell. He lay in this urgency for a while, terrified, and happy.
He held Crunch closer, running his fingers up and down the barely tactile complex telegraph system of the spine. His hans dated to discover Crunch’s beautiful buttocks, his ass, his behind. He stroked the gift between his legs which held the present and the future. Their sex became rigid. Crunch growled, turned on his back, still holding Arthur.
Arthur moved, in Crunch’s arm, belly to belly, Pepsi-Cola, mustard, and onions and hamburgers and Crunch’s rising prick: Crunch moaned. Arthur knew something that he did not know he knew- he did not know that he knew that Crunch waited for Arthur’s lips at his neck, Arthur’s tongue at the nipples of his chest. Pepsi-Cola, mustard, hamburgers, ice cream, surrendered to funkier, unknown odors; Crunch moaned again, surrendering, surrendering, as Arthur’s tongue descended Crunch’s long black self, down to the raging penis. He licked the underside of the penis, feeling it leap, and licked the balls. He was setting Crunch free- he was giving Crunch what he, somehow, knew that Crunch longed and feared to give him. He took the penis into his mouth, it moved, with the ease of satin, past his lips, into his throat. For a moment, he was terrified: what now? For the organ was hard and huge and throbbing. Crunch’s hands came down, but lightly on Arthur’s head, he began to thrust upward but carefully into Arthur’s mouth.
Arthur understood Crunch’s terror- the terror of someone in the water, being carried away from shore- and this terror, which was his own terror, soon caused him to gasp, to attempt to pull away. at the same time that he held on. His awareness of Crunch’s terror helped him to overcome his own. He had never done this before. In the same way he knew how Crunch feared to be despised- by him- he knew, too, the he, now, feared to be despised by Crunch.
Well. It was Crunch’s cock, and so he sucked it; with all the love that was in him and a moment came when he felt that love being trusted and returned. A moment came when he felt Crunch pass from a kind of terrified bewilderment into joy. A friendly, a joyful moment, began.
So high, you can’t get over him.
Sweat from Arthur’s forehead fell onto Crunch’s belly.
So low-and Crunch gasped as Arthur’s mouth left his prick standing in the cold, cold air, as Arthur’s tongue licked his sacred balls-you can’t get under him. It was as though, with this kiss, they were forever bound together. Crunch moaned, in an absolute agony, and Arthur went down again.
“Little fellow. Baby Love.”
You must come in at the door.
He held the prick in his mouth again, sensing, awaiting, the eruption. He, and he alone, had dragged it up from the depths of his lover.
“Oh Little fellow.”
Then shaking like an earthquake, “Oh my love. Oh love.”
Atlanta was still. The world was still. Nothing moved in the heavens.
Curious, the taste, it came, leaping, to the surface: of Crunch’s prick, of Arthur’s tongue, into Arthur’s mouth and throat. He was frightened but triumphant. He wanted to sing. The taste was volcanic. The taste, the aftermath, this anguish, and this joy had changed all taste forever. The bottom of his throat was sore, his lips were weary. Every time he swallowed, from here on, he would think of Crunch, and this thought made him smile as, slowly, now, and in a peculiar joy and panic, he allowed Crunch to pull him upward into his arms.
He dared to look into Crunch’s eyes. Crunch’s eyes were wet and deep, deep like a river and Arthur found that he was smiling peace like a river.
Arthur asked Crunch, “All right? do you feel alright?”
Crunch put Arthur’s head on his chest and ran one long hand up and down Arthur.
“You the most beautiful thing ever happen to me, baby,” he said. “Thats how I feel.” Then, “Thank you Arthur.”
“For what?” Arthur asked- teasing, bewildered, triumphant and – and safe in Crunch’s arms.
“For loving me,” Crunch said.
After a moment, he pulled up the covers. They went to sleep in spoon fashion, Arthur cradling Crunch.
“Just Above My Head”, James Baldwin (pgs 209-212)