>The Black Sheep – Karen Finley

A Public Poem at First Avenue between 1st Street and Houston

May 1990 – April 1991

After a funeral someone said to me –

You know I only see you at funerals

it’s been 3 since June –

been 5 since June for me –

He said I’ve made a vow –

I only go to death parties if I know someone before

they were sick –

Why?

cause – cause – cause I feel I feel so

sad cause I never knew their life –

and now I only know their death

And because we are members of the

Black Sheep family –

We are sheep with no shepherd –

We are sheep with no straight and narrow

We are sheep with no meadow

We are sheep who take the dangerous

pathway thru the mountain range

to get to the other side of our soul.

We are the black sheep of the family

called Black Sheep folk.

We always speak our mind.

appreciate differences in culture

believe in sexual preferences

believe in no racism no sexism no religionism

and we’ll fight for what we believe

but usually we’re pagans,

There’s always one in every family

Even when we’re surrounded by bodies

we’re always alone –

You’re born alone

and you die alone

written by a black sheep.

You can’t take it with you –

written by a former black sheep.

Black Sheep folk look different from their family –

The way they look at the world

We’re a quirk of nature –

We’re a quirk of fate –

Usually our family, our city, our country

never understands us –

We knew this from when we were very young

that we were not meant to be understood.

That’s right. That’s our job.

Usually we’re not appreciated

until the next generation.

That’s our life. That’s our story.

Usually we’re outcasts, outsiders

in our own family.

Don’t worry – get used to it.

My sister says I don’t understand you !

But I have hundreds of sisters with me tonight.

My brother says I don’t want you !

But I have hundreds of brothers with me here tonight !

My mother says I don’t know how to love someone like you !

You’re so different from the rest !

But I have hundreds of mamas with me here tonight !

My father says I don’t know how to hold you !

But I have hundreds of daddies with me here tonight !

We’re related to people we love who can’t say –

I love you Black Sheep daughter

I love you Black Sheep son –

I love you outcast, I love you outsider

But tonight we love each other –

That’s why we’re here –

to be around others like ourselves –

So it doesn’t hurt quite so much –

In our world, our temple of difference –

I am at my loneliest when I have

something to celebrate and try

to share it with those I love but

who don’t love me back.

There’s always silence at the end

of the phone –

There’s always silence at the end

of the phone –

Sister – Congratulate me !

NO I CAN’T YOU’RE TOO LOUD –

GRANDMA LOVE ME

NO I DON’T KNOW HOW TO LOVE

SOMEONE LIKE YOU

Sometimes the Black Sheep is a soothsayer,

a psychic, a magician of sorts –

Black Sheep see the invisible

We know each others thoughts

We feel fear and hatred

Sometimes, some sheep are chosen to be sick

to finally have average, flat, boring

people say I love you.

Sometimes, Black Sheep are chosen to be sick

so families can finally come together

and say I love you.

Sometimes, some Black Sheep are chosen to die

so loved ones, families, countries

and cultures

can finally say

Your life was worth living !

Your life meant something to me !

I loved you all along !

Black Sheep’s destinies are not in

necessarily having families,

having prescribed existences –

like the American Dream.

Black Sheep destinies are to give

meaning in life – to be angels,

to be conscience, to be nightmares

to be actors in dreams.

Black Sheep can be family to strangers

We can love each other like MOTHER

FATHER SISTER BROTHER CHILD

We understand universal love

We understand unconditional love.

We feel a unique responsibility

a human responsibility for feelings for others

We can be all things to all people –

We are there at 3.30AM when you call

We are here tonight cause I just can’t

go to sleep. I have nowhere else to go –

I’m a creature of the night –

I travel in your dreams

I feel your nightmares

We are your holding hand –

We are your pillow, your receiver,

your cuddly toy.

I feel your pain.

I wish I could relieve you of your suffering.

I wish I could relieve you of your pain.

I wish I could relieve you of your death.

Silence at the end of the phone.

Silence at the end of the phone.

Silence at the end of the phone.

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