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In Heaven I’ll be quite normal | Stuart Barnes

In Heaven I’ll be quite normal (, or Pentina to Doone Kennedy, after The Smiths)

Interviewer: ‘Do you find the idea of men having sex with men or women having sex with women quite offensive?’

Doone Kennedy, 67th Lord Mayor of Hobart: ‘I do. I’m quite normal, thank goodness.’

— Hinch at 7, December 5, 1988

but in Tasmania I’m

diabolical, quite

the opposite of normal —

‘faggot’, ‘poof’, ‘Grim Reaper’ (barbarism begins at home); I thank

the other kids with gory smiles. ‘Goodness,’

sighs my mother, bleaching and starching shirts. ‘Goodness,’

sighs the chaplain, tamping Psalms into my throat until I’m

gulping, gaga. ‘Thank

you for opening up, though there’s quite …’

sighs the headmaster ritually, ‘a ways to go before …’ Normal

’s how I’ll feel seven years on, sculpting ‘Mis-Shapes’. Normal,

seventeen years on, ’ll compact my foundation. Goodness,

even The Monster Ball Tour in twenty-one’ll leave me quite

breathless. Heaven knows I’m miserable now, I’m

low as all hell. So who to thank

for this weakness at the knees for Jesus? Thank

you, vicar in a tutu, for passing out behind the altar (a normal

Sunday morning, all-night spritzers at La Cage) — I’m

renewing the vow (‘No goodness

in homo adulthood’). Quite

horrifying — in 1958, Noel shot himself, his Bert got three years. Quite

terrifying — I might get up to twenty-one. So who to thank

for this panic? No truth, beauty or goodness

at the dead centre of Lorna Doone ‘Quite normal’

Pleasance Kennedy. In seven years I’m

going to cruise the strait, a handsome devil. I’m not quite super -normal so I’ll manage my pleasance, thank the Lord for His goodness.

Stuart Barnes was born and grew up in Hobart, Tasmania, educated at Monash University, Victoria, and lives in Rockhampton, Queensland. His first book, Glasshouses (UQP 2016), won the Thomas Shapcott Poetry Prize, was commended for the Anne Elder Award and shortlisted for the Mary Gilmore Award. From 2013–2017 he was poetry editor for Tincture Journal. / @StuartABarnes.

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