10. Gil Cuadros’ City of God (Part 2)


Gil Cuadros' City of God (book cover)

April 2
1. READ: Gil Cuadros, City of God, (p. 103 – 124)
2. Rafael Pérez-Torres, “The Transgressive Body and Sexual Mestizaje” in Mestizaje : Critical Uses of Race in Chicano Culture
3. PRESENTATION: Ayaa Elgoharry & Prekiya (Kiya) Kennebrew

City of God

April 4
1. READ: Gil Cuadros, City of God, (p. 125 – 150)
PRESENTATION: Amy Hahm & Melanie Gross
2. READ: Alberto Sandoval-Sánchez, “Politicizing Abjection: Towards the Articulation of a Latino AIDS Queer Identity” from Passing Lines: Sexuality and Immigration
3. Term project outline and bibliography due (in Course Wiki)

54 Responses to 10. Gil Cuadros’ City of God (Part 2)

  1. Sabryne Vidal says:

    In reading the second half of City of God, the poem “At Risk” stuck out to me the most. From what I could understand, it is set in the waiting room of a hospital where the male narrator (who is gay) is waiting for his appointment to begin, during which his doctor will reveal to him if whether or not he’s infected (I’m assuming with HIV). As he’s anxiously sitting, waiting for his name to called, he observes a family of two, both an angry mother and her sickly looking son.
    The narrator describes her very negatively as if she’s annoyed with her son’s behavior and/ or possible existence since nothing he does makes her any happier. It’s almost as if she wants nothing to do with him by the way that she’s threatening to physically hurt him throughout the entire time. It seems like everything negative about this woman triggers some kind of negative childhood flashback for the narrator. The following quote, “she’d beat across my back, poke me in the chest, til I hid far into the closet…her dark dress hanging over my head and promises of burning my hands on top of the stove” (Cuadros 121), is the first visual the reader gets into the narrator’s life and this memory is brought on by the violence he’d just seen between the boy and his mother. From this I predicted that his mother was very abusive towards him, maybe because he wasn’t acting like your typical boy. I envisioned this innocent little boy wanting to play with dolls or with girls, being bullied by boys in his class. Even though we don’t get this in poem itself, it’s something I inferred from the narrator’s past situation. She could have been ashamed of him and for this reason acted so violently against him. Or, it could have been that she was just an emotionally disturbed person and hit him as a result. The reader will never know really but these were just some of my assumptions that set the foundation for the rest of my post.
    As I kept reading, I couldn’t help but feel sad for the boy in the present and the narrator in the flashbacks. I noticed the title of the poem, “At Risk”- I began to analyze it a little further. I felt like the narrator felt sympathy for the little boy because he reminded him of how he was and what he’d experienced as a child. The little boy’s mother treats him badly for reasons that are unknown to the reader but regardless, I feel like the narrator is able to connect to the child’s potential feelings of fear and rejection. The boy’s mother is indifferent, there is lack of care, warmth, love and responsiveness and the narrator probably sees his own feelings reflected in the life of another.
    He is able to connect with the child at a deeper level and it hurts him to see another child having to go through this just like he did. Towards the end, it seems like the narrator is dealing with some personal conflicts, probably the abandonment/rejection from his own mother because there is no one by his side to support him as it’s mentioned in the quote…”the chair next to me is empty…” after having found out the diagnosis(Cuadros 122). When I read this I thought, the loneliness and emptiness he feels currently in the doctor’s office is what he means by “at risk”. The boy is “at risk” for the same kind of lonely and neglected lifestyle the narrator had been living all along. He predicts that the boy will grow up feeling rejected, unloved, unsupported without a mother to love or to hold when he needs her the most. Lastly, the narrator says “I say mother softer than I ever did before…” (Cuadros 123), which most likely implies how he’d wish he had his mother but unfortunately must come to accept that she’ll never be around, especially now that he’s been diagnosed with the infection. From this, the reader is able to foresee into the life of the little boy whose life is anticipated to end up in the same way for undisclosed reasons.
    I thought this poem was the most interesting because it was like the narrator reliving his traumatic childhood past in watching the relationship between the little boy and his mother. It was almost like a cry for help at the end, because the narrator is calling out for his mom “softly” meaning without the fear. It’s implied (through my own interpretation) that the boy will eventually desire his mother’s love at some point in his life- and even though she is physically there now-sadly, she’ll never be there emotionally as a nurturing maternal figure- not now, not ever.
    ~Sabryne Vidal

    • Amber Jones says:

      I completely agree with you where you stated that the narrator was reliving his traumatic childhood through the little boy. It was evident that from the very beginning of the book the narrator and his mother did not have a good relationship. To see a troubled relationship between a boy and his mom made him feel a sense of pity. He could just envision the small boy going down the same path of him and he did not desire that. I honestly believe if the narrator’s relationship with his mother was a healthy one he would not have taken so many risks that endangered his health.

    • Desiree W. says:

      I also didn’t know what to make of this poem, it was really sad to see how a trip to the Doctors can make someone have such a violent flash back to their childhood. There are images of abuse and harsh treatment from his mother, which is not expected from a womanly figure. You can tell that he really wants to have a close relationship with his mother seeing as the first person he calls out for is his mother upon him learning of his somewhat self predicted condition.

    • Ernie Abreu says:

      Indeed this is a very interesting poem. It is refreshing to see another aspect of child abuse, since in the past we have been reading about father figures and the impact of their child abuse on their child. Reading about a mother being the perpetrator this time, is different, however it does not take away from how cold and lonely the narrator’s past must have been. Just like you mentioned Sabryne, the narrator doesn’t give any evidence of his past, but the reader can infer that he has been abused as a child because of the scenario that happened at the hospital. My only problem with this scenario is, if he saw the child getting abused, and those flashbacks brought back horrible memories that he wishing no one else will experience, why didn’t he do something about it? I felt like he could have confronted the mother and help her understand the value of having a child.

      • Joseph C. Sokola says:

        Although no evidence or memories are given about the narrator’s past, there is much that can be assumed based on how the mother acts and her lack of support for her son based on his sexuality. I think that the narrator did not do anything about the child being abused by his mother because he knew that a confrontation with the boy’s mother could lead to some hostility. In a way, he may have seen his mother in the mother of the little boy, and simply did not want to get involved. Perhaps another reason could be that he fears his own mother, and he may be afraid that he would get a reaction out of the young boy’s mother that would remind him of his own mother. Unable to break the cycle of abuse and hostility that can coincide with his sexuality, he may think that a confrontation with the boy’s mother would be essentially pointless.

  2. Brittany Demers says:

    In The Quilt Series, I felt awful for John in 911. I wondered if he was taking large amounts of drugs to relax his mind. I can imagine that one becomes extremely distraught when diagnosed with any type of illness and people respond to illness differently. The way that this poem is written, specifically the descriptions of John and the narrator and their sexuality, makes me feel bad as well. No one should feel that they need to use that language to describe themselves or their loved ones. In ICU, the narrator plans his suicide when saying “…when he dies, I will go home, drink a glass of milk, pull a razor from the box, drag it across the lines in my palms up through the crooks of my arms. It will be clean, it will be over” (Cuadros, 127). I feel like these hard times that the narrator is going through can make him think or do drastic things. Maybe this is what John was doing in 911, but with drugs? I also think that the narrator feels so alone and he has nothing to take his mind off of how upset he is.

    In REM, the intense details make me upset. I can’t imagine sitting in front of someone acting like this. I would completely break down. Also, when John says “How can you do this?” (Cuadros, 129), I imagine that the narrator wants to breakdown. I’m sure he already feels horrible about everything that is going on. I do not understand the end of this poem. I think that it may be the narrators imagination going back to the days where him and John could sleep peacefully and maybe healthy. All around, The Quilt Series was extremely sad to me and I could never imagine going through something like this.

    • Amber Jones says:

      I agree the Quilt Series was one that saddened me as well. One thing that surprised me was how the the narrator played into the stereotypes that were associated with HIV/AIDS. His actions proved how naive he was, ” I would forget that I covered my mouth from breathing his air, touched him only with gloves” (Cuadros 129). I wondered why he acted this way? If he did not know about the disease he should have did his research, especially since his lover was enduring it. I honestly believe that the narrator did not know what he should do with his dying lover so he had to call on assistance (hospital). I’m still a little confused though, I thought that John gave the narrator HIV/AIDS, if so why does John blamed him? Why does John look at him until he is shame-faced? I don’t know if I am missing something or if I have my information all mixed up.

      • emilyvanburen2013 says:

        Brittany, you said it right, The Quilt series was extremely sad! I was reading this one night over the weekend and when I finished it was late and I was home alone, almost in tears because it was so depressing! I agree with what you said about being depressed; sometimes when people are at their lowest points, it’s as if they have lost all emotion in the ideas they have, even if it’s as bad as taking one’s own life. The way the narrator states that he will kill himself is emotionless and very systematic. I think sometimes people hit rock bottom and find that there’s nothing left; not emotions, not comfort, certainly not people, just words, and this is all the narrator could express.

        Amber, you are not alone! This whole chapter was confusing for me as well! The way in which it was written was not a usual novel style, but more poem like. I had a difficult time keeping with it!

    • This series was heartbreaking. The entire situation is hard to imagine. The part where John says “how can you do this” also stuck out to me. It was difficult enough for Gil to stand by and watch his lover dying, but to have that feeling of guilt about it makes it so much worse. Gil knew he did what he had to do and that it was in John’s best interest, but the things John was saying and the way he was acting in his delirious state, made him feel like by bringing John to the hospital that he was somehow contributing to John’s death.

  3. Amber Jones says:

    The story I will focus on is “There are places you don’t walk at night alone”. In short poem the narrator talks about being sexually assaulted by men. “ Come here faggot, kiss me. Their shoes made me crawl” (Cuadros 112). He was validated by men and made to indulge in his predator’s desires. He was forced and felt a sense of hopelessness. He wanted revenge and achieved this by doing the same thing that was done to him, “make them spread their legs my boots kicking them wide, let my spit drip into their ears seep into their brains” (Cuadros 114). He wanted others to feel the sense of helplessness as he did. The narrator’s problem with sexual validation is deep rooted from childhood. In the story “My Father Near Retirement” exposes inappropriate touching on his dad’s behalf. “ God like he’d appear by our beds, after the bar, drop coins and pocket fuzz near our pillows a kiss to wake us up. I’d pretend to stay asleep, watch him grab the wall” (Cuadros 107). I assumed that the father sexually abused him because he would come home from the bar and go to their room to wake them up with a kiss. As a child the narrator was put into a position where he could not defend himself. So when he became an adult he took advantage of his strength and used it for wrong. These two stories prove that the trauma one receives in their childhood can continuously affect them throughout their life. The narrator was in pursuit of making amends for his past through his actions.

    • I completely agree with you about There are places you don’t walk at night alone. This truly did make me see that often times people will do something that they hated so much onto other people. I also believe that main reason why he is so hurt and wants revenge on other people. Especially since he was hurt so deeply by someone he should of trust and thought of a protecter instead he gets hurt from someone who should love him. Although he may of been seeking revenge he wasn’t truly giving revenge to the right people because he was only continuing to create a cycle that may not be able to be stopped. The person that he is hurting may feel the same exact way he once did and will continue and never truly be put into an end.

  4. emilyvanburen2013 says:

    After reading the second half of City of God I was left with feelings of utter despair. The narrators of these stories were helpless in the face of their disease and were left without a sense of hope of regaining their health. My initial reactions to some of their stories were, “why didn’t you use protection? And why weren’t you more careful in the choosing of your partners (in terms of their honesty and openness about their disease)?” These are questions I would ask someone of any sexual orientation, not just gay men, and a part of me still questions the decisions they made, because to some extent we all have to take responsibility for the choices we make and the consequences that ensue because of them. However, as much as a part of me wanted to point a finger, there was another part of me, a bigger part, which sympathized with the narrators, because as one human being to another I can understand pain and feel sorry for those who are experiencing it.
    Last week in class, we discussed how there was and still is an irrational fear of those who suffer from HIV/AIDS due to a lack of interest/knowledge about the disease. I thought further about our discussion when I read in the second part of City of God about the EMT’s who came to John’s house to take him to the hospital. “When the ambulance came two swarthy men in open shirts, snakes wrapped around an emblem, yelled at me about drug overdose, ransacked our one bedroom place, saw the Honcho magazine pages of cocksuckers in body chains. They passed eyes at each other knowing we were fags and slipped on rubber gloves and protective gear” (Cuadros, 125). My initial reaction to reading this was that the paramedics responding to John’s situation should not have assumed that just because these men were gay, they were automatically infected with HIV/AID’s. However after further thinking, I realize that as a paramedic, part of your training includes sizing up a situation quickly in order to save lives and to take the necessary precautions to keep yourself safe in order to help others. In addition, I thought about what the paramedics saw when they walked into John’s apartment which in my opinion validates their response. They saw two men, one suffering from either an overdose or heavy with drawl symptoms (in which case, he may have used needles to ingest) and then they saw gay porn. I am not in any way defending these men on the basis of saying stereotyping is okay in my moral code, but stereotyping can be the difference between life and death; relying on stereotypes is part of how we survive. How would you respond?


    • I agree with your first part completely. I had the same initial reaction after reading the text, but after I finished reading The Quilt Series the thought didn’t even cross my mind anymore because I felt so sorry for what they both had to go through, especially at the end when John passed away while the narrator was at their home because he stood by him the entire time and he didn’t even get to be there to say goodbye.

    • John Wilkinson says:

      I think that the importance of the EMT’s is a combination of HIV/AIDS paranoia, their job, and the narrator’s perception. Sometimes, it can be hard to reconcile EMT’s being safe and being paranoid of a virus and syndrome they should be well versed in. It doesn’t make it easier in that the narrator is first-person and in a state of general trauma. His interpretation of the EMT’s could be wildly off and it is his conscience or other influence that weighs heavily on his mind and sees the accusations of guilt in the EMT’s. Also, the EMT’s are entering into the narrator’s private home and space. It happens that the private and potentially embarrassing things within that space are related to his homosexual identity. That transgression of space could happen to anyone with any embarrassing thing and the transgressor is viewed as a violator. It could very well be that the EMT’s are accusatory, but the perspective is complicated through other aspects.

  5. Amber Jones says:

    I would also would like talk about “Bordertowns” In tis reading I wondered why the friends did not correct the vendors in assuming that they were a couple. Some may say that they were merely joking around and messing with the vendors, but I would say that they were suppressing their identity. They did not want the judgement of society so they played along in being a normative couple. It was as if they had an inside joke going on between them, ” I know she’s laughing as hard as I am, she finds it difficult to imagine anything but a woman’s body next to her’s” ( Cuadros 110). They should have taken the time to tell the vendors that they were not a couple. I wondered why they did not. Do they not have pride in their identity? The concealment of who they are can be related to fear. They were fearful of what others thought and how they will be perceived. We talked about this in class of how people are just really uncomfortable with homosexuality and if they find out that a person likes the same sex they will treat them differently. Overall in masculinity we as a society like to believe when we see a man and a woman together they have to be in a relationship, to think outside the box of them maybe just being friends and them actually liking the same sex is something that we have not reached yet. Hopefully one day we can.

    • Imaani Cain says:

      I don’t think that their ‘concealment’ was rooted in shame or fear, but probably just a more passive action on their part. The vendor is a stranger, not a family member or a friend, it would be a bit odd to stop and say “Well, no, we’re both queer, actually”. I think that enforces the idea that it is somehow owed to heterosexual people for others to clarify their sexuality–if they don’t want to, then it’s no one else’s business. The vendor is more representative of heterosexual normativity; he assumes that men and women in a comfortable relationship have to be somehow sexual, instead of just being friends.

    • Skylar Smith says:

      I have to agree with Imaani regarding the “concealment” and how it was not in shame or fear. We as a society have this belief and curiosity that we need to know the orientation about everyone we meet. We make judgements regarding if people “came out of the closet” or not, when in reality, it does not matter. It only matters to the individuals and whom they want to know, no one else. They could have all the pride in the world, especially when the the narrator says “I know she’s laughing as hard as I am, she finds it difficult to imagine anything but a woman’s body next to her’s” (Cuadros, pg. 110). This showed me that she does not feel insecure or any shame but instead, even a sense of pride.

      • Sabryne Vidal says:

        I completely agree. The female character seemed to feel quite comfortable and secure with her own sexual identity in the following quote, “…I know she’s laughing as hard as I am, she finds it difficult to imagine anything but a woman’s body next to her’s” (Cuadros 110). In fact, I didn’t sense a bit of shame or fear from her and took her laughing as a form of “okay you think what you want but you’re no one to judge me” mentality, and I also felt she wasn’t willing to waste her time explaining herself to someone she didn’t even know. However, members of society do have that almost innate tendency to want to know and that need to have to label/categorize individuals into several social/gender constructs in order to make sense of their world and those who live in it. That’s probably why the vendors assumed that the two good friends were in fact a couple, because of how they’re so fixated on the conservative belief that heterosexual couples are the norm and homosexual couples are considered “the other” or what falls out of the norm that defines society’s gender construction.
        ~Sabryne Vidal

    • emilyvanburen2013 says:

      I could very much see this situation being interpreted either way. What Imaani and Skylar said about the main characters concealing their platonic relationship as a shared joke as opposed to the characters being afraid of what others think is one way of looking at this scenario and another way of looking at it would be through how Amber saw it. I personally feel that the main characters were sharing a moment where they could laugh at what the outside world did not understand about their friendship, but I think the point Amber brings up about people being afraid that others will view them differently based on their sexual orientation is a huge problem in our society. Many homosexual men and women in the work place do not share their sexual orientation with others, especially those who fear they will be discriminated against. Unfortunately we live in a society where demographics matter more to some than others and ones attraction to the same sex as their own can cost one opportunities. Hopefully as a society, we can get to a place where your sexual orientation has zero bearing on the work you do.

      • Sabryne Vidal says:

        Emily, I completely understand where you’re coming from and I was actually going to revise my prior comment so it agreed with both sides. I feel like both interpretations are applicable to this particular poem. On one side of the argument, the female character probably feels proud and empowered about her lesbianism and embraces it without feeling the need to share with strangers nor give others the opportunity to negatively pass judgment on her lifestyle. On the other hand, the female character probably feels ashamed of her sexual orientation and fear of being rejected or viewed negatively by those who hold the belief that a normal couple is a heterosexual couple. Both perspectives are equally plausible and definitely open for further interpretation.
        ~Sabryne Vidal

    • Romy Garcia says:

      Interesting point you bring up here Amber, I also wrote about Bordertowns and the only thing I could think of is that everything we talk about in class is so real. Like how we feel the need to classify people into certain groups and normatives. In this case the reason for this could be because the vendors are looking for a way to connect with them and even trying to figure out their reason for being at the wedding expo together. We are able to see that they are indeed really good friends because they kept the secret and others thinking that they were a couple in any other case they immediately correct the vendors. I can also relate to the narrator and best friend in the poem, because I love it when people guess my nationality and guess wrong, there’s some excitement in having some what of a secret identity without really having a secret identity.

      • I found Bordertowns interesting because I thought the girl was playing with the idea that society is very heterocentric. By her not revealing that she`s homosexual may give her satisfaction because these strangers will never know the truth. This whole idea of being a mystery and not failing victim to what society wants in terms of wearing your identify on your sleeve so that society know what and who you are is shown i the poem. I didn`t think her not telling the vendors that her and her friend weren`t a couple was out of shame, but she got excitement out of it. I agree with the ending statement Romy made. I think the main characters feed off of the crowd and sort of gave them what they wanted by kissing at the end. Overall, this poem was pretty cool.

  6. Desiree W. says:

    Upon reading this section, I didn’t really know how to take the poems. They kind of left me wanting to know what happened to the characters next, unlike the short stories I could kind of infer what I think would happen next even if the story was left ambiguous. I was troubled by the “Dear Richard,” poem because I have always found that a childhood bully is a bully because of their own insecurities that they are afraid of expressing or have trouble expressing and that trait tends to be the object of another child’s punishments. His own hurt about what he did was expressed in the poem towards the end, he even began to wonder if his actions affected Richard into identifying as being homosexual? It was also as if a part of him was a little proud if it did help.

    In the “At Risk,” poem you see how a trip to the doctors takes the narrator down memory lane. He is relates this trip to many encounters with his mother who is supposed to be the nurturing figure in his life, but instead is shown as a little ruthless in the sense that all his memories are violent and are of beatings. It was interesting that he was having these flashbacks while being in the doctor’s office, almost as if he knows he outcome will be bad and that he somewhat wishes he could go back to those days where all he worried about were the beatings from his mom. Now he is faced with this image of an inevitable illness that is a show ticking bomb. We also see the treatment of how the doctor treats him after finding his results as if he is hazardous waste not to be touched- the wears of the gloves just to touch the glands on the surface of his skin. Then we are left with his almost child-like response of him wanted his mother after finding his results.

    • Sabryne Vidal says:

      Desiree, I completely agree with your interpretation of “At Risk” and I also spoke about it in my post. However, the majority of mine had to do with the little boy and how he’s the one at risk or prone to a life of loneliness, rejection and neglect just like the narrator. You touch on how the narrator has these flashbacks in the doctor’s office almost as if regressing back into childhood where all he had to worry about was his mother’s lack of affection and abuse. I completely missed this point in interpreting the poem and thought it was very interesting. The narrator is now confronted with this illness that he can’t control or escape from, it’s not like when he was younger where he’d be able to temporarily avoid his mother’s presence. He now has to deal with an inescapable life-threatening disease of which he has no control over. Faced with this dilemma, I don’t blame him for regressing to this child-like state where all he wants is his mother regardless of what she’d done to him in the past. This may be the start of forgiveness and a way to find inner peace.
      ~Sabryne Vidal

      • Desiree W. says:

        This is true with all of us, I feel like it is natural for any of us to want to run back to our parents for any type of counseling or reassurance in the face of danger no matter how only we are. Even if the relationship with your parents aren’t that strong there will always be a part of you that wants them near because there is this sense of protection and comfort with them near. Although the narrator was clearly abused by his mother he still wanted this connection/bond with his mother and this is felt at the end when he calls for his mother. He wants someone to be there for him and tell him everything will be okay even if it won’t be. Sickness will do this and having a support system is important for the comfort of that person as they get through it.

    • Romy Garcia says:

      Very much like Desiree, I didn’t know how to take some of these poems, it really helps to talk about them during class and see how many different perspectives we can get from this. In my blog I also wrote about Dear Richard but you bring up an interesting point that many of us sometimes over look. Often times bullies are the ones walking around with the “dominant crew” bullying those insecure others, but that’s not the case with the narrator of this poem. Even in the begging he mentions that he was a bully-faggot not the faggot-bully as it would normally be seen.
      At Risk was a little less ambiguous, but I didn’t understand what the child in the waiting room represented but yes this totally makes sense. It is very common for people who know they are near death to start thinking of life and life experiences. In college I know many seniors can relate as graduation approaches we start to think about freshmen year and how much fun that was when we had much less to worry about.

      • Desiree W. says:

        Romy you point a great play on words!!! I didn’t even look at the use of words there. The narrator uses “bully-faggot” and not the other way around, and that is an interesting point. Although he knows he’s sexuality goes against the “social norms” he said in a sense wants to be identified at a bully, which is defiantly a more masculine term then sissy or any other term. Here you can kind of see how he still makes this distinction, yes I am gay man but I’m masculine which makes me more like a man tone. Why do you think even in the homosexual sexuality we still tend to make this distinction? Ex. femme vs butch.

  7. Romy Garcia says:

    The first part of the poems in the book City of God was quite interesting although some were a little disturbing to read. One of the poems that really stuck out to me was Dear Richard. To my understanding this was an apology letter from one old classmate to another. The narrator is apologizing for raping his classmate in the third grade and this maybe happened several times because he said “morning rituals were the boy’s restrooms and I always made you late” (Cuadros, 1994, p105). This poem was especially hard to fathom because this was an eight year old child molesting another, makes me think where they could possibly get this from. An interesting point in the poem was that the classmate who was raped also turned out to be gay as well in his later life context clues tells us this because they would run into each at social events such a bars and the gay parade. This could have some correlation to the fact that “Adolescent boys, particularly those victimized by males, were up to 7 times more likely to identify themselves as homosexual or bisexual than peers who had not been abused” (Holmes & Slap). At the end of the letter the narrator said “I hope you believe me when I say I’m sorry, that I’ve tried to reconcile those years, whether I should feel remorse or pride at knowing what I wanted so young” (Cuadros, 1994, p106). This also touches on the topic of masculinity because while he is apologizing for his potential wrong doing (depending on how the classmate recall the action either as “rape” or his “first blow job he is not sure if he said he doesn’t know if he should feel remorse or pride. So while he is writing his apologies he goes back to thinking of himself before completing the apologetic gesture.

    Another poem that confused me a little and had to sit down and talk to a classmate before being able to fully understand was “Bordertowns.” Bordertowns seems to be about a pair of best friends (guy and a girl) who were making a trip down to what may have been a wedding expo at which vendors thought they were engaged by the manner in which they both treated each other. With the line “she finds it difficult to imagine anything but a woman’s body next to hers” I understand she was a lesbian and he was simply a friend. In our society it is very likely for a pair of friends to joke around like that especially when others have no idea of each of the friends’ sexual preference. The vendors are all representing the heteronormative ideologies we consume ourselves in.

    Holmes, C. W., & Slap B. G. (1998). Sexual Abuse of Boys. Journal of the American Medical Association.

    • emilyvanburen2013 says:

      Romy, I like that you touched upon masculinity in terms of the pride and remorse comment the narrator made in the bottom of your first paragraph. I believe apologizing is seen as a more feminine verbal characteristic as opposed to a masculine one, so instead of the narrator just apologizing, he had to throw in the fact that he also was proud of himself for understanding his sexuality at such a young age. I would support the narrator in being proud of himself for understanding a huge part of his identity at the age of eight years old, but not at another young boy’s expense. Richard (who eventually does come to understand his sexual identity in later years) probably endured a lot of internal struggle within himself and questioned everything that had transpired between him and the narrator. I also appreciated the fact that you asked what type of role models the narrator was around, because at the age of eight, I feel like performing oral sex is a learned behavior as opposed to a spontaneous idea one comes up with.

    • John Wilkinson says:

      I think it’s interesting how you discuss society’s interpretation of people, in this case a man and woman together must be perceived as a couple. I have a male friend who was visiting a female friend and everywhere they went, people thought they were a couple.It’s a great example of society’s need to understand, know, and categorize. In some ways it’s similar to asking someone who has a more noticeable ethnic appearance where they are from, assuming that they are not American.

  8. Imaani Cain says:

    The poem “Dear Richard” really left the greatest impression on me. It details the narrator bullying/sexual assault of his friend and carries a tinge of pride to it–the narrator never says outright that he’s sorry or has any measure of remorse for assaulting his friend. He acknowledges it, “wondering what you tell people, if you were raped or if it was your first blowjob” (Cuadros 106) and that it occurred every morning without fail. Romy mentioned that she was unsure of where a child gets this idea from (to molest another), and it seems to be the fault of a lack of education. So many people don’t really know what rape is constituted as, and view it as merely being an intense struggle–although, honestly, rape equals non-consensual sex and coercion is rape as well. The narrator realizes later that what he has done wasn’t consensual in the slightest, but never makes a formal apology. It carries undertones of begging for sympathy in the vein of Humbert Humbert from Nabokov’s “Lolita”.

    However, I was unsure if “My Father Near Retirement” carried depictions of sexual abuse or not. Amber mentioned that she thought it was, but I was unsure. Although the father comes back from the bar and wakes his children up with a kiss, I thought that was normal. There was another story in the book where the drunk father wakes his son up and kisses him as well, and Jorge managed to clarify for us and tell us it was merely a sign of affection, not abuse. I think this is a similar case.

    • Amy Hahm says:

      Dear Richard left a really big impression on me as well. I wasn’t really sure how to take it in or feel about it, but I feel like the narrator truly feels sorry for what he has done. The poem after all is a letter to Richard, and I felt like it showed how it still stays on his mind and how it bothers him for what he had done to him. He did after all say “I hope you believe me when I say I’m sorry, that I’ve tried to reconcile those years”. But even though he shows some remorse for what he has done, we don’t see how Richard feels about the situation, so I don’t know how to feel. I feel like the narrator has done something wrong because he was struggling with his identity. Although what the narrator has committed was not right, it shows how he was dealing with his homosexual identity as a child.

  9. Amy Hahm says:

    Dear Richard was a very interesting poem. After reading it, I was not sure what to make of the narrator. Throughout the poem, the narrator admitted he was a bully to his peer, Richard, and how they had sexual relations. I never thought highly of bullies. In fact, I hated bullies as a younger child, but at the end of the poem, it shows how hurt the narrator was for doing this to Richard. For the narrator to write this poem or “letter” to Richard, shows that it is still something that stays in his mind. He apologizes to Richard. It really makes me think about what the narrator was going through as a child. How he was dealing with his identity and how he was dealing with coming out. It makes me believe that he was having struggling with his identity and with being homosexual since he exerted anger and force as a bully to another homosexual peer. I’m still unsure about how Richard feels about this only because the narrator acknowledges his interactions as rape.

    Bordertowns was another interesting poem. This poem seemed to be about two friends spending the day together. The poem makes note of how she is a lesbian, “she finds it difficult to imagine anything but a woman’s body next to hers.” (110) and the vendor mistakenly thinks they are a couple, but they don’t deny it. Just like Dear Richard, I wonder if they were struggling with their identity. It seems as though they were trying suppressing their identity, or just keeping it a secret. Its interesting because we learned in class how our society is not completely accepting of homosexuality. This poem sheds light on how some people act in resort to keeping their homosexuality a secret.

    • Ernie Abreu says:

      I also believe that they were struggling with their identity, in both Dear Richard, and Bordertowns. In Dear Richard, I feel like the narrator is confusing and mixing his gender roles with his sexuality. Since he is man, his bullying habits are not surprising, however, his unique way of bullying Richard, is reinforced by his sexuality and his true intentions of what he really wanted to do with Richard. I agree with you that society imposes norms and regulations that must be followed. If you do not follow them, you will judged. Most people do not want to be judged as “an outcast”, thus the reason why they suppress their true identity and intentions.

  10. Iris Foley says:

    A lot of people seem to be writing about the “Dear Richard” poem and I have to agree that it was one of the most moving of the poems we read. It was interesting to get into the head of a bully who finds himself turned into one of the people he targeted, questioning his original motivations to bully, and looking to apologize for his actions. So often bullies are assumed to have some type of personal problem or self esteem issue that they take out on others and this bully was no exception to that stereotype. Even at his young age, the bully seemed to have an understanding of homosexuality was and what it meant and wanted nothing to do with it, going out of his way to mock Richard, someone he viewed as homosexual. I think he hid his own feelings in his youth because as a bully, he understood the dangers he might face himself if he let the real him show.

    I think he became a bully to eliminate the possibility of being bullied himself. He hid in plain sight. I think that’s the rationale for a lot a bullies. Nobody would accuse someone of something that they themselves pick on others for. The only thing I was confused by was his inherent knowledge of sexuality. Where did it come from? How did he know what to do when he trapped Richard in the bathroom? They were so young. Looking back, he said he knew what he wanted and took it by right? I wonder what influenced his life at such a young age. Maybe he had a gay man in his family who he had seen abused by others and when he recognized homosexual feelings in himself, saw bullying as a way to escape them.

    • Definitely a good point about bullies trying to hide in plain sight. In my general experience with bullies since i was bullied alot back in school and have recently made friends with some of them, a lot of them had some issue that they were trying or were acting out their frustrations with problems that were going on at home.I know one of them was being abused back at home and was very violent at school abut when i met him over break at the bar he had moved out and was actually a pretty nice guy now.

      • Amber Jones says:

        I also agree with you that the narrator became a bully because he was trying to avoid not being bullied himself. At a young age the narrator understood that he liked the same sex and since the ideals of society are so prevalent he knew that it was a high likelihood that he would be rejected. When I was a young I knew about the expectations of society of what was categorized as normal and acceptable and what was not. I am pretty sure that the narrator knew the same expectations. The narrator saw being a bully as a win win situation where he could prey on someone he liked and where he would not be bullied himself.
        But the downfall of being a bully is that one can feel regretful emotions after. Towards the end, the narrator had essential questions , he wondered when Richard describes his first time does he say rape or his first blow job? This question exposes his guilt.

    • Kaydo says:

      I liked this poem a lot because it was your classic story of a bully regretting his ways when he was immature and naive. It adds a lot to the situation that the bully was bullied himself, and it forces the question is he only seeking acceptance to his apology because karma seemed to take its toll on him.

      Hiding in plain sight is a very common action by many with “secrets”. Those who are abused or come from a broken family, those who may not be an academic, or those who don’t have friends they can rely on generally will lash out because it gives them a sense of power that fills that void.

      In the case of this poem, it seemed that the writer wanted a power that was only attained by taking advantage of a weaker homosexual “or what he called homosexual” kid. Ironically now he is the victim.

  11. I found the poems in City of God very interesting. I had to read them multiple times but most told a story about what a young Latino male who maybe infected with AIDS or possibly homosexual. “To The First Time” explicitly shows a man first homosexual encounter and what he thinks of it. In ” Dear Richard” I found him apologizing and acknowledging that he assaulted his friend very humble, though his apology doesn`t give his friend back his innocence. I thought that “Bordertowns” showed a great example of how heterocentric our world is. This particular poem shows two friends together and vendors assume they are together when in fact the female is a lesbian. It appears that their action were innocent but some how when society sees two individuals from the opposite sex together it is assumed that they are interested in one another.

    The poem I found most interesting is “At Risk”. The narrator is at the doctors where he encounters a small boy and his mother that reminds him of himself and possibly his own mother. The narrator watches as this small boys and his mother interact. The narrator describes the mother as if she is evil and annoyed with her child almost as if she can`t stand him being there. From the amount of focus on their interactions, I thought that the narrator and the small boy had a lot in common. I assumed the narrator mother was just as angry with him at some point. There was a sense of neglect, “He hugs his mother`s leg. She pushes him off with the other foot, lynches him by the string around his jacket`s hood, the windbreaker at his throat” (Cuadros 121). During this encounter the narrator is awaiting his test results. The violence becomes more intense as the times come for the narrator to find out if he has AIDS. This idea of pain is presenting and both the narrator and the small boy are in fear. In the end the narrator is left wanting his mother although it appears that he hasn`t been fond of her which is why his connection with the small boy is so interesting. Although it doesn`t clearly says it, the narrator hints that his results are positive which concludes the poem and kind of explains why him and his mother`s relationship may mirror the young boy and his mother.

  12. Skylar Smith says:

    Part two in the book, City of God, continues to deliver artistically written poems and stories. Although most of the poems caught my attention, two really stuck out and grabbed my attention. “Dear Richard” really brought new insight for me. As I continue to read all of these poems, I realize how a majority of these instances really happen, yet most of society fails to recognize it or does not have the education to realize it happens on a daily basis. “Dear Richard” explored the sexual assault and bullying in childhood. The narrator described how “morning rituals were the boy’s restrooms and I always made you late” (Cuadros, pg. 105). This daily ritual of “rape” or sexual assault between 8 year olds really caught my attention because of how abnormal this situation is for me to think about it. As the poem develops, it is tough to understand whether the narrator is sorry for the other kid or proud because he knew what he wanted so young in life. This is an excuse to himself instead of acknowledging the impact it had on the other young boys life. Regardless if he knew what he wanted so young in life, he did not know what the other boy had wanted. He was selfish and wrong in doing what he did because he did not think of the other boy, but in the situation he was in (“knowing what he wanted so young in life), why would he have thought of the other boy?

    The other story that also intrigued me was “At Risk.” To me, it was beautifully written but about a difficult situation for this boy. The narrator watches what is going on between the mother and her son in the waiting room and we get a look in to the narrators life because of that. The narrator relates a lot to the boy getting scolded at by his mother and it helps the readers identify with the little boy in the waiting room. This child, the one the narrator is so close to, yet so far away from, is at risk of losing everything, like the narrator did. The meaning behind the words of this poem create such a visual for the reader. When we find out the diagnosis of the narrator we see his call out for his mother which is ironic because throughout the poem it seems as if there is a lot of bad memories that came back to him after seeing the abuse this kid in the waiting room is taking from his mother.

    • Ernie Abreu says:

      I have to agree with you, the poem “At Risk” was beautifully written, however it is ambiguous because the narrator never explains his side of the story. He is taken back to memory lane, as he recalls everything that happened to him as a child. In my opinion, the whole scenario in the doctor’s office could have actually happened, or he could have been day dreaming about his past the whole time, while he waited for his results. Usually, when people are about to hear some life changing news, they have flashbacks of their lives, in what moment of their lives could they have changed something to have a more positive result in the future. However, if the child was in front of him getting abused, and it wasn’t just a memory, he could have done something to prevent the abuse from continuing.

      • I though “At risk” was interesting as well. I think the narrator seen a lot in the small boy that reminded him of himself and the relationship him and his own mother had. I found the ending most interesting. The narrator reverts back to his childhood after finding out that he tested positive for HIV. The last sentence of the poem suggest that the narrator wishes his mother was there and although their relationship may have not been that good, he still yearn for her presence. It also appeared that the narrator was in deep thought. He watches the mother commit these acts but doesn`t say a word. I wonder why.

  13. emilyvanburen2013 says:

    In the last section of City of God pages (124-150) I tried to tie what was occurring in the chapters to the over all theme of masculinity. “John looked about, absorbing the metal pads taped to his chest, his wrists tied down, his waist tied to the bed. He pulled with withered arms taut, his mouth twitched in panic. He stared at me until I was shame-faced. His look said, ‘How can you do this?” (Cuadros 129) This occurred in the beginning of the Rem chapter, and after reading this part of the story I realized just how emasculated John must have felt. Here was a man who was all strung out on drugs, dying from HIV/AID’s during a time where much of this disease was still unknown, whose partner “put him” in a place he didn’t want to be while being physically restrained from getting up, let alone moving. Everything about this situation strips him of his masculinity; which ultimately is being a healthy, strong, independent and free individual.

    The fact that John can’t move and has had his freedom stripped from him, helps me understand how he would want to lash out at his partner, because he felt trapped and his partner was the only one he could blame. I feel bad for both men in this situation. I feel for John for fairly apparent reasons; the fact that he is dying and probably in great pain and the fact that he is stripped of his ability to get up and walk away from such a horrible situation. And I feel for the narrator because not only does the narrator have to live without the man that he loves, but he also has to face a horrible disease without the support of this partner. As sad as this book was, it really did give excellent insight into the lives of two men who suffer from the stereotypes of HIV/AIDS and the physical and emotional pain they endured.

  14. The poem “at risk” was to me pretty disturbing. The theme of child abuse and the way it affects those children hit at home since some very good friends of mine were abused as children. It was sad that every time the woman would threaten her child he would have a flashback to the terrible things his mother did or threatened to do to him like beating him across the back and threatening to burn his hands. Though this lead to an interesting narrative with the narrator having been through this and therefore seeing that this kid was “at risk” of being emotionally and or physically traumatized for the rest of his life. It made me wonder if the fact that his mother was abusive had made him numb to the point where he just didn’t care what happened to him, and that was why he was careful and was now infected, or if it was just that he wasn’t properly educated by his mother since she might not have cared about him. I ws more surprised by the fact that he didn’t do anything to try to help the kid.

    • Amber Jones says:

      I was not surprised that he did not help the kid because it seem as though he thought it was just the kid’s fate to endure the struggles of life, that were similar to his. So it would not matter if he helped the kid or not. I was surprised though that by just seeing the kid brought back memories of his own childhood. This exposes the trauma and the deep rooted problems that he still possessed. I also think that his mother’s abuse did play a huge part in the risky behavior he took part in. Since he was not receiving any care and love from his mom he might of thought that if he did get sick that his mother would finally love him and pay attention to him. To some this may seem crazy but people would do crazy and risky things for love especially the love of their parents.

      • interesting idea with him doing risky behavior in an attempt to garner affection from his mother. I thought of it more as him just not caring about himself, more of a “if no one cares about me why should i care about myself” scenario. I thought that the narrator wasn’t neccesarily going out of his way to to do reckless things just that he didnt care about what happened to him since he felt that no one cared about him and therefore no one would miss him if he were to die

    • Skylar Smith says:

      It was in a sense disturbing but once looking deep in to the poem, it was beautifully written and well constructed. We got a flashback, a quick look in to the narrators life as a child. It was more likely disturbing for the narrator to know that this kid he was looking at is “at risk” for everything that he had gone through. The narrator relates so closely to this child, that it makes the poem even more heart breaking because it is such an interesting way to get a peak in to the narrator’s life. The narrator knows that in life, you have to take what comes your way and he knows that if he said something to this woman, it could have set her off even more and probably would not have even mattered.

  15. Desiree W. says:

    Can I just say that this last section of poems were extremely hard to read, since I related a lot of the imagery to cancer and the struggle I went through loosing a family member. The first set of poems all seemed to be related to the narrator and his lover John. I wasn’t quit sure If John had contracted the illness from the narrator or not, but it is somewhat hinted in the way he screamed he hated him and the narrator wanting to kill himself if John died. Its hard to deal with this kind of pain of watching a loved one die in front of you without anything you can do. There is also a very religious tie to these poems, you see that when the narrator calls himself Judas as he kisses the hand of John who is being dragged and place on a stretcher as he screams about murder in front of the audience of the neighbors left to judge him. This is defiantly a Biblical reference of Jesus being betrayed by his follower and friend Judas selling him out for money to the Romans. Did John feel like he was betrayed because he contracted the virus from the narrator or was it because he didn’t want to be taken to the hospital to be taken care of by the judgmental eyes of the health professionals? If so, do you think he would have wanted to just stay and die in the comfort of their house?

    The last poem was also very interesting with its intermingling of Egyptian mythology of death and immortality to the course of disease taking over the narrator’s body. He explains how he feels the world now views him in his stage of AIDS taking over the body, “…no longer the depiction of my personality but disabilities are what frames me.” (page 149). This is sad but very true that this happens in the health care fields and as I intend to go into that field I have learned that there is a strong push for cure and money than care and prevention. This push to provide a “service” and not care is why the narrator turns to friends who have gone through it before him to explain his symptoms instead of the doctors for the fear of the outcome, judgment and the overall ill-treatment that is almost expected. “…don’t panic but you’ve seen this before with other people so you call them…” (page 143)

    • Iris Foley says:

      I agree. The last few poems were very hard to get through. Like you, I am also going into nursing and reading the poems was a glimpse into the reality of a hospital. Coping with death of patients and interacting with their family members and loved ones will probably be the hardest part of the job and definitely the part I’m looking forward to least. But it is my hope that as a nurse I can help people to cope with deaths and deal with loss once I learn to cope for myself.

  16. Amber Jones says:


    I will be focusing on the poem 4am. I really like this poem because it reminded me of a book I recently read in my English class. The book Beloved by Toni Morrison can be related abundantly towards the end of the poem where he states: “Later on people said time will heal but the pain was too much to forget his life pounded out of him” this is essential to look at because it shows his trauma. Like Sethe in Beloved she also suffered from the trauma she inflicted upon herself when she killed her daughter; just like the narrator could not get over his boyfriend’s death was the same way she could not get over her daughter’s death. The fact that people were saying that time heals struck me as being somewhat rude. It made me think that they were somewhat elated that John died because he took away the burden off of the narrator’s hands. I know the mother had to be somewhat relieved that John passed away because maybe now her son could change his ways. But on the contrary John still existed to the narrator; we could see this in his horrid cry at 4AM. He was mourning for the death of his friend and lover and I do not think that he will ever get over it. But when someone endures so much with another person it is difficult to forget them and we can apply this to their case. John and the narrator went through an immense amount together and for the narrator to forget about it all is surely hard to do. I also think he doesn’t want to forget, the memories that he has with John because it makes him feel close to him.

    In reading “Politicizing Abjection” by Sanchez I thought that his highlight on how his body and scholarship are one whole instead of separate is very essential to note. He states, “For my survival, I make room for AIDS as I write with my body and as I write on my body, I make corporal my scholarship. Both my body and scholarship are marked, tattooed by the rages of illness, surgeries, infections, side effects, pain, trauma, loss, and mourning (Sanchez 312). This quotation can be related to the author of “City God” because you can tell that he intertwined his body, experiences, and scholarship together as a means to convey a message. In 4AM we see the trauma and loss that tags along with the disease; we see how it affects the people that surround it.

  17. Kaydo says:

    It interesting to be able to put myself in a place that finds homosexuality uncomfortable. Even as an Ally, there are a lot of poems and short stories in the City of God that I find hard to read. It is not just the graphic truth, but also the idea. In high school I suffered from homophobia, but it wasn’t my own feelings about homosexuality that caused my behavior towards them. It was the constant pressure from my teammates, from classmates, and from what I thought was the cool thing to do.

    I can only speculate that if City of God was just as graphic, but about heterosexuality, I would have not have had those discomfort feelings while reading. I am ashamed that I still have these thoughts/feelings about the subject even though I have fought hard for equality among everyone.

    Reading “There are Places You Don’t Walk at Night, Alone.” It made me question how much fear I or my colleagues may have caused. Not because of anything that we have done but being a Homosexual in my high school was not easy, especially if they were publicly known.

    I have never read poems that incorporate so much passion with a mix of graphic violence. For example “Blood is there again, it rushes out of the wound..” (Cuardos, 124). Ironically, the title of the symposium/discussion event Masoquista got its title to commemorate the pain and struggle that the LGBT community endures to reach their happiness through equality and love. I can see that even more prominently in these poems as they capture the pleasure that is only acquired through a journey of fear and pain.

    • Iris Foley says:

      These poems are definitely some of the most passionate and graphic I’ve ever read. I think the passion and reality throughout the book was what made the poems towards the end that dealt with death some of the most gripping. You understood the pain the narrator felt because you knew how much love he had for his partner and how much he would physically and emotionally feel his absence.

    • I do agree with you about these poems being extremely graphic. On another note I don’t find my self getting disturbed by it because sex is still sex wither or not your gay or straight. I believe that the reason that the author is making it extremely graphic is because he wants to make people aware of gay sex is still sex it still has so much passion and love if your gay or straight. We can able to see the pain that someone people have gone threw and it becomes extremely hard for them to be who they truly are because there scared people won’t accept them.

  18. The Quilt Series was a heartbreaking compilation of poems about Gil losing his partner, John. Cuadro talks about what he’ll do after John passes, saying he is going to go home and commit suicide, and the way that he described it in the text seems as though it was so casual, as if he had always planned on killing himself if he were to lose John. I think that obviously a lot of his depression during this time is because he is losing the man he loves, but I also think that it has a lot to do with the fact that John and Gil were each others support during their battle with AIDS, and after John passed he felt that he was alone and there would be no one there to look out for him or help him the way that John would.

    It was obvious that he felt a lot of guilt during John’s suffering and after his death. “He stared at me till I was shame-faced. His look said, ‘How can you do this?'” (p. 128) “I started telling him, I’m sorry I wasn’t here, I’m sorry it wasn’t me.” (p. 135) He knew that he had no choice when he made the decision to call the ambulance to bring him to the hospital, but he also knew that John didn’t want to go, and the way that John acted towards him in his delirious state just added to his guilt. Despite having to watch his lover die from the same virus that he suffered from, he still stood by John. “But all he could do was pick at my palm pull at the false skin of latex, stare past me like an animal who avoids the eyes. Still I tried to whisper sweet thoughts into his ears, ‘Baby I’m at your side, I love you so much, I don’t know what I’ll do.’” (Cuadro, p. 132) This devotion tells us a lot about the depth and strength of their relationship.

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