“The Voices Within” © Bill Wolak


The Gospels of Two Gay Men in Springfield, Missouri

The Gospel I knew
As he gripped my hand
Grieving blissfully toward Jefferson Avenue’s
Hole-in-the-wall with the vegan aioli
For some seconds
Invincible to life as gay men in a Podunk

The Gospel I knew
Channeling church-skipping pain into his thick-skinned palm
His empathy God’s Tree of Life
Home-grown from his own trembling roots
Watered, nourished
With his version of Gospel

The Gospel he knew was the most unjust damnation
A shaved head in the countryside
Relapse and recovery
Relapse again
I wept in hospital parking lot fluorescence
Alone together
On Jefferson again

I loved him for his thick-skinned palm
The invincibility of our walk to the hole-in-the-wall
I loved him more than Jesus
And I wish I could have gifted him in return
The Gospel he gave me on our walk
I wish I could have given him new Gospel
Rest from the damnation he knew
From the heroin


Based in a struggle to live authentically within the confines of a Pentecostal megachurch congregation, Beau Palen’s writing reflects an experience of queer identity amidst institutional voices of hate throughout the Bible Belt. Leaving behind the Evangelical community he had known since birth, Beau now utilizes poetry to document his traversal into the peculiarly decadent world of southern queerness. Today, Beau is a queer studies-focused MA in English Literature Candidate at Missouri State University.

Bill Wolak has just published his eighteenth book of poetry entitled All the Wind’s Unfinished Kisses with Ekstasis Editions. His collages and photographs have appeared recently in the 2020 Seattle Erotic Art Festival, the 2020 Dirty Show in Detroit, the 2019 Rochester Erotic Arts Festival, the 2018 Montreal Erotic Art Festival, and Naked in New Hope 2018.