Michael in the Mountains (with poetry film)


Often the journey is more than the destination


The liminal journey

The space between

What is felt and what is seen

Through that window you peer out of

Is the window into yourself


This window

between me and the Sussex rural wilderness

This stretch of track

Reminds me

Summer ‘96

Buffalo towards Washington

through the Appalachian mountains

Mum navigates

 Dad drives

I, rear backseat passenger

Listening to REM on cassette tape


Towards Eastbourne, early 2023

listening again to the same REM tapes

Look up

Chalk man on the side of the hill

His name ‘The long man of Wilmington’

No one knows how he got there

How and when did he arrive?

For me, there is only one man in the mountains,



Michael Stipe

queering my landscape

past Buffalo into Allegheny Mountains

 to Ellicottville to Grampian

to Altoona, Breezewood then Leesburg

Washington to London

Shared place names

UK and USA

But miles apart

That separation allowed me to

queer the landscape even more

During our road trip to discover rural America

A reality constructed in movies

I discovered me

When cowboys just happened to be strolling down Main Street  

I noticed 

The cut of the cowboy jean  

makes for a tighter fit on bulging male butt cheek


Towards Eastbourne, I recall

mental snapshots of rest stops, motels and gas stations

Light illuminating certain parts of my  journey


like that of memory

Unstable, messy, slippery, but my desire, I am certain


I draw

Sketchbook images that do not depict the landscape

but my emotional connection to it

My landscape queered as I listen to Mr Stipe

I want to be seen, seen as me, SEE ME, See Lee

But I don’t want to be seen looking at he who I desire

I am watching

I am being watched over

Dad looking out the rear-view

Behind him in the back window

And to get there he must see me in the foreground

But I was in the background

Hoping for when I could see and be seen seeing

I knew it would come but not sure how I would get there

How and when I would arrive


Roadside motel

Early evening before our flight back

Poolside hunk in trunks

We both dived in

Michael began singing Nightswimming

Swimming with Michael

Deep in the pool

Blue as his eyes


Now adult and out as gay me with Michael

Listening and understanding the subtext

At art school was Mike who all the girls liked

Not just the punk, he taught me acid jazz funk

Bands like Jamiroquai (at a time they were cool)

He taught me so much they don’t teach you at school

Did Mike know I was gay? I’m sure he knew anyway

Me worried the reaction and what he might say

For fear of rejection, us getting hurt

I fancied him rotten in his Nirvana t-shirt

At a London REM concert, whilst me fancying Stipe

First peek at Mike’s chest hair,I realised my type

Bears and cubs don’t just live in the forest


Journey home from Eastbourne

we approach that stretch of track

where I see Michael in the mountains

Landscape appears bleak and opaque but light outlines the shape of the valleys and hills

The sun is setting just over the horizon

Just as I welcomed a new phase in my life

upon my return to London in 96

Summer ending. The leaves were beginning to turn

And so was I

I was on my way to reaching my destination


◄ Tackle

Dear Rufus ►


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