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Book Report: Glowing endorsements for new poet

River Falls poet Thomas R. Smith writes that Kristin Laurel's new book of poetry will "burn itself on your memory."

Minnesota poet Deborah Keenan writes that Laurel's work is "the start of a remarkable career."

Endorsements from Smith and Keenan are good enough for me, so I plowed into Laurel's "Giving them All Away" (Evening Street Press, Dublin Ohio) n.p.

Laurel is a mother, an emergency room nurse who splits her life between Waconia, Minn., and Ashville, N.C.

She's divorced and now has a female partner.

Her poems which bare for all, her experiences at work and at home and in love. She writes very accessible poetry (a godsend!) about the trials of life.

Here's an excerpt about coming out, entitled "God Hates Fags":

We hold hands on the narrow path

while squirrels scuttle to bury

their hoarded treasure.

I've read that they find only ten percent of the nuts

they hid, the rest go to seed and give rise

to trees. I stop to pick up an acorn,

press it between my thumb and forefinger.

It smells of musky earth, a trace of permanence.

Two joggers approach --

we quickly drop hands.

A few red maples glare, against a pale-blue sky.

And I am ashamed.

It's the same when I greet her at the airport

and I cut a hug short, or cover up our held hands

with the bucket of popcorn at the theatre.

We look around again.

No people. It's safe to hold hands.

My God, this is strange --

how perfectly our clasped hands fit,

how this is the closest thing to God's love I've known,

how others see this as wrong.

Sometimes, it feels like I was abducted from the nice, white, straight world

and came back queer-colored, and green.

She says, "In public, turn up the friendship

And turn down the love," but I say

"Why should we contain love?"

She treads lightly, doesn't disrupt the forest floor.

I drag my feet and kick up leaves,

tearing them like tissue paper.

I let my shoes sling mud.

This morning, on Good Morning, America,

they showed members from the Westboro Baptist Church,

picketing a dead Vet's funeral, holding their signs:

"Thank God For Dead Soldiers"

"God Hates Fags"

"Jews Killed Jesus."

I've been no saint.

In college I shared an apartment with a friend

For over two years. When she told me she was gay,

I moved as fast as I could.

And once, in fifth grade, at Hesperia Christian,

I called a kid a fag. Even though I didn't know

What the word meant, Mrs. Johnson made me

Put my hands on the wall and spanked my ass

with a holy paddle.

At least I wasn't court-marshaled by the US military.

I wasn't put on the stand to defend my career

and myself as a human being

for associating "with gays" like my friend Maria was, a decade ago.

I was never disowned by my Christian family like Donnie,

My mom's cousin, who died alone of AIDS back in the '80s.

"But," my mother asked, "What about the kids?"

Yet, my mother and children have a way of seeing things

for what they are. I hold their hands, too.

I know what my mother fears. And it has nothing to

do with what goes on.