Frank and Gavin, by Evelyn Deshane

I wanted to mark out the sacred ritual of family . . .

. . . though this celebration takes place on the first day of summer, it does not always have to be reinforced through a religious/spiritual guide.  It’s the ritual and community of family that matters — and what gives the two boyfriends in this poem hope to carry on.  I also wanted to represent a queer family structure, that of many children and many different identities.

Frank and Gavin

On June 21st, the first day of summer

My mom always has a BBQ

It’s really a birthday party, for all of us

Who were born into a golden afternoon

Just after the frailty of winter

But before the summer’s true heat incapacitates.


We recite toasts at tables

With long checkered table clothes

As dad flips five different types of burgers

— vegan, veggie, gluten free

All grade beef and free range–

with four different tongs

and all the younger children run around

and scream as they wait to sing

The Birthday Song.


My sister brings her girlfriend,

I bring my boyfriend

And the adults all pair off evenly.

For the kids, there’s a water fight

In the inflatable swimming pool

With red balloons and a sprinkler hose

And from the tin roof that we climb out onto

I explain to you my birthright.


Spring and summer have always felt very different

Since I was the only one born in the fall

I’ve always watched from the bottom, on scraped knees

My vantage point from between legs and toes

And I grew up thinking this was normal:

That all families get together every summer

Just to have birthdays and BBQs

That we all fight over a water hose

And not over mortgages

That this day will leave us all sunburned

But not alone or mute.  We will all

Match by the end of the day.

We will all be together,

Through more than circumstance or DNA.

Though there are no candles for the cake

It does not matter.  The wishes float.

They rise above, on the stem of dandelions

On the edges of eyelashes, and become:

A summer sunrise, a moonlight walk

An evening dressed in our finest hats and tailcoats.


But this is not a family reunion

since we never really left.

With your stunned silence, I realize

That old poet Auden was correct:

“Life remains a blessing,

Although you cannot bless.”

It takes until spring and summer

When the sun is out and the night is short

For people to understand how lucky they are

For people to understand that there is hope.


From the roof, we both look down

On the family tree that I’ve explained

Spiraling on the lawn like weeds and over us like roots.

There are few things that never change:

June 21st, the summer seasons

Our BBQs, and maybe, if I’m lucky, you.

Evelyn Deshane

her work has appeared in The Fieldstone Review, Arthur Newspaper, and Absynthe Magazine.  She has an MA in Public Texts from Trent University and is currently pursuing her PhD.  She lives in Canada.

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