Alma Luz Villanueva

Crazy Courage

Why do I think of Michael....
He came to my fiction class
as a man (dressed in men's
clothes) : then he came

to my poetry class
as a woman (dressed in women's
clothes, but he was still
a man under the clothes) .

Was I moved in the face of
such courage (man/woman
woman/man) ....
Was I moved by the gentleness

of his masculinity; the strength
of his femininity....
His presence at the class poetry
reading, dressed in a miniskirt,

high boots, bright purple tights,
a scooped-neck blouse, carrying
a single, living, red rose, in a
vase, to the podium (the visitors

not from the class, shocked-
the young, seen-it-all MTV crowd-
into silence as he's introduced,
'Michael....') And what it was, I think,

was his perfect dignity, the offering
of his living, red rose to the perceptive,
to the blind, to the amused, to the impressed,
to those who would kill him, and

to those who would love him.
And of course I remember the surprise
of his foamy breasts as we hugged
goodbye, his face blossomed

open, set apart, the pain of it,
the joy of it (the crazy courage
to be whole, as a rose is
whole, as a child is

whole before they're
punished for including
everything in their

To Michael B.

Topic(s) of this poem: Courage

Poem Submitted: Friday, January 24, 2014
Poem Edited: Saturday, May 3, 2014

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Poet's Notes about The Poem

This poem was chosen for the anthology, 'The Best American Poetry,1996.' It's in my book, 'Desire.' This wonderful student, Michael B., taught us all, everyone in our class, transforming us from that time on. I still feel his crazy courage, adding it to my own.

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Comments about Crazy Courage by Alma Luz Villanueva

  • JoAnn Anglin (9/18/2018 3:33:00 PM)

    Thank you. I plan to use this poem for my lesson plan on Courage in my class for incarcerated men. I'm sure it will lead to some interesting discussion, followed by interesting poems.

    Report Reply
    Alma Luz Villanueva(9/18/2018 10:15:00 PM)

    That's wonderful, so good to hear...this is published in my book, 'Desire.' One of my sons works with youth to break the school to prison pipeline- the US has the largest prison population in the world. I'm sure you know this- brava for the work you do. Alma Luz Villanueva

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