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Michael Montlack Wins 2013 Gival Press Oscar Wilde Award


Michael Montlack (photo by Anne Marie Rousseau)

Michael Montlack Wins the 12th Annual Oscar Wilde Award-2013

Michael Montlack of New York, New York has won the 12th Annual Oscar Wilde Award for his poem titled Questions My Father Asked Watching This Old House (1993) chosen by Henry Hughes.

Winner of the 2013 Gival Press Oscar Wilde Award

Questions My Father Asked Watching This Old House (1993) by Michael Montlack of New York, New York.

Honorable Mentions: Prison by Will Stockton of Pendleton, South Carolina.

Performance Act by Renny Christopher of Camarillo, California.

Revolution by Will Stockton of Pendleton, South Carolina.

Strange Big Fish by Michael Montlack of New York, New York.

Questions My Father Asked Watching This Old House (1993)

That afternoon I was beside him on my mother’s half of their bed.

Our English Setter licking his gnarly unsocked feet. While host Bob Vila sang the praise of plaster over stucco. My father shaking his head on the pillow, Camel wedged in lips: Plaster? This knucklehead doesn’t know what he’s talkin about.

I never asked why he watched so religiously if he doubted Bob’s every move. Never agreed or disagreed, knowing little about home repair myself. Just used the show’s half-hour as I had since junior high: A way to be near.

“So let me ask you sumptin,” he started.

The plaster was being mixed. The dog continued to lick.

Out just weeks, this was what I’d been waiting for: The inevitable “So . . . do you . . . do drag?” Or . . . “You one of those um, leather guys?”

My father, a mechanic in his 60’s, hadn’t known openly gay people before.

But no.

He said: “Why are gay people smarter than straight people?“

I hesitated. Swallowed the impulse to vent about all the himbos I’d met my few months going to bars. “We aren’t,” I said. Realizing his reasoning: Me, the family’s first degree. “It’s just easier to come out in educated circles.“

The walls were nearly primed. The dog paused to lick his own foot.

“So then . . . why are you guys always more creative?”

I wasn’t prepared. Having only rehearsed vows to use condoms. Settle down one day.

“Well, I guess being silenced,” I said, “we use the arts to express?”

Bob had spatula in hand. Was making circular patterns. Pleased with himself.

“I mean, there are gay migrant workers,” I added. “But who can they tell?”

He rolled his head on the pillow to look my way. Camel burned out. “Well, how come you’re not angry?”

And then: I was back at his station, all those summers pumping gas. Collecting tips just for being Howie’s son. Nine, ten, eleven years old. Had they been pennies from heaven? For ignoring his crew in the shop:

This fan belt’s a real cocksucker! When’s that faggot coming for his Pinto?

I couldn’t answer. Did this mean I wasn’t angry? Surely I’d met guys with chips on their shoulders. Guys who drank their chips away. Where was my chip? Still in the closet? In my writing? The need to write?

Bob was in different clothes now. On a return visit. To see the walls. Fully dried.

“No,” I said finally. “I guess I’m not angry.”

But what could I be angry about? There, so comfortable in that bed. With my father and his dog. Learning how to build a more beautiful home.

Copyright © 2013 by Michael Montlack.

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