Ballad of the Kind Young Men

Ballad of the Kind Young Men

It was different then—
even twenty years ago—
no place for kind young men.

Five, six, eight, ten,
the halls, a shortcut home. I know,
it was different then,

but I can’t remember when
I didn’t dread that I’d grow
into one of those kind young men

who’d sell their sword for a pen,
the kind slain daily on the radio
in ballads of sad young men—

“Smalltown Boy,” “Ben,”
“Ode to Billie Joe”—
all because we were different. Then

it happened—what?—when?—
Ellen? AIDS? Margaret Cho?—
A new breed of young men.

In dreams, I’m back in school again.
A softball field. I still can’t throw.
It was different then.
Now, they are kind young men.

—Brent Calderwood

Brent Calderwood is an associate editor at and Bay Area editor for the literary journal Locuspoint. His poems have appeared in American Poetry Journal,The Gay & Lesbian Review Worldwide, and in the anthologies Poets Eleven, Solace in So Many Words, and the forthcoming Divining Divas. Most recently, judge Mark Doty named him winner of the Atlanta Queer Lit Festival’s 2011 Broadside Contest. His Web site is

August 2011