Look for new poems (and more) at the start of each month.
~ ~ ~
I was sitting on a small press publishing panel at the San Francisco Writers Conference last month, and one of the publishers (no, I won’t say who), in describing the types of pieces they are looking for, commented, “Just don’t send me a poem about your colonoscopy.” Well you know me, I immediately started scribing one, and finished it before the panel was over. Here it is. Sorry about this.
O colonoscopy, I don’t remember you
though you have shaped my life,
or at least have lived my shape.
Shape me, O colonoscopy, let me be
the manner and form that might be me,
like it or not, sans lump of fleshly blasphemy.
I live, I lump, I be, and if I may,
I honor you for being me today,
for entering and leaving me to stay
alone and whole, unlumped and full of holes,
plunging breath by breath through dream and sty,
entering and leaving, cleaned and wry.
Including this poem because it’s referenced by the photo at the bottom of the February 2019 post. I started this looking at a naked oak tree near my parents house sometime in the early 90’s, and just couldn’t figure out how to finish it for ten years. Then, back there visiting, again in winter, I was looking at the tree again and the rest of it just rushed right out. It’s one of my fave poems ever. Perhaps you’ll enjoy.
A naked tree can tell us everything:
chained to the earth, grappling with sky,
we flaunt our imperfections in the rain
as budding eyes. Craven and verklempt,
it’s all we can to writhe, stolidly, fatefully
arching vesicles toward luscious liquid,
saturated air, toward instant light.
And in the wind, twisting, clattering arms,
we find the flexibility of heart
to wind us for the true imbroglio,
the quickening. Oh yes, you know you know:
what roots you have, not disparate, reclaim
the mortal trunk we have and have again,
pulled upward, out, beyond our living ken.
Here’s my new poem about being queer. Or about queerness. Or about something. Hope you enjoy.
When I wake up queer,
it’s like every other day.
Like every day since I came outta my mother.
I don’t know what any of this means.
But I do know the rollercoaster,
the ins and outs of light,
the pounding beat,
the omniphonic symphony of cells.
I know my cells, my nerves,
my stink and hair, and I know
that someone called them queer.
Applied the term queer.
Maybe it was me. I. The
phenomenon referenced as I.
Or maybe it was everyone.
In any case, “queer” – a sound
with a history, from the German “quer” –
oblique, cross, adverse, perverse, deviant.
Oblique: slanted or sloping, asymmetrical,
indirect, evasive – I am most of these,
sometimes all when I include the latter two,
when in fact I need to shade my queerness
for the sake of safety, perceived or real.
Cross: I cross streets with my walk,
step after step, breath after breath,
I cross boundaries and proprieties,
word after word, breath after breath,
I cross my own queer shadow indirectly.
Adverse: I oppose intolerance, I face aggression
(or am faced by it), I turn toward ignorance, toward fists,
and I observe them, and sometimes I am afraid,
afraid to move, afraid to stay, but I let them know I am observing,
and I wait to be seen, for eyes to light, and sometimes I am struck.
Perverse: I am turned the wrong way
because somebody make the sound “wrong”,
said I am twisted, bent; I turn away from the truly bent
whose nature has been torqued from human back to mammal,
I smell their fear, I turn away, I gather, I turn toward.
Deviant: I take the side roads, the small roads,
I range off-road, into the wilderness, into the wild,
far from nonsensical structures, laws and manners,
into the open space unshadowed by towers and norms
where civility and anarchy meet and caress and fuck.
Now that’s queer.
That’s queer because it defies the utterance of others, or of those who other, and loves the utterance of those who we.
That’s queer because it takes things as they are, as much as one can, it allows where centuries of stone would otherwise staunch.
That’s queer because it allows, because it lets the vine grow wild, the thirsty drink, the body become and behave and be a new form, a new shape stretching and writhing in its own splendor, its own light, its own scent turning heads across the countryside to see what new thing has emerged.
That’s queer because it allows the new, damns preconception, damns presumption, curses definition for the infinite, lets the mind see what it will, not what it wants, not what it expects but what it doesn’t expect, what might be.
That’s queer because it savors when propriety pulls back its chair, folds its hands, and watches warily, wantonly, bewitched as queerness unfolds itself on the table.
That’s queer because it smells good, because it feels right, and that’s always okay.
That’s queer because it has its own scent, knows its own scent, because it knows its face, in whatever configuration, of whatever kind, kindly, and surely, it is what it is.
That’s queer because it knows what it is, even when struck. Especially when struck.
That’s queer because you know what you are, I know what I am, we know what we are, because you are what you are, I am what I am, we are what we are, because you feel right, I feel right, we feel right.
That’s queer because it feels right in my bed. It feels particular, specific, necessary, whole, ecstatic. Because it belongs. Because it feels normal, right, the most normal thing there is, entwined and drifting perfectly to sleep.
When I wake up queer, I wake up.
I wake up to normalcy.
I wake up to skin, to touch, to human scent, my own or another’s or both.
I wake up to easy air. To my lungs accepting air with ease. To delicious air. To acceptance.
I wake up to seeing and being seen.
I wake up to all the human shit we pull on each other – longing, confusion, presumption, jealousy, sadness, acceptance. Seeing and being seen.
I wake up to we, to being one with the species rather than outcast, I wake up to connection, to a sense of umbilicus.
I wake up to we, to the many inside me, to they that comprise me, to the kaleidoscopic whorl of being and sense and life. To the tourbillion of life.
I wake up to we, to the verb of we, to the act of we, to we as in to be as in to free as in to accept, to allow, to welcome.
I wake up to welcome, to the elusive welcome of being in the world, of moving forward, of inventing new forms of being, existence and purpose and joy.
I wake up to the elusive which is not elusive at all, despite what they say, because queer is not elusive, queer is here, queer is very here, queer is evolving, queer is thriving, queer is we.
Queer is normal because queer is everyone and everything, and everyone is queer because there is no normal. Normal is ideology. Normal is propaganda. Normal is queer.
Queer is every day, and every day is queer. Every night is queer. Every sleep is queer and every waking is queer.
When we wake, we queer. Like every other day.
I don’t know what any of this means, because this isn’t about meaning. It’s about being. It’s about doing. It’s about living.
So let us live, fiercely, softly, colorfully, darkly, queerly, as the need requires.
Let us be. Let us very be.
Let us do, and breathe, and do, and touch, and do, and rest, and do, and wake, and do.
Let us queer, as we are, as we can, as we want, as we will, as we must.
Let us we.
Here you can find the individual and rather amusing if I do say so blog posts I’ve written for the great weather for MEDIA West Coast Tour 2018. Each one gives an impressionistic glance at the poets’ work at each reading, interspersed with, well, other stuff. You might be surprised.
As so many know, I’m required by natural law to either read or post or both this poem, writ in 1990, during the month of November, my birth month. Contract fulfilled for another year. Whew!
November is the lilac growing from my grave.
November is the cinnamon of the veins.
November is a tea steeped of dried brain stem.
November is the sockdolager of autumn, the final blow, the sting and fraud of blowing leaves.
November is the leech of winter at the base of the spine.
November is the sleep-droozed giant peering over the hill.
November is the net of remembrance, tangling you in its weave, or cast before you leaping to a new place. You choose.
November is the sperm joining egg in the desperate womb of February.
November is the roadkill trampled rank after rank by the students of high-tech self-satisfaction. And I mean rank.
November is you naked in the downtown streets.
November is the crunch of gravel in the teeth.
November is the rattle of love in the chilled heart.
November is the exoskeleton of grace.
November is the eyelid of indifference.
November cracks the bricks of tradition.
November drowns flies in a freezing well.
November eats the molehills of the mind; shits moles.
November spins the outer shell of the coccoon.
November shrinks the man to mud, swells the mind to myth.
November mothers tapestries, innocently wove, that alter human history.
November fathers broken sticks, axeheads, the worms of survival.
November lashes out at pride with a weathered vengeance of humility.
November spits in the Fascist’s face.
November coins the lash, strips the hide, kills the pig.
November is the whisper of the blade.
November glances at death.
November is the sharp seeing.
November gives what the ungrateful cannot see.
November is the state of alert.
November is the aria of strength.
November is the cruellest month, insofar as cruelty is the greatest gift.
Let us give thanks.
No peace of mind