This is a Bad Poem.

This is a poem I don’t want to put on the Internet.
This poem
(Like most bad things)
I will keep to myself.

This Poem gives me
Anxiety.
I want to Fix the Grammar
But
I set out to write
A Bad Poem

So

My first Intention
Is
My Last intention.

This Poem
Is for all the thoughts
Un
Said
That I keep to myself

This Poem is
All the
I’mperfections
That lie by Omission

I’m not going to edit This Poem
AND
I Might even
Put it on the internet
Lowercase like I like it
Even though my High school
english Teacher
Sed
It Should Be Uppercase

This Poem
Gives
Me

(Anxiety)

This is My Bad Poem
(This)
(Is)
(Me)

And What does it
mean

if
I like

My Bad Poem?

(This)
(Poem)
(Gives)
(((Me)))
((((((Anxiety))))))

My First intention
As my last Intention
On the interNET

Good lord
(Gives me)
Is it
(An)
Too Self Aware
(-xiety)
Rhymes with
Piety

No

I
(This)

I Like This Poem.
Even if it should have ended
Several Stanzas
A
go

This is a BaD pOeM
(An)d
I’m going to put
(Me)
On the iNtErNeT

Good Lorde.

(Thou shalt not take
Her Name in Vein)

Good
Night

Bad Poem.

Radical Meditation I

We are gardeners.

We take all of the rotten things of this world, and we join in communion with the worms and the wriggly creatures of this planet to creates the blackest, richest earth we’ve ever known.

When the earth smells deep and heady, we plant a magical seed. This is a seed that has been germinating for many generations. It has been cared for and guarded by our ancestors, and it is time now for the seed to grow.

Over the years, we each take turns tending to the delicate green sprout and making sure it gets enough sunlight. We bring other rotting things to it so that it can keep absorbing nutrients, and we water it with the salty-sweet sweat from our skin.

And slowly… its leaves unfurl… and its trunk grows stronger…

As it grows, we bring other people to come look at the tree, and we begin to understand what radical togetherness looks like. We show them what we can create by valuing what the lie-makers tells us is value-less.

We bring more people to come see the tree, and in turn, those people bring other people, and those other people bring more people, too. And the tree keeps growing and growing. It grows to be bigger than we ever were, as our children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren gather round and clasp hands with more and more people.

In fact, by the time that the police and the border patrol and the military realize how many people have gathered to see the tree, it is too late to do anything but to lay down their weapons, so that they may learn a different way.

Soon that tree is so big, and it has so many people clasping hands surrounding it, that the old world is crowded out, and the crumbled concrete remains of it are absorbed by the roots of the tree to make it even stronger.

In the tree now, our great-great-great-grandchildren play. In its shade, our community gardens grow, and we share the water and the land with the earth and with each other.

Before long, we discover that this tree is not the only tree. In fact, all over the world, people have been planting and tending their trees for generations, too, and the branches stretch across oceans and connect us. Our hands clasp other hands, like the trees’ roots twist with other roots.

Now we find that only use we have for the ways of the old world is to learn from our mistakes. Like the compost that helps new plants grow, the old ways help us to understand that with this forest that we grew, we live in true abundance and love.

And we will cherish and sustain this forest for generations to come. 

break


i.

we say:

“the world”

“everyone”

“everything”

is broken

words that summarize

but do not encompass 

the suffering

of each of the beings

who have been taught

through violence

through isolation

through poisonous words

that who they are is not enough

is less than

ii.

somewhere along the way

as i saw and

understood and

felt 

the suffering that is ours

my heart 

broke

and a thicket of brambles grew from it

protecting it

defending it

searching for a way to fix 

what is bigger than me

iii.

so i travel the world 

with my heart of brambles

sometimes leafy

sometimes thorny

sometimes sweet with sticky fruit

and i offer what i can

growing

occasionally blossoming

having difficult, sometimes prickly conversations

offering sweet fruit to those who will take it

hoping that the seeds will

drop 

in unexpected places

and flowers will grow from cement

their delicate roots 

nestling into concrete crevices

and breaking them

growing

connecting

so that one day

maybe years from now

that concrete will become soil

rich with nutrients for more flowers to grow

iv.

and maybe

my grandchildren’s grandchildren

will look upon a flower

or taste a blackberry

and know

 

that they are more than enough

and that their roots connect them

with other flowers

who also know 

that they are more than enough

and maybe they will remember

their great great grandmother’s 

broken heart

and give thanks that theirs

is whole.

The ocean will cry for me

When I have no more tears to give

Her salt water heaves

In great sobs of emotion

As constant as life

And death

And nothing

She cries 

The ocean will roar for us

When our throats are raw from screaming

When the blood on the streets has dried

And the spring grass

Has sprouted over our graves 

Her guttural moans

Are as sure as the moonrise

The ocean will sing

We hear her in our choirs

The rock concerts

The shower songs

And still she sings

But not for us

She sings for existence

For nothing and everything

For life and death

For the beings that are from her and part of her

The ocean will cry and shout and sing

Even when there is no one left to hear her.

Infinite Tale

We each weave intricate narratives
About ourselves and our surroundings
The little explanations and stories
Describing who we are to ourselves

We understand our lives in terms of time and experiences
Memories and places
Each friend, neighbor, family member
A character in our story

We read chapters and excerpts from their own narratives
But their stories unfold outside our own
Where we are extras or supporting actors
Passing glances or epic romances

The tales we tell
Intertwine with one another
Thread through our communities
Wind across the globe

We are billions of threads tangled up
Into One
Impossibly
Intricate
Infinite Tale

Queer Joy, Queer Trauma, and the Media

Content warning: homophobic violence, transphobic violence

Please note: Spoilers below for GLOW, Sex Education, Sense8, Duck Butter, Blue Is the Warmest Color, and Carol

The other day, I was watching yet another TV show that was benevolent enough to offer some queer side characters tucked into a mostly straight narrative, and in this particular episode, the queer characters actually got some screen time. The show I was watching was “GLOW,” and I was excited to spend more time watching the queer story lines develop, but at the same time, a familiar dread was starting to creep into my belly. Near the end of the episode, the queer characters and the straight characters all go together to an underground drag show, and it’s glittery and colorful and happy and, well, queer. So far, so good. But then, sure enough, someone smells smoke, and then everyone is running out the door, and when they get outside, spray painted all over the walls are, “F*ggot,” and “AIDS Kills F*ggots,” and crudely drawn dicks, and, well, you get the picture. In the middle of all this trauma, the lesbian character, who hasn’t been able to say, “I’m gay” yet, has this epiphany looking at all the scrawled messages. In the next episode, she comes out to all her friends, and everyone is accepting of her, and she decides to join the fight for gay rights, and isn’t that great.

Except it’s not great. It sucks, actually. Why did the writers think they had to create a traumatic experience in order for the lesbian character to “realize” she had to come out of the closet? Why are writers and directors so obsessed with coming-out-of-the-closet story lines in the first place? I’m so tired of narratives like this one, where the hate crime precedes character development for the queer person. The phoenix-rising-from-the-ashes gay narrative. The sad lesbian trope, the tortured queer, the my-parents-don’t-know and the my-dad-beat-me-and-threw-me-out-of-the-house narratives. Don’t we deserve a little better? Don’t we deserve joy that isn’t interrupted by a fucking hate crime? 

This is not an isolated incident. We see trauma representation like this all the time in modern television and books and movies. Representation isn’t enough if it’s this particular story that we’re telling. Because the whole reason that representation is important is because it offers an opportunity to see ourselves reflected back to us, and maybe even to see a stronger, better version of ourselves on screen. And if that person is someone who is constantly beat down, constantly fighting to be “accepted” by straight society, then that is who we learn that we are.

Queerness is a unique identity because, unlike the myriad of other marginalized identities out there – like being a woman or being a person of color, for example – queer people aren’t necessarily born into a family or community that shares our identities. Furthermore, we may not even understand that we are queer until adulthood. So for many queer people, the early stages of our identities can feel very isolating. We emerge from our presumed straight, cis lives into a new reality, but we’re often surrounded by the same straight, cis people we knew, before we knew. Of course, everyone’s coming-out experience is different, but this is the way that it was for me. When I first came out, I yearned desperately for an older queer mentor to help me understand this new reality that I was living in. I wish that I had had someone to tell me that it was normal to doubt myself, that it would take some time to figure things out, that I didn’t owe it to anyone to define myself, and that, in fact, it was a good thing to allow some room to be more fluid, to not define myself. But I didn’t have that person, because most of my friends were straight. (Or at least they thought they were at the time!) And for me, “acceptance” wasn’t enough. I needed understanding. I needed community.

So I turned to television. I watched anything and everything on Netflix that had to do with queer women. “The L Word.” “Blue Is the Warmest Color.” “Duck Butter.” “Orange Is the New Black.” “Below Her Mouth.” “Sense8.” “Lost Girl.” “Sex Education.” “Pose.” Some of these shows offered positive representations of queer women. Some of them offered extremely problematic representations. Most of them were a mix of both. Mostly through television, I slowly gathered an image in my mind of what it meant to be queer. Of what versions of people like me were out there. Of who I could be.

And this is why representation matters. This is why it’s so important to offer narratives that allow queer people to fill out a variety of roles, for queerness to wear different faces. So that we can explore what it might mean to be ourselves. But we need more than that. We need to represent more than just the world that we live in, but also the world that we want to live in.

I have watched too many TV shows and movies that cast queerness as a weight that the character is burdened with. The character might be striving to be their truest self, but everyone wants them to be different. It might be their family, or their school mates, or their boyfriend that they’re cheating on, because isn’t forbidden love oh-so-sexy? There’s Eric from Sex Education who goes out in drag and gets teased all day and then badly beaten up by some men who were driving by. There’s Nomi from Sense8 who is constantly misgendered and outcast by her family until the big scene when her dad finally defends her and calls her his daughter. 

Perhaps most troubling is when the trauma comes from within the queer relationships themselves. I’m talking about the movies where the characters are so damaged that they sabotage their own relationships. Naima in Duck Butter falls in love with Sergio, the mysterious manic pixie dream girl who ends up being a destructive and manipulative asshole, and they both destroy their relationship from the inside out. In the movie version of Blue Is the Warmest Color, Adele and Emma have intense, steamy sex, but then Adele cheats on Emma with a man, they break up, and the last scene shows her gazing wistfully at Emma from afar, before walking away. In the book, it’s the same storyline, except Adele dies at the end. In Carol, Carol and Therese run off together, but they are followed by an investigator that Carol’s husband sends, and Carol loses custody of her daughter in the process. Also, there’s some weird power dynamics, and I honestly don’t think have great chemistry. By the way, all those movies are directed by men.

And of course, this kind of fictional trauma wasn’t invented in a vacuum. Queer people deal with these kinds of issues all the time. But shouldn’t we be able to imagine a world where that’s not the case? Shouldn’t we be able to finally feel truly seen at a drag ball and not worry that someone is going to set it on fire? Or that someone is going to shoot a machine gun into a crowd of people?

It’s also critical to point out that the vast majority of queer representation only depicts a tiny subsection of the population. Mainly: thin, white, cis people. This is probably old news to a lot of people, but if not, I would encourage you to go type “LGBTQ” into any streaming service, and consider the ridiculous percentage of white people crowding the screen. Only in recent years have trans and nonbinary folks received a modicum of screen time where they weren’t the butt of a joke. And people of size? The lack of representation across all genres has dire, far-reaching consequences. I’m not trans, and I’m not a person of color, but if I am having this much frustration over representation when the people who are given screen time mostly look like me, I can only imagine how trans and BIPOC folks feel about it.

We need to figure out how to depict a world where we’re not shoving difficult truths under the carpet, but also one where trauma isn’t portrayed as an inevitable part of queer story lines. I want to be able to enjoy the budding lesbian relationship on screen without worrying about when the femme one’s boyfriend is going to predictably show up and lash out, or when one of them is going to experience sexual trauma – or die. And sure, I’ll admit that I often enjoy the intense, steamy, lesbian sex, but I also get annoyed, because it’s almost always porny and unrealistic. And given the prevalence and frequency of explicit sex scenes that show up in lesbian movies — compared to the sex scene count in your average straight romance movie — the constant over-exaggerated moaning starts to feel exploitative, rather than liberating. (Did I mention that most of these movies are directed by men?)

We need to invent a world where queer joy not only exists, but thrives. Writers and directors who write story lines that interrupt that joy with trauma and heartbreak create a reality that I don’t want to see myself in. I want more from my representation, and I want more for those baby queers out there who are still figuring it out, and who are still looking for direction from media when they can’t get it from the people around them. We deserve better, both on and off the screen.

Up and Away

My spirit quakes
Like a tremor of the earth
A snake
Sits in my throat
Winds its way down to my heart
And squeezes

Blood buzzes in my ears
I breathe like a trembling aspen tree
Leaves brittle with cold

My thoughts are guppy fish
Swimming in endless manic circles
Trapped in a tank
Too
Small
And I look at the world distorted through water
Or is it plastic?

I need to get out
To go out
Breathe clean air
Feel the grand rush of the
Open

I need
Mountains
Trees
Water

I need it to fill my lungs
For the meadows to embrace me
For the sun to kiss my cheeks

I need to be
Away, and
Here.

The Impermanence of Smoke and Rain

We spent the week painfully suspended between the past and the future to the soundtrack of Whitney. The band, not the singer, because we were just counterculture enough that we could reject normalcy while still completing our degrees with distinctions. We were cliché, but not to each other, and we relished the sepia fog while trying to ignore the cold daggers that brought prickles to our eyes.

I felt like a ragdoll tossed around silently in a tornado, like in action movies, where they cut out the sound when the heroine’s best friend dies and she screams silently, because how can you possibly hear something like that? I rode the roller coaster of drugs and sobriety and alcohol and emotion and more drugs. Nothing about that week was healthy, but somehow it needed to be that way. Somehow it was healthy, and what is health anyway? Fucking social construct, said my brain from somewhere above the surface. That week I learned more about consent and gender fucking and love and fucking and not fucking than I did the rest of my time in college.

And damn it if those song lyrics didn’t get to me. Will life get ahead of me? Are you fucking kidding me? Planes are headed home… It would have been nauseating to watch myself, were I not living the nostalgia in real time. I was nestled in a sleep-deprived huddle of people whom I loved and love and who love me and loved me. Foggily watching the scenery speed by as the sleeper car hurtled towards the cliff’s edge. 

On the last night, I cried. My fingers fumbled with the lighter as shivering sobs finally flooded my lungs. I choked out a watery laugh as I lost the smoke into the cloudy air. Fuck, I said, and they understood, in the tragic, beautiful way that humans do when they live through shared endings. The smoke wafted away and cleared, and I felt the fog break for a glimpse before the night pressed down on me again. Fuck.

It was raining the next morning as I pressed my face against the window and listened to Whitney, watching the place where I had learned to be an adult recede into the background. It was a cliché, but in that moment, that was all I wanted it to be.