We Will Still Grow Here

Never quite knew
How to write revolution, but
My breath is rebellion because
I did not stop—

Start humming,
Start here, now, start
To make some noise; my name
Is the only gunshot they want to ban, good
Red-blooded Americans with their hands
On the Bible, good blood-reddened hands
Trying to tear the love right outta me,

Jesus and his red hands were reaching
Out when I turned
And set myself on fire; name
Meant wood, name meant consecrated,
Name meant the altar burning, sacrifice, mouth
Wet with the ichor of a dead god; I
Spat the death back out of me, kept
My name meaning holy, meaning evergreen; meaning
Go on, bury me again — have you ever seen
A fir tree fall in a forest fire, the seeds
Spring to such safety, take root and thrive;
Scorched earth is the only inheritance
We’ve learned to be greedy for; it means
When you’re done with this place
It will be ours; it was always ours —

Past the pyroclastic blast of autocrats is the anthem
Of a million leaves stirred up, a million branches swaying
In the new and ancient wind; our wildfire wildflowers
Springing back, again, again; a million different colors breaking down
Your walls, your barricades, your doomed and tiny things;
Love is love is a forest is a forest and

If I scream my name in a forest
The forest will hear;
The trees will breathe me in and I
Will become part of them;
Every falling will be my falling,
Every growth will be my growth; everything you
Did not do for the least of these; me,
I will turn and live, love
Outstretched and open to the sun.

Q&A 1

Q: What is your aesthetic? 

A: Aw, hell: Hell. Heresy, the burning righteousness of the apostate. Subversion. Pride that set the devil’s wings alight. Macbeth. …I stop somewhere waiting for you. Siken. The apocalypse. Poetry crumpled in a fist / Swinging / Copper-salt tang of red on a flash of teeth / heart gripped in a gravel road mouth. Neon lights. The cracking break of dawn. The quiet careful of the aftermath. Prairie grass. Something soft and unexpected. I too am not a bit tamed, I too am untranslatable, I sing a song and it is the song of myself, again, again, and I am evergreen and alive.

Requiem for a Distant April Shower

Listen, I would
Forgive you even though I
Don’t know if I should, don’t know if
This is the smart thing, the safest thing,
But then I always
Welcome back the people I maybe
Shouldn’t; you see,
When you left I think
You took a piece of me with you – how cliché,
I know, but what is there to make of love
That is original, what songs haven’t been sung by
Poets who are not me, and the answer is nothing, none of them;
Maybe we’re just the same celestial bodies
Orbiting each other again, again, and once more,
Always coming back around to this even
If only in memory;
See, you were like a spring shower on a bright day,
My sunshine-rain-girl who was never even mine, and
Did you know that I’m afraid of storms; I wasn’t before
But I am; there’s a lot
I haven’t told you since you’ve been gone,
But I would tell you all of it now, if you came back,
Even though I’m
Not sure if I should.

Risen

Rise.
Grave dirt beneath fingernails.
The dead are always hungry.

Your best friend asked you how you died, and you
Held out your arms, broken skin
Bloodless and numb.

My scars are invisible, half-thought despaired
Plans that itch on the undersides of my veins.
My best friend asks me if I am okay. February afternoon, and the world is gray and foggy
And we both know I need new glasses
But around phone lines my fault-line heart transmutes to an earthquake.

They warn you about poets who revel in their suffering;
I could say that
Words keep me alive,
That I lash lines together like a life-raft as the ocean comes pouring in, defiant words against
Choking salt-spray, that
Gravity almost pulled me down from the cliffside but poetry was the rope of my salvation,
Raw fingers clinging in chalked crevices one hundred feet high —
I could make this mess beautiful, I could make this enviable, collections of
Slinking cat-skeletons and hollowed hummingbird skulls amid
Crushed flowers, shattered crystals, the boil of witches’ brews;
I could say that
There are lilies growing in the empty spaces between our ribs, that
The L’appel du vide is a Keaton Heston song, that
The reason we keep visiting our headstones is because somehow they remind us of our mothers.

But
There is no beauty in dead and dying things
Unless we lie to ourselves.

Your best friend asks you how far you will need to run to be yourself; you never leave.
My best friend wonders if I run, will I ever come back again? And the only answer I have is that
Running means you’re scared and it’s okay to be scared, it’s okay to only want to feel your shoes pounding against the ground because the sound
Mimics heartbeats so well; it’s okay to run sometimes but running is hard because
I’ve got a bad leg, bad lungs.

The dead run too, the dead run
Because they are hungry, always
Hungry – they eat you
From the inside, they eat you like
They’re the truth pushing at you from within like
Flower petals, unfurling in the April sun— No,
I shall not make this beautiful, because
Truth is
Blunt teeth against warm organs, blood,
Fingernails scraping membrane, viscera, bone,
Cold hands holding skull splinters, brain bits —
All things eat, all things are eaten,
This is truth.

And the truth is
Who would have saved you, Kieren Walker, when you fell
For a boy who dragged your heart to war and died there;
Your paints dried up and I know this
Because my words clotted; did your parents know
Why you mourned him so – or did that come later,
When gay became somehow easier to process than zombie?

I haven’t touched a brush for years now, I have only
Black ink on white pages – you paint people, Kieren, paint me
A train bound West.
Paint me hope, paint me a road that leads where
I can hold the setting sun in my arms and feel warmth
Running through my veins.

Paint us okay.
Paint our hearts beating.

Self-Titled Album (Poems Like Old Fall Out Boy Songs)

  1. In The Beginning (Hell Is A State Of Mind And I Am A Natural-Born Citizen)

Leather-bound Bibles snapping spines
Across backs / God holds sinners
In angry hands / Here
Is your birthright / this birth left a
Strange drowning in your lungs /
Disbeliever heart believing / if it pumps
Out enough prayer-poems
The word will be life.

  1. Brutal Honesty Always Looked Good On You Kid

They called you Warrior / marked you
Well-versed in recitation / didn’t teach resuscitation
To a DOA faith / God is dead and whodunit /
Fingerprints on a rebel sword
Pulled from your closet / come out
Swinging.

  1. Gravity Killed The Tight-Rope-Walking Star

Choose your sides / choose your battles
Fall or rise / no middle ground here stands / stand
Firm on thirst for freedom
On hunger for the god-self /
Heathen and graceless creature filled
With sparks / name well-earned irony / now
Crash to earth / shatter craters in the world / view.

  1. Angels And Devils Look The Same (When You’re Drunk At 2AM)

Immoral heart / burned in lines of ash
Gray / Tearing down missing posters for
Paradise Lost / found on broken streetlights /
Empty streets / skeletal shadows looking
Pretty thin / on luck / if we’re all ghosts baby
You don’t need an explanation /
For why you pass straight on through.

  1. Semi-Auto(matic) Biography

Flip this album to the B-side / other
Tunes to hum now / looks different looks
Like the underside of the skin / you peeled back /
When you were eighteen / for the record / this is not a metaphor /
For suicide / but you are
Still in some way murderer / your second-person past
Reads out like a transcript on
A crash course test / in passing
Trains at railroad crossings / too close /
First person shift / from second now
Nearly stall this nervous wreck /
Start the next song.

  1. Dead Horseshoe Crabs On A New Jersey Beach (If Things Were Different She Might’ve Loved Me)

The ocean / was never mine to claim /
Instead / I was born twenty minutes / miles from
The Delaware /
My eyes never remembered / my birthplace /
Never remembered moving / Nebraska
Means river / means time flowing onward
And green lights / Nebraska means she
Will never read this poem / and I
Will never forget / the warm / heavy weight
Of her head on my shoulder /
I wrote my first love story about her / wrote it
Tragic / like I thought / my kind of love story must be /
Blurry vision like unsent postcards dropped / in rain puddles /
Yet I saw a year / down the road / her /
Smiles and heart emoticons /
Telling me / about
Her boyfriend. 

  1. According To The United States Government I Don’t Exist Yet

My mother named me prickly / poison /
With so much love /
Do not think I have forgotten / this
She named me / thing that grows / evergreen /
Something to survive /
My mother named me different / named me
Consecrated / named me bloodied berries dropped
In the snow / cold and silent //
I named myself stronger / named myself this /
Thing in my chest / name only a few have heard /
Named myself archaic / named long slumbering but risen / now.

  1. Pater Dimitte Mihi Quoniam Peccavi

Eighteen and / my father tells me /
I should write something / other than poetry /
And yes / I have / stories in my veins but
I have / poetry in my lungs / fire needs / breath /
To breathe / I compose too many poems / about myself /
This will not be the last one.

  1. Poets Are Liars Anyways So What Good Is This Confession? (Fire, Fire)

Match-maker / match maker / make
Me a match / Strike sparks / against
The side / of brick-walled buildings /
Only you can prevent / flash-flood-fires / in
Kindling hearts / I burn /
Too quick / too hot / too wild / unsubstantial
Claims dropping like tongue of flames /
On firework tents /
My world ends with / a bang / burst / of bright color.

  1. Revelation Catch-22

Beginning’s end / or / end’s beginning /
Riddle me this / that
Which you love / you / must lose / loose
Ends / of worn-out shoelaces / dangling
From the edges of / overpasses /
Underground lies / hell-fire or
Oblivion / Earth / the world
Spins on /
Amen.

Catharsis

“You should write something other than poems.”

The words fall, brittle
On my ears the way bone-dry clay
Slips, tumbles down, and
Shatters
On concrete.

Poetry, to me,
Is the process and aftermath
Of ripping myself apart.
It’s the way the wounds scab, itch,
Heal, scar.

It is the spicules
Of swallowed glass lodged in my windpipe —
So sorry I got blood on your carpet
But I was trying to breathe;

I write poetry
The way the lungshot hack on wet gasps –
Splattered.
Messy.
Graceless.

Somedays I am not proud of this but
Somedays Pride
Is the only thing I’ve got, and sometimes

I stop and wonder if I should make this
Beautiful —

I peel back my own ribs like flower petals,
Love me, love me not 

But it isn’t; pain
Is not beautiful unless we lie to ourselves.

But this pain is mine,

“Mine, mine, mine”
The echo of the godless who
Want everything, including some
Goddamn way of dealing
With what happened to them.

You don’t get to strike me
And then tell me
How to bleed
Properly.

Roll Call Redux, Or: Obligatory Transgender Name Poem #195

Two years ago, I wrote a poem, called it
“Roll Call” because school
Had just started and I was thinking about my name, that
Disyllabic hardy shrub, prickly and partially poisonous.

Today, I wrote another poem,
Because I was thinking about my name.

What’s in a name?
The name your parents give you means: Love,

Means: This is how we welcome you into the world,
Means: You are ours and this is what we shall call you.

The name you give yourself means: you
Are the bravest person,

Means: You have dared to claim yourself,
Means: You will have to keep being brave till you don’t know how to stop –

You see, they warn you about coming out; they warn you:
Your parents will not react the way you want them to,

Which is a gentle way of saying:

  1. Disappointment, which is a nice way of saying,

“God did not make you like this,”

  1. Silence, which is just another way to say,

“There is no language in which I know how to speak to you,”

  1. Therapy, which is a euphemism for

“This is what it will take to survive: your own two fists and ground that is too cold to dig a grave in.”

Five months after my parents started speaking to me again,
They can only say half of my name.
You see, that’s the part that is familiar, the part that still sounds like
Family, like how they loved and welcomed me twenty-one odd years ago.

I don’t think my parents ever stopped loving me; I think they just don’t know how to let
The rest of my name in from the cold.

You see, a year ago I named myself something that still means
Poison, to still mean I know how it is to survive,
Meaning I am still spine and blood droplets, still
The shock of green growing out from the snow,
Defiant, rebellious thing that
Wouldn’t die when it was meant to.

Meaning:
I am still here,
And my name means:

I don’t plan on going anywhere.