Poem a day #15 Found Poem in Explanation of Events Beginning October 2007

if there is a lyric poem inside every narrative poem, isn’t there also a lyric poem inside of an essay? At least inside of a well-written essay, the pleasure of which is the combination of the well-researched opinion and the exceptionally good writing? It’s a theory, as is the Timing Hypothesis Cynthia Gorney explores in her wonderful article in the New York Times Magazine

Found Poem In Explanation of Events
Beginning Approx. October 2007
From the article “The Estrogen Dilemma”
by Cynthia Gorney

“Dr. A., do you remember me?”
“I’m so sorry. Should I?”

warring, gesticulating, fluorescent,
reverent, sputtering, fading
Alzheimer’s brains

the timing hypothesis layer of complication
to the current conventional probing,
interrogating, poking—
permitted, distracted,
hallucinatory clashing data
suppositions, mysteries, arbitrarily
coming and going in waves

personal interior chorus of quarreling voices
ferocious hormones
vicious recurring hormonal hiccup

wondrously bland phrasing, explanatory graph,
overlapping lines that peaked and plunged
Climara-surge of industrious scrambling—
some menopausal malady is genuinely making you miserable

daunting influence of a drug industry,
concentrated soup of a pill, conjugated
equine estrogens, vigorous
and sexually satisfactory cardiac events
crank up frantically, crash
and then crank up again
ovaries start atrophying into retirement

this great Upheaval of During

density of dendritic spines,
barbs that stick along the long tails of brain cells
like thorns on a blackberry stem,
chemical solvent sloshed onto rusting metal:
the personal calculus of risk
is an exhausting exercise
phases of life
can unhinge us

Poem a day #14 Getting Dressed for Work

here’s a little lesson in what first drafts can look like. This not-yet-a-poem wanders all around, taking forever to tell a story which will probably be reduced to a few descriptive details when I’m done blithering and ready to really write. Inside every narrative is a lyric waiting to happen, but sometimes digging it out is not so easy. If I can’t remember the name of the woman I went out with, why is she even here in a poem about something else? And be forewarned that this piece doesn’t end but only gives up, out of time and out of words.

Getting Dressed for Work
1.2

Buttoning my Arrow shirt,
centering my thick leather belt
over the fly of my chinos,
sliding on my Doc Martens,
my mind bounced back
to Orange County, California
in 1986, on my first date
with a woman,
whose name I can’t recall,
in my first lesbian bar
whose name I don’t remember,

where I can still clearly see
the butch women—
the old school butches,
the men’s pants butches,
the starched collar butches,
the gentle hands that could
take you out butches,
the hold the door hold your chair
hold your hand but never let you
win at pool butches—
the butches, who all wore
tiny gold earrings.
Girly earrings, not Harlem studs
studs.

I stared at the butches,
discretely, for I’d read all about them
in my coming-out frenzy,
and also at their earrings,
mentioned in none
of my reading. My date,
as flighty as those earrings were
incongruous,
seemed not to notice.

Monday in coming out group
I asked my mentor Laurie,
who smiled at my description
with only half her face.

The dress code, she said. Don’t you know
about the dress code? When the bars
were raided, any woman wearing
less than three items
of women’s clothing
could be arrested
as a pervert.

Standing in Philadelphia
in 2010, I examine myself.
Men’s shirt.
Men’s style-pants.
Men’s shoes.
Men’s undershirt.
Men’s belt.
No jewelry.
Bra.
Today, women’s underwear.
Black socks – do cotton socks have gender?
Wallet.
Carefully chosen gender-neutral
burnt orange urban messenger bag.

I’d be in the paddy wagon,
my picture spread on the paper,
my job lost probably
my apartment lost
maybe and even if I ran
out the back I could still
have been beaten openly
on any street.

How do you get dressed—
oh that most ordinary
of daily experiences—
trapped between the radical need
to be only who you are
and constant fear
of arrest? How did you find
masculine-looking shirts
that still button on the left?
Shoes just female enough
to keep you out of jail?

How did you invent a world
in a world not ready for you,
oh Butches with gold earrings?
I know you fondled the silky panties
of the femmes with teased up hair,
but did you, secretly, fondle
your own, those bits of nylon tricot,
swathes of practical cotton?

Or was it the women police officers
fondling your panties
when you were stripped in search
of women’s clothes?

My Horse Body (version2)

My Horse Body
version 1 draft 2

My ears, soft, tall, all movement
and knowledge,
grew in first. I felt them
swiveling on my head,
attuned to sounds in all directions,
shuddering if a fly landed.

Then my tail—long, black, hairs of thin
steel cable. Then my mane, and with my mane
my muscled horse neck.

A few months after, eating
my Cheerios oats, my muzzle
appeared, causing me to lower my head
into my cereal box feed bag.
My mom could not fathom
an equine daughter,
could know me only
as an untamed thing.

Soon my horse eyes opened,
my new peripheral vision
giving me access to boundaries
my world wished to be blindered.

My horse body flailed, all awkward foal,
then gangly filly slowly
filling out to glistening chestnut mare.
I would have been a three-year-old,
primed for the Derby, when I was 12,
but it was 1975.
Ruffian was dead.
I gave up racing,
more crippled by my grief
than she had been by her courage.

My horse legs came back, muscle
and tendon, at 16, when I bought
my Trek. The bike was a horse,
I was a horse, two horses racing,
a pair of horses, harnessed
by toe clips.

I gave up the bike
for a boyfriend who needed
my constant attention,
and my horse body
grew wane, grew specter—
even the memory
of its mass, of my power
faded as shadowed as the Polaroid
of me at seven on a pony
for the first time.

What does strength do
if we forget we had it?
Where does desire live
when the body is boarded up?

How is the snow queen vanquished,
so water, the blood of the land,
runs again and sun warms muscles
back to movement?

A single gesture
can be enough. My lover’s hand,
held flat, finger first across my lips
then shoved hard into my mouth,
pulling my lips tightly back,
my tongue down—a bit,
of warm flesh, but still I tasted
cold iron and was again horse,
shaken by the speed
of the metamorphosis
by the ease of settling in
again to my four-legged body.

And now I’ve dyed
my gray hair bright chestnut.
When I feel skittish
I head-bump her, nip
her neck affectionately
with strong horse teeth.
When I feel hungry
to run, she mounts me
bare-back and we ride,
two women together,
a horse and a human, harnessed
by desire.

We ride until I am lathered
and winded, until she
leads me home
and rubs me down
and covers me with a blanket
woven with her initials
and I doze, standing,
until I am ready to consent
to again be human.

When I was a Boy

As I’ve been thinking about imaginary bodies my mind has wandered to the Dar Williams song “When I was a Boy.” on her album The Honesty Room. Certainly one of my imaginary bodies as a child was a boy—not so much in terms of sex as of gender privilege. I wanted what boys had, all that freedom and independence and roughness that was praised and not scolded.

When I was a Boy
music and lyrics by Dar Williams

I won’t forget when Peter Pan came to my house, took my hand
I said I was a boy; I’m glad he didn’t check.
I learned to fly, I learned to fight
I lived a whole life in one night
We saved each other’s lives out on the pirate’s deck.

And I remember that night
When I’m leaving a late night with some friends
And I hear somebody tell me it’s not safe,
someone should help me
I need to find a nice man to walk me home.

When I was a boy, I scared the pants off of my mom,
Climbed what I could climb upon
And I don’t know how I survived,
I guess I knew the tricks that all boys knew.

And you can walk me home, but I was a boy, too.

I was a kid that you would like, just a small boy on her bike
Riding topless, yeah, I never cared who saw.
My neighbor come outside to say, “Get your shirt,”
I said “No way, it’s the last time I’m not breaking any law.”

And now I’m in this clothing store, and the signs say less is more
More that’s tight means more to see, more for them, not more for me
That can’t help me climb a tree in ten seconds flat

When I was a boy, See that picture? That was me
Grass-stained shirt and dusty knees
And I know things have gotta change,
They got pills to sell, they’ve got implants to put in,
they’ve got implants to remove

But I am not forgetting…that I was a boy too

And like the woods where I would creep, it’s a secret I can keep
Except when I’m tired, ‘cept when I’m being caught off guard
And I’ve had a lonesome awful day, the conversation finds its way
To catching fire-flies out in the backyard.

And so I tell the man I’m with about the other life I lived
And I say, “Now you’re top gun, I have lost and you have won”
And he says, “Oh no, no, can’t you see

When I was a girl, my mom and I we always talked
And I picked flowers everywhere that I walked.
And I could always cry, now even when I’m alone I seldom do
And I have lost some kindness
But I was a girl too.
And you were just like me, and I was just like you”

My Horse Body

another early draft of a poem that’s growing out of the “Fatty Girls, Imaginary Cocks, and Vaginas Like Bookstores” workshop at Split This Rock. If you weren’t one of those horse-loving kids in the mid-70’s, you can learn more about Ruffian here.

My Horse Body
1.1

My ears, soft, tall, all movement
and knowledge
grew in first. I felt them
swiveling on my head,
attuned to sounds in all directions,
shuddering if a fly landed.

Then my tail—long, black, hairs like thin
steel cables. Then mane, and with my mane
my muscled horse neck.

A few months after, eating oats
in the form of Cheerios,
my muzzle appeared, causing me
to lower my mouth into the cereal box
feed bag. My mom could not imagine
a horse body so knew me only
as an untamed thing.

Soon my horse eyes opened
and my peripheral vision
was from that morning vast.

My body then was all awkward foal
then gangly filly slowly filling out
to glistening chestnut mare.
I would have been a three-year-old,
primed for the Derby, when I was 12,
but it was 1975.
Ruffian was dead.
I gave up racing,
more crippled by my grief
than she had been by her courage.

My horse legs came back, muscle
and tendon, at 16, when I bought
my Trek. The bike was a horse,
I was a horse, two horses racing,
a pair of horses, harnessed
by toe clips.

My horse body has always held
my strength. My horse body held
my secrets. My horse body kicked
and fought when cougars threatened,
when safe, my horse body munched apples
and rolled in the grass in the sun.

This winter I dyed my gray hair chestnut.
I’ve resumed head-butting and affectionate
neck-nipping with my big horse teeth.
If you dare, offer me a carrot, sweet hay,
oats, a bare-backed ride, hard and fast
and long and sweaty. Offer—if you think
you can handle a horse.