How Queer You Are

March 20, 2020

I. 
             that maybe you are what it is all for, but it does not last so very long,
             but you will last very long † 

 

             but you bided your time in silence
             & there were hours for grieving †† 

 

spectre, you muse, eviscerate 
      speak my name, you enervated 
             shade, I swear we’re gonna make it 

 

marble statuesque, you angel, you 
       arsonist: sear the streets 
           paris is burning & my throat is full 
           of brick dust & choked words

 
break my windows down & claw protests into my stone
your touch as revolutionary
taboo, tattoo love down to my bones, mark me as “queer” 

 

stop
pose
vogue 
move those hips like they mean something 
              like you’re not gonna die before you’re 30 
              like your family name wasn’t something you were forced to choose 
                                                                                                                  or starve 

 

                                                 addict, infuse these lungs holy these veins spiritual 

          lover, I swear we’re gonna make it 
          I’m not lying I’m just afraid I see Death’s sickness in your shadow 

 

seraphim, split these headaches & invert my gravity 
      we are rooftop smoke breaks, ceiling choreography 

 

nephilim, we are giants
           we are famous I swear we’re gonna make it 
                      I’m not lying I just see your smile has cracks
                                           in the stone, parallel lines

                                           in the wall, our sashayed world, parallel lives                                                                                               in dance halls & drag balls                                                                                            I swear we’re gonna make it 

 

***


II. 
             Oh Death, oh angel, oh honey 
             you shameless emissary with ‡ 

 

             my body, water, your body, a trail of hands carrying the river to the sea 
             i ink your name into my arm to fasten what is already there ‡‡ 

 

   I’ve known your sickness too intimate, your sweet whispers in 
                   alley wall murals painted in red splatter & 
               intoxicating ichors, your liquor bled his eyes out 

 

but not as much as his self, skin bonetight. he looks up at me with hunger, 
with your eyes I see him beg 
because you stole his name, his mouth. your fangs 
                                     stole the blood from his veins
                                     you thief, you codependent, reliant narrator 
                                    who wrote our story a predictable ending 

 

but blink & your claim is null, we revised the past fifty years 
I will make a heaven for the flesh you tried to devour 
half a century is trivial when we’re eternal out here 

 

                                            I am an everspinning wheel of names I am alive
      Ouroboros, you will not take my words, not my soul this time 

 

I will make this poem a hostel, halfway haven for his lost names 
he & I, we are alive I swear we’re gonna make it I don’t care if 

 

that’s a lie 
                          I mean it 

 

I’m a carved marble queen, call me sacrilegious because I am divine 
& I will not erode. he is saved in my eyes & in names engraved on my stone

 
that will not fade with age, we are 
immortal, in chosen family & stone warm lips 

 

                            archangel, come kiss me with those hands & smile, 
                            cup my heart in your heart & with your heart, 
                                               cherubim, preserve me 

 

we’re gonna be fine I swear 
we’re gonna live forever 

 

RJ SELBY 

they, them, theirs

College of Arts & Sciences 

Class of 2021, English Area Program for Poetry Writing (APPW)  

 

RJ, a queer student, wrote “How Queer You Are” around the 50th anniversary of Stonewall, head full of ruminations on queer history. There's a desire in this poem, & in the LGBT+ headspace as a whole, of immortalisation: to try & reclaim some permanent space, sense of identity, in the face of oppression & institutions of force, herein addressed in the latter section of the poem as death. This poem wants to reject those forces, through ignoring it in the first half, while overpowering it in the latter. The first section is explicitly directed towards the archetype of queer youth, as during the AIDS crisis, with the second towards those repressing forces. RJ also wears their inspirations openly here, in the epigraphs preceding each of the sections, which further reference the existence & empowerment of a queer canon. RJ performs their poems with UVA's Flux Slam Poetry & Spoken Word CIO, & that sonic element is an integral part of their poetry given this background. You can find them at Flux's weekly open mics. 

Notes: 


† - Whitman, Walt. “Scented Herbage of My Breast.” Leaves of Grass. 1891-1892.  
†† - Lorde, Audre. Zami: A New Spelling of My Name. 1982.  
‡ - Hull, Lynda. “Suite for Emily.” Collected Poems. Graywolf Press, 2006.  
‡‡ - Smith, Danez, “acknowledgements.” Poetry, 2018. 

 

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An independent student publication in the Charlottesville and U.Va. community