How Queer You Are

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.

#ThirdEditionSpring2020

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