A BENEFICENT LIGHT
I wanted to be a poet to rectify the wrongs exemplified by me. My giant cowlick, like a whisk of meringue, my misshapen shoes and necrotic toe, the lies I told to break a date with you, oh the black black heart of me. Fiends in the parlor, vampires in the kitchen. I wanted to be a poet to make my bladder sing, and soften my chambered guilt. I wanted to steal the glamour from my honeyed wig and stand on the platform in front of the destitute hordes, raising my hand to raise their faces into a beneficent light—sold by me. I can’t repair and I can’t forget the indignities so I catch a measure that resembles a form and cast a spell on my verses to stupefy the populace. Rain sizzles. Ergonomics hobble the diligent faithful. I cry lumps of tears to mobilize sympathy. I wanted to be a poet to validate my loss. I wanted to feel how generosity feels and know the satisfaction of melodious speech or melodious text, and feel the surprise of a couplet’s close and bow my head to the patrol of grammar and the glorious missile of syntax. Forgive me for extending my metaphor and using description to bolster commentary and commentary to shore up the nouns. I’m penetrated by language and screwed by my natural rhythm, what’s to be done? I’m here to represent the real with my ass in the air . . .
And if this is the wash of ages to clear the court—my leg dragged during the day, shook at night—then down the body, grow down, to feed the lower from the upper . . . I saw the incline and proposed a change of regime—adjutants of the sunrise, lost boys and weeping women—fields of black roses turn red in the slant of morning . . . I remember you before I met you, our feet in the escape position pointing in the same direction—my new shoes with their strips of suede, I fall anyway, look good in the diagonal air—the velocity at work under the roots of the elm . . . you catch your breath on a vision of mounting green waves tall as rockets, sweeping you up to the down with your gray eyes wild open, scanning the unanswered answers in the new rush of makeover time . . .
MY HOME THERE
What squeezes sound out of the swooping gulls?—ricochet rooftops—so that inside my head a wing-tip slashes balance, I fall to the blue floor exhausted by my seventeenth attempt at flight. Who am I? A bastard son of the wind. Who am I? A capsule of time in a swipe of regret. Who am I? The margin of error and the tomb of pleasure and bottomless erasure. Who am I? I am Squirming Bird—hatched on the fifth eclipse to the sound of shrieking gulls—but some people call me Twiglet. Hey Twiglet, your mother sucks birdseed. Hey Twiglet, there are skid marks on your face mask. Yo, Twiglet, your prick just ran off with a goldenrod. I screech to a stop and inspect my claws, adjust my scope to the scorched ground: stunted oak trees sit like fire-plugs in the dust of crumpled leaves. Who am I? The shadow of a vacuum cast on a blank wall. My home there—infanticide nest—yes I did it—blood has dominion—where a jury yay or nay will deliver me out of this insufferable forest—selva oscura—out of this trapdoor, out of this shrink wrap, out of this sink hole, this stink bomb, this tar pit, this colossal blunder, out of this wipeout, this piss pot, this interminable dirge . . .
A WORLD IN MOTION
Once I said I was a sailor as if my words were a world in motion on my back as I held the birds at bay who had tasted the blood of a lie. Birds will fly united in their lust to drink the blood of lies; I kept my face in shadow and prepared to set the stage: a context here, an illness there, the bus or train or plane delayed, a secret stash of wheelies, exit routes, passports and papers. Up into freefall! Up into horizon! Deep weather in a twisted feather. When you were my bird you swept the air clean of false judgments, contrary accounts; drank my blood in secret to protect me from the mob. A beak is a point of no return. On the updrafts: scarlet talons. Squawks and squeals in a thundercloud-cathedral afloat in the Alps of light. Your wing: my shield, your wing: my armor, your wing: my grace . . .
Poet and essayist Aaron Shurin is the author of fourteen books of poetry and prose, most recently The Blue Absolute (Nightboat Books, 2020). Other publications include Involuntary Lyrics (2005) and The Paradise of Forms: Selected Poems (1999). A newly expanded edition of Unbound: A Book of AIDS is forthcoming. Shurin, a pioneer in LGBTQ writing, lives in San Francisco.
Read next: Poetry by Stacy Szymaszek
Read next: Poetry by Stacy Szymaszek