Credit: Stephanie Rudig

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Between June 3 and 5, queer poets will participate in readings and workshops around D.C. as part of Capturing Fire, an international slam poetry summit that includes competitions at Coffy Café and Busboys and Poets’ 14th & V location. Below are poems by locals involved with Capturing Fire. Find out more at capfireslam.org.

Read more from our 2016 Gay Issue here.

The Transkid Explains Gentrification, Explains Themselves

By Taylor Johnson

When I again take out more than I have available in my bank

account and I know I shouldn’t to make the rent

I am grateful and lucky to pay there is

a woman on the bus who is the mother or aunt or some loved one of

two younger women on the bus who the day before thanksgiving ask 

what she will do now that she’s out by which they mean prison 

or jail and she says she will just walk now that she has her own shoes on 

just walk around Minnesota ave. to see her people she says 

so much has shifted I can imagine since she’s not been able to catch the bus 

uptown where we are now it is disorienting this whole labor of change 

which I heard explained best once on a radio show about New Orleans 

how after the storm it was hard to return even now 

because in small ways home is a mirror 

and how crazy it must feel to look into a mirror 

and not see yourself how close I know 

this particular distortion and how much money I’ve spent 

trying to look right in the mirror and can’t 

we say that the body is a city 

this cellular heft this compendium of skin that I’ve come to 

hate and love as it’s hard to do either 

in isolation in my experience I’ve stared down 

hard into many a mirror as if a well looking for myself without 

knowing what really to look for or how to feel 

if I’ve found it or seen it already 

what to do then what if I don’t welcome 

to my house of anxieties I’m trying to say something 

about my body and home and not being home in my body or 

my city the goddamn city where I eat the smoked whitefish sandwiches 

knowing well I am not a white woman knowing well 

I am not a woman I let people call me ‘she’ or ‘her’ and 

I wonder what they want to say really

the boys around my way me making

a parody of them disappearing as 

the city does want so much from

me and I can’t show up

Taylor is a Cave Canem and Callaloo Creative Writing Workshop fellow from Washington, D.C. Most recently, their work appears in the minnesota review and in Callaloo. Poem reprinted from Split This Rock’s online poetry database, The Quarry, with the permission of the author.

when you fuck a poem

By Gowri Koneswaran

her ink is wrapped around 

your limbs like 

tattoos of who is 

written into you

stains stuck to the page

then transferred to your skin

stanzas scattered

across the floor

lines divided

creating sounds no linguist

has ever heard

your screams will be

songs with no shape

let her taste you solid

as a consonant

let her make you soft

as a vowel

with your mouth wide open

swallow every syllable

drip like coffee

when the morning’s long

and the writing won’t stop

spill a little

then soak

until you are two pages

pressed together

pin her by the corners and

recline between her lines

when she moans it will sound like

you’re my title now”

Gowri Koneswaran lives in Washington, D.C., where she is co-editor of Beltway Poetry Quarterly and poetry coordinator at BloomBars. A 2016 Kundiman Fellow, she will attend the NYC writing retreat in June. She hosts the Capturing Fire Semi-Final Poetry Slam. Pome reprinted from Beltway Poetry Quarterly, Spring 2011 with permission of the author.

Fly

By Tolonda Henderson

I used to have these callouses on my hands

and I miss them. Flying trapeze class

was the first physical activity I pursued

because of how good it made me feel

rather than how thin it might make my body

and running my fingers along the rough

sore skin reminded me that it was only

a matter of time before I could get back

to the tent. It didn’t matter that my body type

had been all wrong for dance or that I

was the largest student at the school.

As long as I worked with someone

of appropriate height and strength

I could flip myself upside down, hang

by my pudgy knees, and hold my body

still as it rose above the net such that someone

could reach out and pluck me from the air.

Refilling my class card became my top

priority: everything else was calculated

accordingly. I could eat lunch at Chipotle

every day in a week, or I could take a flying

trapeze class. Go to an Indigo Girls concert

or take a flying trapeze class. Buy a new set

of Harry Potter novels just because

they have new covers, or take three

flying trapeze classes.

Then the manager told me the school had instituted 

a weight limit. He thought it might serve as motivation

but I threw out my scale years ago so what I heard 

him say was reject the tyranny of the Body Mass Index 

or take a flying trapeze class. Keep the insanity 

of the diet industry at bay, or take a flying trapeze 

class. Live fabulously in the body I had, or take 

one more flying trapeze class.

I asked for a refund on my class card

because even if I were to become smaller

it would not be me who got to fly.

Tolonda Henderson is a poet, a librarian, and a Harry Potter scholar. A fat queer African-American woman living in Arlington, she has been published in Barrelhouse and Yellow Chair Review. Poem reprinted from Beltway Poetry Quarterly, Spring 2016 by permission of the author.

Looking For My Lyft, I Get Mugged 

By Regie Cabico

The thoughtful apples 

    rot in the bowl, No…

The hysterical apples 

    become cider 

  in the Plutonic moon glow…

The scintillating refrigerator 

    gives birth 

  to purple cheese …

The recycling bins 

      overturn, 

        alerting the rats… 

The stained glass window 

      reflects the cat’s curses… 

The planetary alignment 

      gives me hunger pangs… 

I want melted mozzarella… 

    I will kill for gelato, 

Get out of my way! 

The bombastic moonlight 

    hurls her panoramic drama… 

a sonata of growlings…

        decrescendo

the dumpsters…

    My Galaxy Edge 7 phone

rises from my hand…

    An Elegant Man 

with Hawk Wings

      & Fluorescent Pink

Nikes become

  talcum puffs

        blending in

vengeful moonlight.

I pedal my feet 

      with ferocious power

thunder bolting     

past poultry trucks

  hovering over

 Synagogues 

        & steeples 

screaming thief, thief,  

thief!

chasing a ¾ profile

    of an ex-lover

  an oyster dive, 

      a single shot

of Jameson neat…

  Holy rolling

              thru

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        the gentrified

  alleys

      of Columbia Heights.

Regie Cabico is a poet and theater artist who began writing at The Nuyorican Poets Cafe. A three-time National Slam Poet, his work appears in NPR’s Snap Judgement and HBO’s Def Poetry Jam.  He produces Capturing Fire: Queer Spoken Word Slam and Summit in Washington, D.C., where he resides in Park View.

Abecedarian: Let’s Just Talk About the Weather 

By Danielle Evennou

Abnormal blossoms caution deep 

environmental fractures. Guards 

hide incandescent jest, kindling 

lava movement. Near obvious 

puzzle. Quilting rainbow sheath 

tree umbrellas. Valuable worms 

X-ray young zombies. 

Danielle Evennou is a writer and performer. She is the founder of the Slipform Poetry Workshop, which discusses gender and sexuality through the writing of formal poetry. Since 2008, she has co-hosted Sparkle, a queer-driven reading series at Busboys and Poets. Her poetry and memoir have been published in apt, Beltway Poetry Quarterly, Gargoyle, and Split Lip Magazine. Danielle lives in D.C.’s Petworth neighborhood. Learn more about Danielle and her work at whatevennou.com

Dude At Dupont 

By Alain Ginsberg 

Dude at Dupont Circle says 

my legs look pretty 

says 

they look edible 

says 

they look dessert 

wonders why I look deserted. 

But Dude at Dupont doesn’t ask 

why my voice keeps slipping octaves. 

Shaky jazz hands 

on my baby grand body. 

Doesn’t ask me my name, 

just my age. 

asks which laws we 

would be breaking 

asks me to live 

my body an unlocked house. 

Goes to catcall another woman’s cat’s paw 

and I know my body to loud 

to not be seen leaving early 

my noise to heavy a concert 

to end at noon. 

And I get this kind of Marco Polio 

silent applause 

these small bombs 

these grenades in my fists 

when Dude at Dupont comes back 

knowing me easy. 

Says, people see him a kind of blues dance. 

says, people see him cute 

says, he knows me like 

hooker shame. 

Says he’s a real man. 

Says he’s fucked a tranny before. 

he, a real man, 

ends my concert for me. 

My jazz goes off signature, 

my bass is free form 

my rhythm asthmatic. 

Dude at Dupont asks me 

if I think his realness cute 

     his Real Man cute 

asks me if Other Woman would be fucking him 

knows it is not her choice 

asks me for a cigarette 

but doesn’t realize that there is nothing of me 

that he has not already tried 

to take. 

And that there is nothing beautiful, 

or cute, 

or musical, 

about my legs dessert car, 

about my body, a complimentary breakfast. 

Alain Ginsberg is an agender writer and performer from Baltimore City, Md. whose work focuses on narratives of gender, sexuality, mental health, and trauma. Their work has been featured or is forthcoming from Beltway Quarterly, Black Heart Magazine, Pressure Gauge, and elsewhere. Alain is hosting “What The ‘A’ Stands For,” a workshop and panel discussing asexuality and writing about intimacy in ways that are non-physical and non-sexual.