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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
across the floor
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
until you are two pages
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.
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
in the Plutonic moon glow…
The scintillating refrigerator
to purple cheese …
The recycling bins
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…
My Galaxy Edge 7 phone
rises from my hand…
An Elegant Man
with Hawk Wings
& Fluorescent Pink
I pedal my feet
with ferocious power
past poultry trucks
screaming thief, thief,
chasing a ¾ profile
of an ex-lover
an oyster dive,
a single shot
of Jameson neat…
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
they look edible
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
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
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
And that there is nothing beautiful,
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.