Month: February 2016

Poem: What it is I wear

It masquerades,
stolen word for a creature
that cannot name itself,
for an entity
that existed before there was life as we know it
will continue to exist when life as we know it
has perished.
Phonetics evoke more than etymology—
it is no tribes,
no tongues,
no buildings.

It does wear black,
it does paint its face,
it does garb itself in certain patterns
and certain cuts.
It does smoke and it does drink.
It does bedeck its bony places
in silver and leather, gems and lace,
silk and velvet and latex alike,
and it does bedeck its fleshy places with ink.
There are songs that it knows,
there are songs that it readily learns.
These are not the meaning,
not the cause.

It does belong to the young,
and to the unchallenged,
and to the first time struggle,
and to hormones fertilizing follicles and erections.
It does belong to the aesthetes.
It is a dalliance.
And then it belongs to the old
aging alongside or returning to it
like to a childhood home.
It belongs to the seasoned,
to the lifelong fighter,
to the bitterness of time.
It belongs to the activist.
It is a commitment.

It survives without humanoid embodiment,
without earthly music,
without reasons,
without memories.

Dry leaves. Grubs that strip the skull.
A rip and a shriek.
Standing alone on a barren mount.
The tightness in the throat
before salt spills from the eyes.
The last waltz. Pleas and refusals.
Eulogy. Memento. That half-cooked heart.
Drowning (always, of course, drowning).
Faint snaps and clicks
over a deeper thud.
Extinction and forsaken hope.
What words are cried through the rain.
Tombs, and sleep gained only after sobs.
Night, not as idol but as compulsion.
Sliding denials. Smudged reflections.
The home that was burned
and the forest razed.
Ash mistaken for snow. Tubes sprouting from skin.
Subterranean transit. Doors closing.

every instance of that perfect word,
“fuck.” And yes, bleeding, and yes, pain,
the sort of pain conjured by slicing metal.
Prostration before whatever force drove the first hands
to bring the first paint
to the first cave wall.
(The oldest known cave dwelling holds a bear skull in it, an altar to decay created thirty millennia past.)
A legend, a cult. Nightmares of fire from the sky. Writhing.
Covering ears against the horns of the wild hunt,
only to uncover them.
Bodies without wills and wills without bodies,
only to mock the foolishness
of all who imagine bodies and wills are distinct.
Pomegranate. Cold. Crawling through mud.
The walk to the executioner.
Rust and tarnish.
Screaming as the deer is skinned.
Bastards birthed and gods ingested. Hordes.
The night wind drying sweat from the neon-bathed face,
as the body leans against the brick wall
and finds breath after deafening rhythms.
Shots of vodka, bottles of rum.
Mutilation. Yes, what they call the devil.
Collapsing at ill news.
Electronics under skin,
electronics surrounding skin.
The shuttle at the loom. The rising chorus.
Gunfire and thunderclaps.
When the fabric tears.
Hunting in the snow.
The sinuous body caught in the tryst.

Candlelight. Bells. Chimes. Vigils and silence.

Kindled stars over grey seas.
Must walk to the beat funneled to your ears.
Pennyroyal. A hand pulls the cord.
That woman stands at the dulcimer, quick-fingered.
Final cries and exultations. Moons and milk.
A rush and a murmur. Lying in stupor.
Madness and steadfastness.
They’re gone; they’re gone.
Conjuring. Hymns. The bar is closed.

Those black figures grind themselves over the sidewalks,
fueled by such tokens.
They loiter and linger like crows
with a stolen word
for their world,
lurkers for something’s loyal opposition.



It’s been precisely a month since Bowie died, and in that month my life has puttered in a comparably smooth state, but I have also been in greater mourning than I’ve yet experienced for a blood relative. This could be surprising to some. Or not.

His absence still hurts. I cried several times after hearing about it, and weeks later I started to sing “Heroes” alone at home and I broke down in the middle, and I can’t think about him being gone without wet eyes. The best I can manage is to listen to as much of his music as possible and pretend that he will never stop writing it. Even though he will. Since I was nine years old, he was one of the most important people I knew of. He explained gender to me, without ever talking about it. He explained my sexuality to me, without ever talking about it. He helped me understand what’s beautiful. Some of his music I never loved, but much of it I did, and I find that in being an adult I love more of it. When I say “being an adult” I mean that until he died I did not really see myself as an adult. I saw myself as a consciousness that had experienced childhood, adolescence, and then some strange chaos of adventure, abuse, and constant financial struggle; I saw myself as a consciousness that had been several genders and several individuals and was starting to come full circle back to something I should have predicted when I was sixteen or seventeen. I didn’t understand “adulthood.” Now I do, a decade after legally holding that identity. I am an adult because one of the few gods I had is dead.

Only the other day could I bring myself to watch the “Blackstar” video; watching “Lazarus” the very day after he died was arguably a mistake. I still have not listened to the entire new album. Soon I will.

I suppose this is an in memoriam post, something to recognize the influence of whom I call the Man Who Fell to Earth (and Returned to the Stars). It is important for me to clarify that I do not regard him as flawless. To me he feels like a family member, and that can mean negative as well as positive. I simply wish for this to serve as a meditation— a digital space to lay a few thoughts and links in response to his mere existence. From what I know about his views on the Internet, this seems especially appropriate.

1. Jes Skolnik, on Bowie as an icon who, yes, had sex with somebody underage: Human/Alien/Human (trigger warning)

2. My favorite song of his:

3. I must, at some point, compile my thoughts on his complete discography once I’ve finished reviewing it. Not this day, however. I need more distance and time.

4. This, presented without further commentary: