Queer History, Queer Now

And we know, we have always known, that no place is safe—we are queer people of color, no place is ever safe for us, not even the gay club—but it’s one of the few spaces where, at least for the duration of a song, we can imagine a complete surrender to the music that transports us into the sheer enjoyment of a moment.
Rigoberto González

Today, June 28, 2016, commemorates the 47th year since the Stonewall riots. This month, we stood in vigil outside of Stonewall Inn to mourn the devastating loss of 49 lives. Less than a year ago, Stonewall, a film purporting to celebrate the dawn of the queer liberation movement in the United States relegated the trans people of color at the forefront of that movement to the sidelines. Now we watch as the lives lost at Pulse become, as Joey de Jesus (Apogee Journal’s Poetry Co-Editor) writes, “another device with which the political elite polarize the American public” while their identities are disregarded.

Resisting this convenient erasure is essential to our survival. “Don’t Militarize Our Mourning,” the Audre Lorde Project’s response to Orlando states it clearly:

Contrary to what the media and mainstream LGBT organizations and publications are depicting: the victims and survivors are Black, Latinx, AfroLatinx, Trans, Gender Non Conforming, undocumented, and working class. These identities matter.They matter because of the US occupation and militarization of Puerto Rico and Latin/South America due to US sanctioned economic violence. They matter because our communities have to make separate Latinx nights at clubs due to racism even within the LGBT community. They matter because Black and Latinx club sanctuaries and safe spaces (like Starlight in Brooklyn, Club Escuelita in Manhattan) are routinely shut down due to rampant gentrification and increased policing of our neighborhoods.

We reject the whitewashing, the profit-making, and political tokenizing that warps queer struggles and tragedies. So much history is lost, so much only exists as whispers and rumors. We must document our own histories, or we risk a mis-telling and an opportunity for justice in truth.

The pieces in this folio—essays, poems, videos, interviews—create an altar for what would otherwise be erased if it weren’t for the tremendous and creative work of writers, artists, activists and academics like those included here. Taken together, they’re not just a response, they’re a reimagining of the way forward, a reckoning with the pain and anger. J. Soto writes, I imagined that big rage gathered up into something we can see, something we can position our bodies around, something we can imagine has form, something that we can hurl…

We offer up this work, unas ofrendas, for those who were taken from us this month, on June 12. Let our collective rage, love, tears, and dance beats move us toward a more just future.

Stanley Almodovar III,
Amanda Alvear,
Oscar A. Aracena-Montero,
Rodolfo Ayala-Ayala,
Antonio Davon Brown,
Darryl Roman Burt II,
Angel L. Candelario-Padro,
Juan Chevez-Martinez,
Luis Daniel Conde,
Cory James Connell,
Tevin Eugene Crosby,
Deonka Deidra Drayton,
Simon Adrian Carrillo Fernandez,
Leroy Valentin Fernandez,
Mercedez Marisol Flores,
Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz,
Juan Ramon Guerrero,
Paul Terrell Henry,
Frank Hernandez Escalante,
Miguel Angel Honorato,
Javier Jorge-Reyes,
Jason Benjamin Josaphat,
Eddie Jamoldroy Justice,
Anthony Luis Laureanodisla,
Christopher Andrew Leinonen,
Alejandro Barrios Martinez,
Brenda Lee Marquez McCool,
Gilberto Ramon Silva Menendez,
KJ Morris,
Akyra Monet Murray,
Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo,
Geraldo A. Ortiz-Jimenez,
Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera,
Joel Rayon Paniagua,
Jean Carlos Mendez Perez,
Enrique L. Rios, Jr.,
Jean C. Nives Rodriguez,
Xavier Emmanuel Serrano Rosado,
Christopher Joseph Sanfeliz,
Yilmary Rodriguez Solivan,
Edward Sotomayor Jr.,
Shane Evan Tomlinson,
Martin Benitez Torres,
Jonathan Antonio Camuy Vega,
Juan P. Rivera Velazquez,
Luis S. Vielma,
Franky Jimmy Dejesus Velazquez,
Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon,
Jerald Arthur Wright

Our identities matter. And they are beautiful.

Love and Solidarity,
Cecca Ochoa and Alejandro Varela

 

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CONTRIBUTORS

Reina Gossett and Sasha Wortzel | Joshua Jennifer Espinoza | J.Soto | Forrest Evans | Cristy Road | Cecca Ochoa interviews Nicola Chávez Courtright | BarbReynolds | Joyin Shih on Cassils | Marissa Higgins | Audre Lorde Project | Raquel Salas Rivera | Penelope Dane | Tyler Gillespie | Jacqueline Last |

 

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REINA GOSSETT AND SASHA WORTZEL

As queer and trans artists, we have found that oppression does not solely affect our material conditions. Our relationships with each other, our ancestors, and communities are also at stake. Our work addresses the systematic erasure of rich legacies of trans and queer activism and art by creating artworks that revisit and re-imagine these stories. We mine existing archives and create new ones to address how our relationship with the past shapes our understandings of the present. We look back in order to dream a way forward.


Our recent work in progress, Happy Birthday, Marsha!, is a short narrative film about transgender artist and activist, Marsha “Pay It No Mind” Johnson and her life in the hours leading up to the 1969 Stonewall Riots when drag queens and trans women fought back against enduring police brutality. Below we share several videos that have been influential, conceptually and aesthetically, to this project.

 

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Joshua Jennifer Espinoza

I IMAGINE ALL MY CIS FRIENDS LAUGHING AT TRANNY JOKES

I imagine all my cis friends laughing at tranny jokes
whenever I’m not around. I can hear the sound of rain
outside and I’m grasping for the words to say this. There
is nothing I love more than an honest storm. Broken dishes.
Dead grass. The time has come for me to be alive
and for you to stop speaking. Please stop speaking. Please, oh
please stop speaking. I have never felt as alone as this,
I say every day. I have never felt so alone. I’ve built houses
in corners of houses and filled them with all of my
longings. My strength. My pride. My beauty. My woman
self. I read another comments section of an article
about trans women and I want to die. To not exist. To let
them win. I don’t let them win. I circle the drain
and kiss my fingers hello. I welcome them back. This complex
trauma responds only to the dialectical. Only to the heat
and the cool, the death and the life. Only then is it lifted
for a moment to let me breathe. I breathe the sweet air
and stare at the hillside, and then at the road, and then
at the cars, and then at the sky. All so unsure of themselves.
All so softly shaking in place. All so beautifully living.

 

 

WRAPPED IN MY BODY I DREAM

Wrapped in my body I dream
of being something else

outside of time, space, energy,
love, death, gender, capitalism,

etc. Who could lift such a weight?
Not me. I am one thing, after all,

sucking on its own poisons.
The idea I could or should be

beautiful. The song of songs
that sings itself to sleep.

The thought of heaven
without a hell.

The whisper of life
without a death.

The dream of salvation
without blood.

 

JOSHUA JENNIFER ESPINOZA is a trans woman poet living in California. Her work has been published in The Offing, The Feminist Wire, Washington Square Review, and elsewhere. Her first book i’m alive / it hurts / i love it was published by Boost House in 2014, and her full-length poetry collection THERE SHOULD BE FLOWERS will be released by Civil Coping Mechanisms in August.

 

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J. SOTO

Salt

This is how I know that I love someone.
By suggesting that We remove Ourselves from the present situation
and constantly re-frame Our journey.

I am beginning to wonder whether this impulse to escape is born out of the experience
of a grievous spectrum of violence against you and I, against Us.

I am retracing my Body’s history and becoming almost sure of it.
I am retracing my Country’s history and becoming sure of it.
I am retracing my Body in my Country’s history and becoming surer of it.
I am retracing your Body’s history in Our Country and becoming certain of it.
I have questions.
Then is my love for you about my hurt?
Then is my love for you about Our hurt?
You have questions too.

Dear X,

I have been having trouble sleeping.

I am lying on a new mattress that still has the plastic on it, on the floor, in an otherwise empty room in this city. There is the shifting sound of plastic against carpet and body underneath me. This is my first time visiting. It is 10pm. It is early for a Friday night and I am reminded of this guy on Grindr I once messaged on a night like this. An older white daddy type whose profile picture looked like he took it in the expansive mirror of a decent public bathroom, wearing a lavender polo shirt, and the green glow from the bathroom fluorescents made his face look sallow. This all figured into a distant and benign loneliness across my screen that was almost frightening. After about ten minutes of the usual sexual banter, I fell asleep and left him hanging. We never met.

Tonight he messaged me, I miss you.

I am lying here thinking, how can you miss someone you’ve never met?
He must be missing the idea of me.

Yours,
Y

Dear Y,

I am also up late tonight. I can’t seem to get any decent rest lately. I am falling for someone new, someone who I almost certainly cannot have. I am hanging onto almost. I am leaving wiggle room for possibility and the vibrations from this possibility are lingering in my thoughts. They start and stop some of my movements throughout the day. They add fuel to waking dreams: expanded definitions of queer love and desire that are no doubt influenced by the hormones circling through my body, pushing up against its outer banks.

Y, I’m afraid my lower half has become a teenage boy’s racetrack.
One day I casually asked this person, do you want to go away with me this summer?
Have you ever seen the West?

I shifted my racetrack hips that direction to indicate where and what I meant.
Can we board a long distance train together?

What I am asking is, will you run away with me?

Yours,
Z

Dear Z,

You asked if collective rage wasn’t just activism, while we crossed the street in an icy storm, too cold for April. I imagined that big rage gathered up into something we can see, something we can position our bodies around, something we can imagine has form, something that we can hurl, and that right now, we could be dancing the rage out of happiness, or the happiness out of rage, because these days, it never leaves us alone so let’s dance with it, so that it is becoming an equal partner in the room with us instead of only alluded to and sometimes even forgotten.

Z, I am going to write this twice because I know how distracted you are with your new love interest:

You asked if collective rage wasn’t just activism, while we crossed the street in an icy storm, too cold for April. I imagined that big rage gathered up into something we can see, something we can position our bodies around, something we can imagine has form, something that we can hurl, and that right now, we could be dancing the rage out of happiness, or the happiness out of rage, because these days, it never leaves us alone so let’s dance with it, so that it is becoming an equal partner in the room with us instead of only alluded to and sometimes even forgotten.

Yours,
X

Dear X,

Yes, it is that too. Yes.
I have questions too.

Yours,
Y

As we orbit nearer to each other I am beginning to wonder
how on earth can we ever imagine staying put?

How can we exert the energy of a powerful presence without it exhausting us beyond recovery?
Together we scream into the same wide-mouthed jar.
Then is my love for you partially about my hurt?
Then is my love for you partially about Our hurt?
I have questions. You have questions too.
Yes, you think so. You think so too.
You have questions. I have questions too.
Together we scream into the same wide-mouthed jar.

This is one form of an answer that we have come up with.

Dear Y,

I kept the video of your performance from last fall on my phone. It shows everyone screaming into the same small space cupped in between your hands.
Even though it is taking up too much memory, I delete everything around it.
I delete everything around it. I delete everything around it. I delete everything around it.
What did you plan on doing with all that rage once you captured it for us?
What do I plan on doing with it since I am hanging on so tightly?

I think that this rage might be a talisman.

Yours,
Z

Dear Z,

It is like a talisman.
Yes, it is like that too.

Yours,
X

As we move and our very sweaty bodies converse in space,
a single-songed playlist echoes from my phone in my left pants pocket.

You are my salt. I am trying to tell you of the necessity of you.
Of all of Our permutations.
My voice falters and it comes out in a series of blinks instead.
You are my salt, I say with my dry eyes.

 

J. SOTO is a queer interdisciplinary artist and poet with a focus on project-specific collaborations in writing, performance, and arts organizing. Beginning from writing, Soto’s performance work addresses the intersections of race, class, and gender through appropriating a dance vocabulary and incorporating poetry. He received his MFA in performance from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and lives and works in New York.

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FORREST EVANS

Fuck What You Thought Happened

Maybe it’s the sex
or how I swore
and exploded—
whichever

It’s like loving
90’s techno and trap
music, ‘cussing
beats tipsy—

you’re not
making sense.

I have yet to find
the key in which love
is written, desire too,
even now.

Possibly, love is
a chord this struggle
creates, a monster
or better yet—a me

 

FORREST EVANS is a short story writer, published poet, and librarian. She recently received her B.A. in English from Fort Valley State University and is a graduate student of The University of Alabama. Previous works of Evans can be seen in The Lavender Review, The Red Booth Review, and The Carnival Literary Magazine.

 

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CRISTY ROAD

Sobrevivir

QPOC2_print

Cassils, a Canadian born performance and documentary artist, has gained international applause for their “rigorous engagement of the body as social sculpture.” Identifying as a gender non-conforming trans masculine artist, Cassils explores and dissects both the history and immediacy of the body as a deliberate socio-political statement, by sculpting and pushing their own corporeal one to extremes. Drawing upon feminist legacy, traditional gay aesthetic, and conceptualism, their works examine themes of gender norms and the violence that erupts from the restriction of binaries.  “It is with sweat, blood and sinew that Cassils constructs a visual critique around ideologies and histories.”

[su_youtube url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RZFumYzWYGA&feature=youtu.be” height=”440″]
Cuts—A Traditional Sculpture is Cassil’s reinterpretation of Eleanor Antin’s 1972 performance Carving: A Traditional Sculpture, in which Antin photographed herself daily during a 45 day crash diet, documenting the bodily reduction into the current socially constructed (and constricted) feminine ideal.  Cassils continues Antin’s dialogue with the subject of the transgendered body.  An experienced body builder, Cassils honed their figure over 23 weeks with diet, power lifting, and steroids, gaining 23 pounds of muscle weight, transforming into the traditionally ideal masculine form. “This twist on ‘getting cut’ queers the trans body by showcasing the cut of musculature as opposed to the cut of the surgeon’s knife.” Throughout this duration performance piece, Cassils documented the process with video, photographs, watercolor, and a magazine. The images are stark and select, yet ripe with sensorial stimulation. Cassil’s artistry as a sculptor is evident through what they create and what they whittle away.

Quotes from artist’s website: www.HeatherCassils.com

 

CASSILS is an LA based artist. Recent solo exhibitions include MU Eindhoven, the Netherlands: Trinty Square Video, Toronto; and the Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, New York. Cassils work has also been featured at Institute for Contemporary Art and The National Theater, London; MUCA Roma, Mexico City; Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco and many other museum and gallery exhibitions. They have also received the inaugural ANTI Festival International Prize for Live Art, Rema Hort Mann Visual Arts Fellowship, California Community Foundation Grant, MOTHA (Museum of Transgender History) award, and the Visual Artist Fellowship from the Canada Council of the Arts.

JOYIN SHIH is a New York writer and BDSM educator. She recieved her BA from Barnard College, and MFA in Creative Nonfiction from The New School. Her writing can be seen in Chance Magazine; Afro Asia: Revolutionary Political and Cultural Connections between African Americans and Asian Americans; Looking Glass Magazine; and various other online blogs.

 

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MARISSA HIGGINS

funkstown

Your mother
slices me
an orange.

Did you know
in some countries,
they suck the juice
straight from a hole

in the flesh?

I chuckle. I eat.
I do not tell your mother
how sweet you taste,
like an orange, cut in half.

 

 

longwood

In my dreams,
the surgeon sleeps for ten hours

the night before your aorta bursts.

In my dreams,
his wrist is at a ninety degree angle

the morning he slices and stitches you.

In my dreams,
it is your mother who assists,

rearranges your organs, just so, just so.

In my dreams,
I peel off surgical gloves and sink my digits inside

your crevices, pray your juices stick beneath my fingernails.

In my dreams,
I gnaw my fingers for years

lingering on the taste of you.

In my dreams,
you heal slowly,

get a job you tolerate, and marry someone who isn’t me.

In my dreams, your body dies
when it is is soft and sagging

and I embalm you, just so, just so.

In my dreams,
your scars look like aching mouths

and I try, I try, to feed them.

 

MARISSA HIGGINS is a writer based in Washington, DC. Her nonfiction has appeared in Guernica, Salon, The Washington Post, Vice, Hippocampus Magazine, and elsewhere. Her poetry is forthcoming in Bone Bouquet. She enjoys word economy.

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AUDRE LORDE PROJECT

Do Not Militarize Our Mourning: Orlando and the Ongoing Tragedy Against LGBTSTGNC POC



We at the Audre Lorde Project are devastated by the massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando which resulted in the murder of 49 queer and trans people (the majority of whom are Black, Latinx, and/or Afrolatinx), including Enrique Rios from Brooklyn. We send our deepest condolences to all of the families, lovers, and friends of the victims and all of the Southern queer and trans organizers who continue to fight for liberation in their name. We are with you in solidarity. We are constantly reminded that there is no separation from our need to heal and our need to organize for our continued survival. We need each other now more than ever.

Our community in New York City is struggling today as we reconcile with the constant reality that we are considered disposable by a racist, transmisogynist, Islamophobic, and xenophobic country. From our experiences on the ground as an organizing center for and by Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Two Spirit, and Gender Non Conforming People of Color (LGBTSTGNC POC) we know that this massacre is not the exception, it is part of the economy of violence against LGBTSTGNC, Black people & People of Color, indigenous people, and immigrants. It makes explicit what the institutions of war, prisons, detention centers, and the police teach our communities every day: that we were never meant to survive.

Contrary to what the media and mainstream LGBT organizations and publications are depicting: the victims and survivors are Black, Latinx, AfroLatinx, Trans, Gender Non Conforming, undocumented, and working class. These identities matter. They matter because of the US occupation and militarization of Puerto Rico and Latin/South America due to US sanctioned economic violence. They matter because our communities have to make separate Latinx nights at clubs due to racism even within the LGBT community. They matter because Black and Latinx club sanctuaries and safe spaces (like Starlight in Brooklyn, Club Escuelita in Manhattan) are routinely shut down due to rampant gentrification and increased policing of our neighborhoods. They matter because Bayna Lehkiem El-Amin, a Black HIV/AIDS counselor and Ballroom community leader, has been demonized as a homophobe and is currently awaiting sentencing in Rikers for defending himself against an attack by a white gay man. They matter because there is an epidemic of murder of Black and Latinx Trans Women and Gender Non Conforming people and this tragedy is part of this ongoing colonial project.

The fact that only the race of the perpetrator and not the victims is being discussed is telling. Besides erasing the lived reality of Muslim LGBTSTGNC people, Black Muslims, and LGBTSTGNC people of color more generally, this promotes the xenophobic stereotype that Muslim people and immigrants are more “homophobic,” and become “radicalized” elsewhere. The culprit becomes the figure of the “Islamic terrorist,” and the heroes become the politicians, the police, and the military. We reject this deliberately racist framing. Individual perpetrators are part of a much larger system of militarization and colonization. We recognize that terrorism is not imported, it is home grown in a culture that is deeply anti-Black, anti-immigrant, and anti-queer. It is of a culture where the Christian Right has attempted to pass over 200 pieces of anti-LGBT legislation across the country, it is a culture where 59-year-old Mohamed Rasheed Khan was beaten on his way out of a Queens mosque this month, where an immigrant detention center in Santa Ana still detains and assaults many Latinx trans women who came to the US to escape US-backed political violence. In order to do justice to the victims of Orlando we have to address these problems at their root causes, not their symptoms. While the daily violence of settler colonialism (the continued occupation of indigenous land), of Christian supremacy, of anti-Black policing, of Islamophobia, of criminalization of gender non conformity, of immigrant detention and deportation are never elevated to the status of national tragedy, we must commit ourselves to abolishing these systems if we want to prevent Orlando from ever happening again.

Already the NYPD, along with other security forces across the country, has heightened security outside of our bars and Pride events. This has looked like armed cops in riot gear policing our safe spaces—cops who are carrying the same kind of weapon that Omar Mateen used in Orlando. Politicians (both Trump and Clinton alike) are calling for a harsher crackdown on “Islamic extremism.” Our allies are pledging to keep us safe as we assemble for Pride this month. But we ask: safety for whom? They call for increased policing, but never for affordable housing. Hate crimes legislation has been shown to fuel mass incarceration and disproportionately criminalize Black and People of Color survivors of violence. The Christopher Street Pier, a sacred space for LGBTSTGNC youth and poor people of color, is barricaded shut by NYPD during Pride. Calls for gun control never seem to include demands for demilitarization of the police.

In order to prevent the violence we witnessed in Orlando, it is more important than ever that LGBTSTGNC POC turn to each other for community safety rather than relying on systems that were never meant for us. It is more important than ever that we reject increased militarization at home and abroad. It is more important than ever that we uplift the experiences, politics, and movements of Black, Indigenous, and Latinx queer and trans people fighting for self-determination of our bodies, homes, neighborhoods, clubs, and lands.

It will be imperative that we look towards each other for our political survival, for our collective well being and safety. We honor the names of those lost in Orlando, as a reminder of the conservative backlash in this country and reminder we must continue to fight, to love, to build power and transform violence and colonization that has always deemed our bodies expendable.

In Solidarity,

Audre Lorde Project Members, Board, Staff

 

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RAQUEL SALAS-RIVERA

trinidad de rezos rotos

[ave maría]

diosas te salvemos walter mercado
lleno eres de gracia y oropel
la señora que vende pastelillos
el señor de la lotería
en la fila pal certificado de nacimiento
estamos contigo
sabemos que el estado no fija las estrellas
bendito eres entre todas las mujeres
y bendito es el fruto de tu vientre
milagro más milagroso que la virgen
que señalaste hacia los cuerpos celestiales
de mi primera otredad
reina de mi patería
ahí estuviste cuando le escribí a la primera nena
diciéndome que su venus estaba en sagitario que cuidao
sabes que tengo (como todas las de mi año)
ese escorpión de fondo
que si blower con rolos que si tu segundo matrimonio
que si una sortija para cada vida pasada que recuerdas
santo walter
madre de diosas
pansexual suprema
ruega por nosotras
las pecadoras
ahora y en la hora de nuestra muerte
ahora más que nunca walterísimo
en que vemos el temblor eterno de la vida
y el contable del principito
está en la nómina municipal
ahora en nuestra hora colectiva
amén

 

[diosas te salven reina y madre]

diosas te salven maripily reina y madre de misericordia
vida y abyección y esperanza nuestra
diosas te salven de la fichuría
diosas te salven de las misis universo
de tus dobles auspiciadas por gobernadores
a ti te llamamos las desterradas hijas femme de eva
a ti suspiramos gimiendo y llorando en este valle de lágrimas
ea pues señora criminal nuestra
vuelve a nosotras esas tus portadas
y (después de este destierro sin fin) muéstranos
las tv ilegal
las canciones que te han parodiado los iconoclastas
que te han reducido a tu divinidad
muéstranos tu misericordiosa paciencia y desarreglo perfecto
fruto bendito de tu trabajo
¡oh clementísima! ¡oh piadosa! ¡oh dulce cuerpazo sin vergüenza!
ruega por nosotras santa madre de las que compramos en rainbow, las de los lacitos rojos y las pantallas plásticas, las poliéster, las de camisa con imperdible, las que nos las inventamos, las que mamamos o comemos, las que no fuimos nunca buenas, las que le partimos la cara al que se atreva a ser clasista, las que estamos a tres pesos de la bancarrota y los estiramos hasta llegar a veinte, las chillas, a las que nos han violado por tener cara, las que sin iglesia a veces dejamos alguito de aché en el mundo
para que seamos dignas de alcanzar las promesas
de nuestra señora santísima
amén

 

el

 

[                          ]

 

abrazo

 

trinity of broken prayers

[hail mary]

hail walter mercado full of tinsel and grace
the lady that sells pastelillos
the man who sells la lotería
in line to get his birth certificate
are with thee
we know that the state doesn’t pin up the stars
blessed art thou among all women
and blessed is the fruit of thy womb
miracle more miraculous than the virgin
that signaled toward the celestial bodies
of my first otherness
queen of my dykedom
you were there when i wrote to my first girl
telling me her venus was in sag and be careful
you know i have (like all those of my year)
that scorpio down below
we know about your blower with rolos your second marriage
a ring for every past life you remember
saint walter
mother of goddesses
supreme pansexual
pray for us sinners
now and in the hour of our death
now more than ever walterísimo
now that we see the eternal earthquake of life
and the little prince’s accountant
is on the municipal payroll
now in our collective hour
amen

 

[hail holy queen]

goddesses save you maripily holy queen and mother of mercy
our life our abjection and our hope
goddesses save you from the fichuría
goddesses save you from the miss universes
from our doubles sponsored by governors
to thee do we cry poor banished femme daughters of eve
to thee do we send up our sighs mourning and weeping in this valley of tears
turn then most gracious of our criminals
thine magazine covers of mercy toward us
and (after this our exile without end) show us
the tv ilegal
the songs that have parodied you the iconoclasts
that have reduced you to your divinity
show unto us your merciful patience and perfect mess
the blessed fruit of thy work
oh clement! oh loving! oh sweet shameless cuerpazo!
pray for us holy mother of those who shop at rainbow, with the little red bows and plastic earrings, the polyester, the shirt with a safety pin, we who make it up as we go along, who suck or eat, who were never good, we who broke in the classist’s face, who are three bucks away from broke and stretch these until they’re twenty, the sidejawns, the ones who were raped for having a face, the ones without church who sometimes leave a little aché in the world
so that we may be worthy of the promises we’ve made
to our holiest mother
amen

 

the

 

[                          ]

 

embrace

 

 

RAQUEL SALAS-RIVERA has published poetry and essays in anthologies and journals such as Los rostros de la Hidra, Cachaperismos, Tonguas, Claridad, Quaint, Queen Mob’s Teahouse, #gorgonpoetics, and La Revista del ICP. Her first book, Caneca de anhelos turbios, was published by Editora Educación Emergente. Her chapbook, oropel/tinsel, was published by Lark Books & Writing Studio. You can find out more about her work at http://www.raquelsalasrivera.co.

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PENELOPE DANE

P.S. – Girl in the see-through shirt

These are excerpts from a notebook I had people sign on Labor Day weekend, 1994, at The Edge, a club in Orlando. It’s now a country bar. The night I asked people to sign this notebook was a party called Passion Z.
image1(1)

I am 18 this night, a New England transplant, down here for college and in the closet, where I will stay until I’m 30 and return to the South. But I bump up to queerness in Orlando. My army surplus back-pack filled with stuffed animals, I search for others like me. Queer grrls from far away, lesbians who are afraid. I’m disguised as a raver, spreading peace & love & unity & respect. For every stuffed toy I give out, I ask for words in return. I look. I hug and hand out plush toys. I want to meet people like me. I am afraid of people like me. I hope for a Girl’s number, scribbled in the dark.

image2

Some of the people I give animals to, I tell them about my sister, still in high school, back in Massachusetts. I ask them to write to her. I want her to know what is out here in these clubs. It is like nothing we have back home. The wide dance floors. Not cramped like Boston. There is space here. Spaces I could enter. A woman’s hands on my hips. They will let me in, if I step to them.

This notebook is a letter to my sister from strangers. They say hello. I do not have the words to tell her yet. I am afraid she will never go to a club with me again when she finds out.

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I knew one of the bouncers shot at Pulse. Not well. A handshake here, a smile there. Her grin. She’s one of the top five flashing across CNN, on the cover of Time & People. I cannot speak her name. I do not have the right. But I remember her.

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A huge screen looms outside, lit so you can watch people’s shadows as they dance against bright greens and blues. I cruise the picnic tables where ravers heat Vick’s Vaporub sticks with lighters before they inhale.

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In the corner of the screen, two women kiss. One’s hand trails down the other arm. I am the person staring because I want to be them. I peek behind the screen at the women, their hands in each other’s hair, their hands on hips. They are the only two women in the world. I trudge on. I hide with my notebook and pen.

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Orlando. Driving into the city, there’s the bank building that has towers like Batman’s ears. I may be in the closet, but I am here. I hide & watch & know one day, I’ll let loose.

PENELOPE DANE’s poetry has been published in the anthology “This Assignment is so Gay: LGBTIQ Writers on the Art of Teaching” and on The Fem. She is the winner of the 2015 William Faulkner Essay contest and she currently lives and loves and teaches writing in central New York state.
_________________________________________________________________________

 

TYLER GILLESPIE

Club Lazarus

Bow my head & sniff   cocaine   then twirl
& kick off grief : the battles fought.  Mourning

looks like my demons.   Washed in red wine
colored lights   I dance  a holy prayer: Song

of techno men     in thumpa   Promised Land.
Drag queens Martha & Mary    lip sync:

Hymns for those   drowned in crystal waters.
They give life to us sinners.  Lift hands,   preach:

Nothing   can change   these  Babylon nights
if we     do not    raise our dead   ourselves.

 

TYLER GILLESPIE’s most recent work appears or is forthcoming in Brevity, The Rumpus, The Los Angeles Review, PANK, Columbia Poetry Review, Deep South, Juked, Vinyl, and Prelude.

 

_________________________________________________________________________

 

JACQUELINE LAST

“Progress still controls us even in tales of ruination.” -Anna Tsing

wanting to edit this memory, I interject
that I recalled feeling not-liberated, but
reverting
back before I dismember, I forgot that I disbelieved in liberation
a forgotten action of adjustment of time some time ago, no
speaking is freedom and movement towards freedom and microdisembodying my pulsations as I
remember them now are not and could not be or lead towards freedom,

the domination of being free, the being free, the truth, the love for the love of it I just love it:
repeated in response to a question that I don’t care to ask,
I am very concerned and preoccupied with implicating
my body
in a series of violent movements,
isolating and spreading contamination in cohesion with a decisively nameless flood,
not the flash or the shallow but
the current
and always,
the progress of filling orifices is decidedly the only movement/
when proximity is unthinkable movement becomes you
[            ]

I am talking about the domination of being free
the doom of not serving but administering
several kinds of untraceable
reactions

 

UNWRITING: or, the critical period where the meat is not yet dry

in a loving relationship it is traditional to
be hung from the ankles while drying into jerky—this
is not torment, it is a celebration of untorment.
it cannot be written.
it is unwritten, it unwrites the squirming who
is now untormented, is now sedated, this
untorture digesting what was sadness what
was movement, this unsadness strangling my body.
unwritten by the smell of a body on my body,
I have forgotten my scent but I know this is intimacy.
writing instead about remembering when
you wanted someone to love you,
laughing knowing you’re
loving the dying from heat stroke or
pressure.
I know this is intimacy
this notwriting
untorment
unwritten as sleep pulling then
waking for four years in stunning coordination with
the unsadness which
one
cannot write.

 

JACQUELINE LAST is a queer Latinx poet and artist from Berkeley, California. Their work appears or is forthcoming in the print zine “But You Don’t Look Sick . . .” from Queer Anxiety Babiez, issue 46 of the Berkeley Poetry Review, the Fem Literary Magazine, and Gravel Magazine. They currently attend the University of California, Berkeley.

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