In SAFEWAY I heard a whining
Song. Dill filled the air with longing

What was the Twentieth Century
Appetite. I grew up wondering would I

Ever fuck like them, the dead. They left
Behind the lingering sense of an ethos

To discover love, if you could, in your
Own way for your own self, outside the dread

And shame they (the other they)’d installed all around you
Is the asshole closer to death, is shit close to it

And why when some pray do we put our ass
In the air to kiss the ground, the rosebud

Of the dark side of our minds waving in the blue
Sex and death got married and had a baby

I wasn’t there when it happened and nobody exactly
Told me about it. There was a lingering scent on the air

My first years in New York going to the one no two really
Good nightclubs, when the Meatpacking District

Was still full of actual meat and blood and tall whores
In beautiful crowds picking carefully over the cobblestones

In their enormous heels and wigs. Here ends the only
Nostalgia I shall permit myself. I was feeling kind

Of Auschwitzy in a vegan restaurant in Warsaw.
There was an H&M and a multiplex across the street

From the ghetto wall nestled inside an apartment
Complex. I’m alive only because the false identity

My grandmother’s husband bought her before he was killed
Meant she had a job just outside that wall. The malls

Are built all over the world that we might shop our way out
Of oblivion. It was easy to weep at the wall. I put

My forehead on it and said my dead uncles’ names and Tadeusz
Richter the name of the man my grandmother actually loved.

A plague. A genocide. The usage of the world. Lathe
Of all difference. I used to have a nightmare that recurred

A spiral of water draining down a hundred thousand family
Pictures. None of them people I knew, all of them faces

I could love if I had the chance. The idea of loving as a public
Act is something I inherited. The felicity of men who fuck

Like friends is something I admire. The Emma
Goldman brilliancy and courage of the women

Of Gran Fury and Act Up! my living moral referent. But I
Don’t know how to write a poem about AIDS.

I don’t know anybody who died of it. I read Tim
Dlugos to face Warsaw because of a line about his

Father or grandfather speaking Polish. Can everything
Be made to resolve into my originary pain? What drove

My mother insane. And an idea of liberty and elegance
Perfected by gay men in cities: the constellation of my youngest

Desires. I’m on a banquette in Winslow Arizona next to my
Post-gender lover, my person. I used to talk a lot about the Gay

Priesthood, about queerness as a Kohanim, priest
Class of the world, with whom you get high, tend to the sick

And imprisoned, advocate for the misunderstood, and die
In grace. Where would we be without nightclubs, the liberation

Of sex from “love” as defined by hetrosexist patriarchy, the lesbians
Who teach poetry in prisons, the women who radiate zero

Sexuality in order, like running fleeing nymphs to flee the frankly
Real male gaze, where would we be? Where would we be without

Chelsea Manning’s agony? The Danse Macabre of plaguetime Paris?
The New York I never knew?


A ratlike rodent went extinct today
My pussy feels almost fake
I know you are in love with me
Still you did call me a fake
Lesbian. Fortynine people were murdered
In PULSE. My pussy feels almost
Fake. Pretend, like someone else’s
Idea of a world, of a netherworld, of a fact
Of a fake act, of a falsified existence, of
A secret, of a silence, of a devourer
A devourer of silence. The Waste Land
Grows. Who said that, Heidegger? No the poet
Holderlin. Did Eliot
Say it in the copy of The Waste Land
I found on the street in Port-au-Prince,
In the rubble, frankly? Deep in the silence
Of my divers experience
In the unofficial secrecies the warrens
In which the ointments of my love
Swirl about like dazed jellyfish
It is it is it is a ratlike
Existence it was it was & it still
It has been raped
It has been stalked and trolled
It gets groped it also gets
Imitated, some kind of chewed-up
Silly putty idea, the gun called AR
15, named after Arthur Rimbaud
And adolescence it was also obviously
Named after me
In a bad orgy of girls in the by-the-hour
Motel of the Lynnway & it makes me want
To puke to prove to you I am real after everything
I put myself thru for a single real feeling, even just one
And I do not regret it. Like Sylvia said I do it
So it feels real, and that gun they named after me
At fifteen, thighs so stacked, fkn
Ziggurats, bleeding thru my shorts
Steep deep deep in love
Dimpling in the harde love
Cellulite light of kindness and of a real
Life unafraid of the falsehoods and perfidies
So long ascribed to Woman and the massive waste
Of all our self-directed violence
I am confident
This feeling of futility will go straight
Into my pussy is in fact the very substance
Of pussy and I’m not gonna read a fkn
Think piece or describe the many tortures
I have contrived for men or describe my
Dull animal silence the brute that I am the lout
Won’t write a poem in praise of nightclubs
I ate two separate breasts of two separate
Chickens I was letting the people have me
The thought of love the sale of it devolving
In the many-personed sac of my body
They say it again and again that shame
Can be into love transfigured well I still
Have shame I still have it, maybe that’s why
I don’t wanna get my shit together maybe
That’s why I spook at the thought of winning
Winning what winning what I’d like to grieve
With my family please leave me in peace that
I might grieve with my family but I have no family
All violence is sexual at the start all murder
Lust the first idea of race a sexual idea
The sex of profit the sex of pure murder make a map diagram
The hierarchies of loathing and longing the
Immiserating ghosts of what can and cannot
Be real open the vessel this rage for order world
Enough Time enough World enough and time
When has there been any
Such thing real enough is it real? It was real
Enough, this ratlike existence of poets the furtive
Love of fake lesbians it was a hot
Head on a bad body it is a bad head
On a great one my genitals quivering
With loathing and fear cobra’s neck
Swelling at the mouthwatering sight
Of fur
Fur in the sun
Sweethearts with a pulse
Sex on the battlements sex in nightclub
Toilets I remember breaking the sink
At MOTHER fucking and I had my period
& got a bruised chest from the blinking red
Light on my fucker’s mesh shirt
The faith that love requires my bad
Time management skills my fake
Sexuality some whatever dick
Like a sharpened pencil. My politics
Are mixed says Dia. Who doesn’t hate
Automatic weapons I say
A ratlike rodent went extinct today
On a tiny island off the coast of Australia
Orlando traversing times & worlds
I grasped my mean low existence
Delicately between thumb and forefinger
Stretch an NYC condom over my ratlike
Existence covered my rat teeth with the lips
Of my little mouth and commenced the fellatio
Compelled of me by the state while my root
Went down into the valley of the shadow
Of death, the vale of blood, veil of blood
Thru which I see & behind which I hide
Keeping my visions good
Keeping them good and real real quiet
Still in the same place I started out from in Salem
Still here
At the dark end of the street

“Pilgrim’s Progress” was commissioned for the exhibition Love Among the Ruins: 56 Bleeker Gallery and Late 80s New York this past fall.

Poems selected by Sophie Robinson, our virtual poet in residence for the October / November Issue of The Believer.

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