WHAT YOU FEEL TODAY

Image result for muslim hordes

It’s good to be emotional about a reasonable thing,
For then both emotion and reason defend it.
Everything reasonable and good
Will still be hated, if it’s misunderstood,
So emotion should be its ally, too.
Then reason won’t be rejected by one who over-thinks, like you.
Take Islam, for instance:
You’ve glimpsed it in the desert, from a distance,
You’ve seen the covered women in breezy glades,
The beards and scimitars crushed by the crusades,
You’ve read about “no alcohol,” the readiness to obey,
You know Muhammad Ali came from Cassius Clay;
You don’t know anyone who went the other way.
You’re sorry for the invasion of Iraq;
Politics, the heaving of a big rock,
Makes brutal, protective, sense; you get it;
Religion wants to win, but you’re smart; you won’t let it.
As a reasonable person, rocks you understand,
But you won’t sink in the water where the water meets the land,
You won’t be religious, that’s too unreasonable for you.
You trust left wing media, the scientific, secular jew,
A few neo-con ideas might be okay;
Bush wasn’t great, but look at Trump today!
So yes, rocks, you get.
Religion will just make you wet.
You don’t trust emotion, but you have to admit,
It’s always sweeter when you’re feeling it.
Nothing makes you feel; you like happy porn;
Miserable romance only makes the lover mourn;
Love: you compete with a million guys—
And then who says the one attracted to you will be a prize?
Love is great, but what are the odds of it occurring?
It’s just weird hopes and jealousies blurring.
But shouldn’t the reasonable also be felt?
You feel frustration. That makes you melt.
But you don’t feel love, and that’s sad.
The anecdotal news is good, but Trump just gets you mad.
You want that cliche: a love that is real.
You want a good which you know about—and feel.
And that’s impossible.
Everything you trust is glib and anecdotal.
You might laugh at things your friends are saying,
But it quickly passes; a hit song makes you feel only when it’s playing.
Where is the permanent good you can feel?
But isn’t that religious?  And that will just make you kneel.
But you are tired of the small fires. You need something sublime and glacial.
Islam is taking over the world. It’s communist and racial—
To criticize it is to be labeled racist and right-wing,
Yet, as a religion, it out-right-wings the right-wing.
Reason? Emotion? No. Here is the contradictory, invincible thing.

 

YOU DON’T THINK I’M THAT STUPID, DO YOU?

Philosophy is puzzling.

Comedy’s a wink.

The behavior of your lover

Will push you to the brink.

A persian diplomat decides

The secret oil and debt we drink.

Suits argue politics,

Jobs, and trade deals,

With Democrats, and other dicks.

Do you know why I love poetry?

Poetry doesn’t care what I think.

Poetry is something I write to you.

And I care what you think, I do.

But thinking is for one, not two.

Poetry is how I think. Poetry is me.

If one thinks for two, that’s poetry.

But you can’t think for two; more me

Is all you get. Sorry.

 

 

WHAT YOUTH GAVE

What youth gave

Old age cannot give.

Alas, no more love.

We can only live.

We can live inside our life for hours,

And smell for years the remembered flowers.

We feel the sunlight on our skin.

We can remember everywhere we’ve been.

What can old age not do? Old age’s eye

Smiles at youth’s rash tongue.

Youth dies and stays young.

Stay here, Rosalinda. The red balcony. The red sky.

THOSE WHO LAUGH DON’T LOVE

Image result for moaning dove

Those who laugh don’t love.

The swift, perpendicular dove

Vanishes into a different blue arrangement.

Love runs away from humor’s derangement.

Without political context,

Life does seem insane.

But laugh, work hard. You’ll be okay.

It takes leisure and sorrow to drift into insanity.

Laugh. Love is crazy vanity.

It takes thought and sorrow if you want to be in love.

Lean out your window. Listen to that moaning dove.

Or laugh. Those who laugh don’t love.

 

THE RACIST

Image result for the agony of a young man's American civil war death

The bold are racist. The timid are not.

The bold and timid both die and rot.

But the bold are racist. The timid are not.

The timid were ordered to put on a uniform,

The timid were ordered to go

And die to fight racism, a long time ago.

The bold hid, and said, “I will not.

The age of twenty-one is too young to rot.

I may honor them, but tariffs and death will not.”

So the bold became timid, or so it seemed,

But during speeches over graves, they boldly dreamed

Of racism, and how it killed

The timid, inheriting glory, the words of the timid in the bible, fulfilled.

The bold hated the timid, and their glory.

Racism was cowardly, went the story,

But in their secret hearts the bold knew

The timid are not brave. The opposite was true.

The bold found a woman of the opposite race,

And stared at her with love. She spit in his face.

Or she lowered her eyes. We don’t really know.

It’s all mixed up. It was so long ago.

 

 

 

IMPERFECT EARTH

The seasons are poetry. But also a pain in the ass.

Dark and cold November makes everyone cry alas.

She loved me when February was freakishly warm,

And though I joked about this loving fact,

Maybe it was the reason. Sweet love is mostly an outdoors act.

An act of poetry, to be sure,

And when the buds rioted under a warming sun she loved me even more.

But as I crammed poetry into the months ahead,

She grew tired of poetry, and by December our love was dead.

The leaves of poetry turn. Leaves turn red, and fall.

Didn’t you love me? Didn’t you love me, after all?

The tilt of the earth makes the seasons pass.

Christmas is cold. Cold, alas.

ATTACKS

Image result for oil rig in painting

Trained in a world of liberal arts anecdote, the simpler, wider facts

Defend themselves easily against your social justice attacks.

You decry “Big Oil,” like freezing winds which blow on oil rigs in the North Sea.

You step on grass. Human, you despoil nature too; yet heap abuse on me.

It is this way of being boring and nice in person, not particularly bright,

Who pins down others in an avalanche of anecdote when you think you’re right

Which condemns—an argument against you has nowhere to go,

Which is how you like it, safely immured in all you think you need to know.

The nice things which big ugly pieces of machinery have done

Don’t register. You advocate sunblock. As if sunblock were the reason for the sun.

 

 

JEALOUSY IS THE NUMBER ONE EMOTION

Image result for abstract painting underwater landscape

Jealousy is the number one emotion.

The queen switches between jealousy and devotion

To the other queens, flowers in the ocean,

Made of all connected minds who think

As one sighing, invisible, ocean.

A touch vibrates a singular devotion

To her—my love—with a beautiful emotion,

Which I feel with the rest, transparently,

Shaking the shaking sounds of poetry,

Dissolving sounds which tremble and take

The arctic shape of her, reflected in the lake.

The moving waters need the light to see

My love is swimming in jealousy,

As is yours. Her heart of pearl is to blame.

Its sweet beating. And you feel the same.

 

 

EASTER RESCUE

Image result for trapped in a well painting

Life is nothing but time. Life wishes to be alive tomorrow.

If all of us had time, there wouldn’t be any sorrow.

We seek to wade into the stream,

But the stream is cold and rising. The hope is: death is a dream.

If we are a dream, death proves life unreal, at last.

But life is real—see? we have a past.

Life is a long waiting; life is not the eager snapshot.

Life is more than your point. Life is a lot.

Life is an hour, planning more hours to tell.

Tears of joy! Saved just in time! Isn’t time all we’ve got?

You emerged from the womb, didn’t you? Or were you trapped in a well?

Life is an hour, planning more hours to plan.

You emerged from the womb, didn’t you? Isn’t that what made you a man?

 

 

WHEN TWO EMBRACE

When two embrace,

It’s not her face and your face

Who love, but love’s. Love’s spell

Is why you don’t feel well.

You sigh, and are vulnerable.

It is why she looks beautiful.

Love inhabits her eye,

And though she is a liar, in love, she cannot lie;

She does love you, but love makes

Her love. If she is bad, her badness wakes

When love’s spell finally dies.

Now, unhappy, she looks in your eyes,

And aghast, you wonder why

She hates. She tells a lie,

When she once loved, and was true.

Love made her good. But you

Are still good. Do not hate love. If she

Hates you now, love her; she will be

In a poem you write; you will illustrate

How your love will always be entwined with her fate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I THOUGHT OF A THOUGHT

Image result for turning star

I thought of a thought:

How the world is overwrought

With repeating and thinking.

Repeating and thinking, I am caught.

O turning star! O earth revolving, as my dream taught.

And dreaming, I thought, this is a dream—this is not me!

Old age is the strangest dream—old? Is this me?

Life is a dream, only a dream; this, then, is how I feel.

Death will be a birth. Death and life are dreams—preparing us for the real.

Our death was a long dream: life. When I die next, I will be

Not the bare earth surviving under the cold breeze,

But thought escaping thought. Can this be my last thought, please?

 

 

 

A DEVIL IS ONE WHO CALLS YOU A DEVIL

Related image

A devil is one who calls you a devil.

The last accuser becomes the accused.

Talk makes all guilt equal;

By language fact and falsehood are fused.

Book learning must step aside,

When the accuser behind intellectualism hides.

Poetry flees every single kind of talk—

Where reasonable talkers reasonably lie,

Where the accusers thrive and multiply;

Poetry is true because the words walk.

Poetry returns to pure physicality, where

Words, to prove their worth, walk up into the air,

Leaving falsehood below,

Where the eternal winds of accusations blow.

 

 

 

 

PHYSICAL LOVE IS A DIFFICULT ART

Image result for zeus flying to earth in renaissance painting

Physical love is a difficult art.

The eye judges, and so does the heart.

To judge love, love considers a thousand things;

Throughout the valley, courtship whispers and runs and sings.

A nest for love must be prepared.

If physical love doesn’t happen, no one ever cared.

Shadows need to fall. You mustn’t see too much.

You must be sensitive—extremely sensitive to eye and touch.

Physical love is a cunning love; the greatest gods

Flew down from the sun in bright disguise

To plunder. Physical love fails if it needs surprise;

Violence ruins love, and if gods did, imagine these clods,

The mortals, and their harsh, bungling attempts to be

Lovers: Strong, yes, strong, but lacking sensitivity,

Lacking the lies that lie in the loveliest poetry.

Both lovers need to be physical, but love cannot

Be only physical. The cultivation of want is what

Must happen to the lovers; stupidity the tragic novel cannot

Invent, must happen. I’m exhausted. I cannot.

 

 

THE PRIVATE SELF CANNOT BE LOVED

Related image

The private self cannot be loved.

Celebrity love is really true.

Love is only a public love.

In private, she’s annoyed by you.

Everything offends

Our group, and its public membership never ends;

You thought, by stealing into this private cave

You would escape all the offended crave:

Justice for every public insult publicly jotted down

Or whispered in the public ear, dancing in a racy gown,

Heavy coats-of-arms hanging on the wall,

Bonafides with slender hands and tall,

A privacy that has no privacy at all;

Nothing backs it up, nowhere at the end of the day

To go; nothing’s nice; public notice will have its public pay.

Should you stumble into the private arms of one

Who rendered once, public proof of love, sorry, the sun

Has new sets of eyes, a public is always burning

New surfaces; only publicly is love now learning

Our truth: privacy is nothing—only the dark,

Where fleet hounds who kissed you, bark.

 

 

 

 

 

“THE LARGEST-EVER STUDY OF GENETICS AND SEXUAL ORIENTATION:” A REVIEW

Image result for sperm and egg abstract painting

“Nonbinary!” What a word! It fires up the imagination! Not only that, it’s scientific. And sexy. And freeing. I don’t know anyone who could have anything to say against it.

As a word.

But even words are powerful things, more powerful than things themselves, more powerful than feelings, more powerful than thoughts, especially if they make one feel like a progressive, radical scientist, against which no argument can be made. “World! I may be a shy vulnerable nobody, but I am nonbinary! Husband! I am nonbinary! Don’t mess with me.”

The once transgressive term, “gay,” or “homosexual,” seems almost quaint when put next to the profound and ever-mysterious, “nonbinary.”

When a word like “gay” begins to lose its buzzword power, the general population begins to do the unthinkable—no longer intimidated by the word, itself, there is an honest and earnest attempt to calmly and rationally discover things beyond the word, itself, and seek to understand what homosexual activity really means.

The most common explanation I’ve seen is:  homosexuality occurs in animals; its rationale is to “thin the herd,” when there has been too much breeding.

But I’ve seen a splendid explanation much less “practical” and more “enlightened:” homosexuality is actually a movement of evolutionary progress, where people choose a partner based on loving, virtuous characteristics, rather than on their genitalia.

Genitalia? Some heterosexuals will protest: I choose a mate based on both: virtue and sex.

These two positions illustrate something crucial, I think.  Homosexuality as a function of enlightened evolution assumes nature is interested in progress, interested in making a “better squirrel.” Like a Marxist philosopher, nature does not want to preserve itself—it wants to change itself.  Homosexuality, from this enlightened and virtuous perspective, belongs to progress.  Typically, we know that people have no choice. People will usually get insulted if they are told that homosexuality is a choice.  Since it is not a choice, homosexuality belongs to nature, and by the reasoning of this “enlightenment” position, to evolution. A person is born homosexual—for the sake of progress.  To make a better squirrel, or a better human being.

But does nature care about progress? Does nature care about a better squirrel? Not really. Animals adapt to environmental conditions. Adaptation is just that: adaptation. Adaptation is slavery, not progress. Nature presents two things: the ruthless environment, and creatures who have no choice but to live within that ruthless environment, or die.  The pearl may be beautiful, but it is a pearl for one reason and one reason, only: it came about because of its ruthless conditions, to which it had to completely and blindly adapt. Animals are not free. Evolution is not free. Adaptation is not free. And nature is not free. Nature does not care if there is a “better” squirrel. The squirrel is a squirrel precisely because it is wholly, not partially, beholden to its environment.  And reproduction is the absolute primary fact of a squirrel’s survival. Since every single thing about a squirrel is based on its ability to survive, and reproduction is necessary for its survival, there is no such thing as a “better” squirrel which “does not reproduce.”  The idea that homosexuality is “progress” in terms of natural evolution is absurd.

The argument that homosexuality belongs to the realm of virtue and not sex—whereas heterosexuality belongs to sex and not virtue—and an important way that nature can evolve or progress, is by producing homosexual humans, is a fascinating and attractive idea.  It’s a very simple, and rather obvious idea, based on the notion that ordinarily, the male is slavishly driven to mate with the female—but homosexuality short-circuits this, producing a male who is able to remove himself from the slavery of reproduction, and focus on more enlightened and virtuous things.

But there are some problems with this.

First, as we mentioned above, it is a simplification to assume the heterosexual is only interested in genitalia—due to the traditional reproductive task to which the heterosexual is supposedly enslaved.  It does not logically follow that a homosexual would be less interested in genitalia, or more interested in personal virtue. After all sex, in terms of meaning, defines the homosexual qua homosexual.

Sex, depending on the person, could have no part of that person whatsoever, but as soon as one is identified as a homosexual, that is precisely, by the strict definition of the word itself, a sexual identity. Even if one is too ugly to have sex, identifying them as a homosexual, makes them, at least in terms of terminology, a sexual being. Homosexual means sex, and nothing else.

Secondly, reproduction is important to nature, but how much time in a man’s life has to be devoted to reproduction? Surely a lifetime is long enough that if a genius is devoted to science or art, there is plenty of time to do their science or art, whether they are gay or straight.

How did homosexuality, then, come to be identified with genius?  It’s easy to see.  Ancient Athens is known for two things: philosophical genius and male homosexuality—but this was because Greek women were slaves, not because male homosexuality by itself produces genius.  The genius, devoted to their craft, will often eschew marriage, children, and sex altogether, and in male dominated societies, count men as their dearest companions, opening up speculation they are gay; but gossip and social relations alone cannot in any way tell us whether homosexuality more than heterosexuality belongs to virtue, or creativity, or genius.

Nature is interested in reproduction, not progress. The genius often does not have children. Nature has no desire to keep breeding geniuses to create a superman. This is not how it works. The genius creates products which transcend nature. The genius defies the slavery of nature by making nature adapt to genius. The genius does not adapt to nature; the nature adapts to genius. Mozart was a miracle, was divine. The reproductive agenda ceases with a creature like Mozart. Nature reproduces with a roll of the dice—it doesn’t plan Mozarts; Nature doesn’t care if the bad or the good reproduce. Poe’s siblings were half-wits. The genius of Poe was not planned by evolution, or nature.

But whether Mozart happened to be gay or straight has absolutely nothing to do with his genius. Nature and evolution have nothing to do with genius. Reproduction produces genius, but only by accident, and reproduction, or lack of reproduction has nothing to do with genius, per se.

There is no enlightened reason for homosexuality to exist, then. A homosexual is not more virtuous, somehow, than a heterosexual.

But what about the nonbinary?  Is this more advanced?

If we go back to the argument, which I think I have debunked, that homosexuality is an evolutionary advancement of some kind, because homosexuals are more concerned with the ‘person’ than the ‘genitalia (reproduction),’ I think it’s pretty clear to see that nonbinary travels down that same road—for unlike the homosexual, the nonbinary eschews not only heterosexuality, but the binary, as well—to which the homosexual, as well as the heterosexual, belongs. In the gender binary language of 1, 0, female, male, a pairing, or a relationship, still signifies a binary situation, within that binary language, whether it is 1/0, 0/1, 0/0, or 1/1.

However, with the nonbinary, we see the same principle in operation.  The nonbinary is supposedly more enlightened, not because the nonbinary is removed from reproduction, like the homosexual, but because the nonbinary is removed from gender.

Imagine a binary language in which heterosexual is 0 and homosexual is 1.  Now we know that a sequence of zeros or a sequence of ones is hardly a language at all. Compare that to the “nonbinary” language, a sequence of any combination of 0 or 1; this produces computer code—a real language.  The nonbinary person, then, in terms of evolution, should be miles ahead of the mere homosexual or heterosexual.  Is a nonbinary person superior to a heterosexual or a homosexual person?  Would that be fair to say?

For the same reason that the homosexual is not in any way superior to the heterosexual, it would be highly prejudicial and unfair to assign any evolutionary advantage to the nonbinary person.  People are not good, or bad, based on reproduction, lack of reproduction, gender, or lack of gender. Nature needs reproduction, and therefore her creatures reproduce in specific ways, based on how they navigate their environment, in completely fixed, reactive, slavish, methods. Nature does not believe in progress, but only in blind reproduction. The miraculous, or the divine, human creativity, is the only participant in progress, and this progress does not happen individually—Mozart did not reproduce a host of little Mozarts—but through art and science which forces nature to adapt to its products, rather than the other way around, where animals must obey and adapt to nature. The transcendent products of art and science reproduce completely apart from the reproductive instruments of nature, and therefore have nothing to do with sex or gender or reproduction. Genius is not nonbinary, heterosexual, or homosexual, and never will be. Genius belongs to a completely different realm, apart from nature.

If the nonbinary is a kind of corrective advancement over homosexuality, we see how it fails in this task, just as all attempts at progress in nature fail, since nature is not aware of progress, only of reproduction and adaption. Just as the word homosexual cannot escape the sexual, the word nonbinary cannot escape the binary—since nonbinary seeks to negate the binary, and therefore if binary does not exist, the nonbinary does not really exist, either. And as we saw above: 010011100 is a binary language, and this is the “language” of the “nonbinary,” which is absurd, just as the language of the heterosexual 000000, or the language of the homosexual, 111111, is equally absurd. The binary condition of gender exists for one reason: reproduction, and reproduction belongs to nature, and not progress.

Therefore, questions of heterosexuality, homosexuality, and the nonbinary will always be a mystery when it comes to the human, since these questions are finally immersed in the science of reproduction and nature—who obeys her own law, and which humans, when they are creative at all, will do best to entirely escape.

The best example we can think of nonbinary is the aggressive male puppy, who, one may notice, will hump almost anything.

Has the mystery of homosexuality been solved?

A recent, October 18, 2018, MIT Technology Review article summarizes the “largest-ever study of genetics and sexual orientation.”  The results are paradoxical—as one might expect—and quite fascinating.  The significance of the study has not yet entered the popular consciousness.  The so-called discovery of the “gay gene” in 1993—a discovery never replicated, and subsequently dismissed in many scientific circles—had tremendous impact on the non-scientific community.

Genetics and sexual orientation are related in mysterious ways. Most likely there is no “gay gene.”

There’s the science of sexual orientation.

And then there’s talk—among the non-scientific.

When it comes to genetics and sexual orientation—or just sexual orientation—there is the scientific, the unscientific, and paradox—the mysterious bridge between the two.

The MIT Technology Review article has an enticing title: “Genes linked to being gay may help straight people get more sex”

In the spirit of the paradox of sexual orientation, I want to examine the work not of a scientist, but that of a poet, who happens to live in Brooklyn.

Then I’ll return to the latest scientific study and the paradox of homosexuality.

We need to see what the poets are saying, too.

A recent short memoir published online by Redivider, is introduced on Facebook by its author, Joanna Valente, as “a thing I wrote,” which gave “me a lot of anxiety to share.”

But share it, she did. And her short memoir has a great opening.

It sounds like the start of the great American novel today:

“I came out to T as a nonbinary after we’d been married for a year.”

Reading Valente’s “thing,” I was reminded why I prefer non-fiction to fiction—the majority of fiction is unreliable memoir—an autobiography rather elaborately disguised for a publisher’s board meeting.

Memoir is not dressed up, but a memoir is no more immune than fiction from unreliability.

But a memoir features an unreliability of a different kind.

A memoir’s unreliability is more unreliable.  It’s less professional. A memoir’s unreliability is right there on the surface. It has the novel’s complexity, but nothing about the complexity is hidden, or airbrushed away.

Immediately after her marvelous opening, Valente, though not a scientist, makes it known to us that she has an understanding of the nonbinary which eclipses her husband’s:

Over dinner I told him nonchalantly, hoping that nonchalance would soften it. I was nervous he wouldn’t understand, that I would just feel ashamed like I was still in 5th grade and trying to fit in with my Ramona Quimby haircut and Doc Martens.

“Okay. So can I still call you my wife to my friends? And use ‘she’ as a pronoun?” he asked.

I smiled quickly, didn’t even let myself feel the disappointment. But in the back of my throat, I felt sad, unseen. It wasn’t about the pronouns for me, it was about the question. It wasn’t about what I wanted.

“Of course you can. So, it’s like O. O is nonbinary too, but is more masculine than me, whereas I’m more femme. I mean, we’ve talked about how I think binaries aren’t helpful anyway. It’s not like masculine or feminine traits even mean anything. We’re all the same, we’re all humans. We’re just socialized to think in binary,” I tried to explain, using my best friend as an example. T always liked O, so I felt like this would help him understand.

“Sure, I mean, I don’t know. This whole thing just seems like a huge trend, a phase,” he said, laughing.

He always made everything a joke. I didn’t mind it unless I was trying to explain something serious—and this was one of those times where I didn’t want the answer to be a joke. I wanted him to see me. I wanted the person who married me to see me. Sometimes I wonder when I really stopped being a wife.

I realize now I that I stopped “being a wife” when I stopped feeling seen by T. How can we stay in worlds, in realities, that don’t feel true to us? We construct our own homes, our most personal and truest realities, in hopes that we can find a sanctuary outside of the capitalist heteronormative society we live in—as a way to dismantle a false world for another. We shouldn’t have to constantly navigate different identities that massage our authenticity into easy boxes and bite-sized ideas. It’s not about leading double lives or contradictory realities, but going between our different identities, like wife and colleague, so often we forget who we are—or try to change who we are to be seen.

A year later, he found an article about the third sex in history and culture; I remember wanting to feel proud of him, and I did, but I also remember feeling so alone. I was waking up as he mentioned it, and pulled the covers over my shoulders, bookmarking it to read for later. Sometimes I wondered if my love of language became too semantic to the point that I was destroying something beautiful; isn’t being too semantic a way to miss the point? Or was I simply just used to pleasing others? I remember how the word “wife” sounded weird in my mouth and offered partner instead. He felt it was too clinical, like a hospital bed. I wanted to find the right words, the right everything, for us. I’m not sure why I couldn’t.

The strange thing is, it’s not that I stopped finding him attractive or began to despise him over time, I just stopped wanting to have sex with him. There are, of course, a million reasons why this could have happened. I was sexually assaulted more than once by the time we met while I was finishing my MFA, I was still figuring out my queer identity, and I often suffered from chronic UTIs during our relationship. The UTIs became a scary cycle: we’d have sex, I’d have shooting pain, take antibiotics, try holistic methods to no success, and the cycle would repeat. Sometimes after sex, I’d spot pale pink blood blending into the toilet paper. My body was broken. I felt like I was broken.

My body was continually traumatized, so of course, I stopped wanting to do something that ended with pain. I became used to it. I shamed myself, as if there was something wrong with me. No doctor really tried to understand it, tried to help me in a real way. Were we just incompatible? I’d find myself thinking.

Valente’s memoir is “unreliable,” but not because she is unreliable—the author speaks, reliably, for herself, for her husband, and for her life. We have no doubt of that.

The unreliability, however, and this is ironic perhaps, lives in the very bones of her story.

Valente is unreliable with a perfect frankness and sincerity.  There is no author playing an unreliable character.  This is better.  The unreliability is sincere.  It is like us.

Fiction puts the burden of knowing on the reader—the memoir puts the burden of knowing on the author.

As soon as we publish on matters of any importance, we betray that world. This is why the dignified are not writers, and why so many good, honest people choose not to be writers. It’s a wise choice, actually, not to write. To write is to betray. If we are reliable in our writing, we betray. This is why Valente was honest when she admitted she had “a lot of anxiety” in sharing her memoir.

According to Valente, her husband makes “everything a joke,” but discussing her nonbinary nature, she doesn’t want to joke.

But what if the nonbinary is a joke?  What if the nonbinary itself is a profound, philosophical joke?

Well, it is.

When Valente presents us with her brilliant, searing, and yet oh so casual opening, “I came out to T as a nonbinary after we’d been married for a year,” she seems unaware that she’s being terribly funny. And ironic.

And here’s the further irony—the husband, according to the wife’s revealing and embarrassing memoir, is the stupid joke in response; we are told he is a joker. The husband’s response, however, is not funny at all; his response is a pleading attempt to “soften” the fact she is coming out as nonbinary; the husband speaks directly to the trope at the bottom of the memoir’s unconscious nonbinary joke: are you still my wife? Is what he asks, and this is very much not a joke.

The husband’s reaction highlights another interesting fact of Valente’s memoir—the fact that she perhaps married the wrong person: he is funny; she is not—her “partner” will not “get” her joke, the joke in which she tells her partner she is nonbinary, a joke she is telling, but, a joke she doesn’t seem to get.

Here’s the great irony: Telling him she is nonbinary makes him disappear. She wants him to see her—but she doesn’t see him.

Her marriage is tragi-comically nonbinary—yet she doesn’t notice the irony when she “confesses” she is nonbinary—she wants to be “seen,” but doesn’t “see” him, or “see” the marriage, or “see” how at every step, she contradicts herself. This is why, for me, she is a unreliable narrator—but not the unreliable narrator produced by the clever novelist. She is better than that.

T was supportive, to a point. It’s hard to understand how to help someone who suffers from sexual trauma, who stopped wanting to have sex with you even though they still love you. The problem was, I realized, I was expected to figure it all out by myself; T would listen when I would confront him, but offer little help or solutions. I was alone. I went to therapy on and off—to little success. One therapist even told me I wasn’t sexually assaulted in the first place, while another mostly listened, but never said much. Resentment seeping into me like a pus filling a wound. My entire body, my entire being, felt like a wound. A scab.

On the morning I moved out of my one-bedroom apartment with T, he helped me drive a truck with what I could fit into my new bedroom in an apartment shared with three strangers—because I couldn’t afford to stay in an apartment by myself. That’s the thing about New York City; it’s a city for couples, because hardly anyone without financial support or a hefty salary can afford an apartment on their own. I was delirious with fever, dealing with a chronic ear illness. It all felt too messy, too overwhelming, not real. I convinced myself this was good: I’ll discover myself and find ways to save our marriage—which largely meant, I’ll find ways to have sex with T again. After all, it was my idea to move. I craved space. I wanted a space to find myself.

During the beginning of our separation, we still saw each other a few times a week, slept over each other’s places; we were dating, basically. In retrospect, it’s hard for me not to feel like I was dangled, as if this was just a way to fade me out easily; perhaps that wasn’t  T’s intention, but I was still afraid. I was afraid if I didn’t  perform “wife” the right way or do the right things, he’d leave. I can’t say I wasn’t wrong. He was seeing someone else he met at work earlier that year, but I was hoping it was just a fling, something short-term and fun. I was going on dates, myself, but none of them mattered.

Two months after I moved, I started to feel him slip away; his fling was turning into a full-fledged relationship. I didn’t want to be unsupportive, so I supported him; I understood how it must have felt, having sex after years of intermittent sex that felt often very fragile, like a feeling for a cobweb in the dark. And yet, I felt abandoned, betrayed—left for someone else, someone new, someone fun—someone with less hang ups. I felt betrayed to be left when I was sick, dealing with an illness that left me with a hearing impairment, unsure if my hearing would return “back to normal.” It did, but with 24/7 tinnitus. Nothing, of course, is the same. A few months after our separation, we met for dinner. I couldn’t help but cry and say I missed him. I missed us. I missed my home. One of the hardest things about the breakup, any breakup, is rebuilding a home. I wanted us to work out, go to therapy, do something.

Valente’s behavior as a nonbinary is there for all the world to see, in her contradictory, nonbinary, behavior—she chooses to move away from her husband, a supporting husband, (perhaps clueless at times, but one she loves, at least she says as much in the memoir) to find “space”—in a four-bedroom flat with three random roommates.

According to her, dealing with medical issues and alone, she makes the decisive move to vacate her home with him, when she still loves him, and then (surprise) she wants him back, after she moves out, and after she gives him license to sleep with another woman, as she, the ever reliable narrator and wife, is, according to her confession, unable to have intercourse with him (and feeling guilty about it). Nonbinary, indeed!

The unrequited love she has for her husband becomes for her, unconsciously, the ultimate nonbinary affliction.

Her romantic longings are the old-fashioned parallel to the post-modern nonbinary of sexual politics—the heart-throb nonbinary and the sexual politics nonbinary are intimately connected on many levels, which she, able to lecture her husband on the nonbinary, doesn’t see. There’s more irony and paradox here than you can shake a stick at.

Perhaps she doesn’t love her husband, and he really is a monster, and every unconscious, gut-feeling, step she took was to save her dignity, and herself, from a marriage that was a (binary) mistake.

The narrative arc of either fiction or memoir, like all attempts at self-rationalizing thought, self-justifies itself during its inevitable forward movement in time. Fiction/memoir justifies everything, even as it betrays everything. And, of course, she tortures herself at what she could have done differently to make the marriage work.

This is the fate of all romance: nonbinary tortures the binary.

But just as Valente vanquishes her husband when it comes to the understanding of the nonbinary, the question arises: do we need to step outside of all narrative arcs, and philosophically and scientifically apprehend the nonbinary to understand what it really is?

Yes, even fiction, even scientific nonfiction is trapped in the narrative arc of its reasoning. If this review of Valente’s memoir so far is already an indication of a critic trapped in his review, just as Valente is trapped in her marriage, the critical arc yet demands philosophy (science) solve the tangle, a tangle related so calmly and deftly by Valente in her memoir.

It is hard to fathom whether Valente’s memoir is more like Anna Karenina or Judith Butler.

What is this, exactly? Old school romance or post-modern sexual blurring?

The wonderful opening line, “I came out to T as a nonbinary,” hints at Judith Butler, but there’s plenty of Anna Karenina, too:

I convinced myself this was good: I’ll discover myself and find ways to save our marriage—which largely meant, I’ll find ways to have sex with T again.

*

Two months after I moved, I started to feel him slip away; his fling was turning into a full-fledged relationship.

*

And yet, I felt abandoned, betrayed—left for someone else, someone new, someone fun—someone with less hang ups.

*

“How do you feel about us?” I asked him.

“I feel so, so guilty. I don’t want to abandon you, but I feel like we’re just friends. We’ve always been friends, but I need passion. I want something more. I want to see where things go with R… But I also don’t I’m abandoning you, since I’m still here for you. We’re still friends,” he said, firmly as tears formed in his eyes.

“I mean, if this is what you want, I want you to do it. I just want you to be happy. Obviously, I don’t want you to stay with me and then just resent me… I do feel rushed, though,” I said, trying to choose my words wisely, pausing and then said, “And I do feel blindsided. I want to try. Go to couples’ therapy. I just feel like it hasn’t been long enough to just give up.”

“But I’ve spent so much time with you,” he said. “I don’t want to keep prolonging this. I feel like we did try.”

“I know, and I’m not saying things would necessarily work out. I just want to feel like we did everything we could. I also wish the timing was better. I kind of sucks that a lot of this happened when I was sick. I did feel abandoned then,” I said, trying to push away that familiar ache in my throat.

So here is the question, as we observe the clinical truth of the “nonbinary” resting beside old-fashioned “binary” romance of Anna Karenina:

How much free will is involved in sex?

Here’s what Valente says:

“If life post-separation has taught me anything, it’s that love is a choice. You choose to stay in love, to work on love, to work on yourself.”

How much of this opinion is romance, and how much of it is scientific?

And remember, she says this: “The strange thing is, it’s not that I stopped finding him attractive or began to despise him over time, I just stopped wanting to have sex with him. There are, of course, a million reasons why this could have happened.”

When the general population uses the term nonbinary in terms of sexual orientation, are they using it scientifically?

Is being nonbinary a choice?

Is staying true to one partner a choice?

Is having multiple partners a choice?

Is sleeping with both genders a choice?

Is the nonbinary, which is replacing homosexuality in social importance, on some unconscious or pre-conscious level, The Revenge of the Cis?

Is the “nonbinary” secretly a heterosexual trope in an age of sexual confusion?

As a nonbinary queer person, Valente believes in free will and choice: “I’ll find ways to have sex with T again.” “No one ever talks about how you have to work at sex.” Contrast this with the following quote by the current U.S. president’s gay US Ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell:

“The truth for LGBT people is that we were born gay.”

It is almost time to return to the recent study on genetics and sexual orientation.

But permit me to rant and speculate a little further.

Is successful “partnering-up” a choice, or not?

Does the general population really understand the underlying truths of sexual orientation?  Is there a scientific test they can take? Do they only know after they sexually experiment? Or do they not know then, either, until they experiment some more? Or does too much experimenting confuse a person? Are they obligated to work on a relationship? Or do relationships happen based on how they were born? And what exactly makes them happen in the first place? What images or gestures matter, on a micro-level? How much is nurture, or nature? How can we begin to understand the complexity of a relationship? Who tells us this? Whom do we trust? A scientist? A potential lover? Ourselves? A wise aunt? The bible? The Oracle of Delphi? Teen Vogue? Jerry Springer? How much does scientific knowledge benefit the general population in this regard? How much of it is feeling and instinct? How much does popular culture impact how people feel?

And there’s a deeper philosophical question.  As Valente says when she first tells her huband she is a nonbinary:

“It’s not like masculine or feminine traits even mean anything. We’re all the same, we’re all humans. We’re just socialized to think in binary.”

In terms of pure logic, if there is no binary, there is no nonbinary, either.

And again, in the strictest logical terms, “binary” exists in whatever relationship there is between two people—at any moment in time.

There can only be a “binary” relationship.  There is no other.

How does nonbinary exist at all, then? If a relationship doesn’t exist, it doesn’t exist. A non-existent relationship is not nonbinary—it simply is not a relationship at all.

If nonbinary denotes, simply, “swings both ways,” one could make a case for nonbinary as having meaning, but if, as Valente points out, “It’s not like masculine or feminine traits even mean anything. We’re all the same, we’re all humans,” then isn’t “swings both ways” essentially meaningless within this context?  If a relationship is just a relationship, then every unique relationship is, as a matter of course, binary.

Relationships, then, will always be binary, whether or not one has found “the right one,” and, in Valente’s case, she seems to have definitely toyed (is that the wrong word?) with the idea that her husband is “the right one.” She is quite upset when her husband tells her he has found someone else who is “the right one,” even as she says she is “happy for him.”

That night over dinner with him, I asked if he was happy with her, if she was the right one. He said yes. I wanted to rip out all the years from inside my body, but I knew I couldn’t. I wanted to be happy for him, and I was, so I said so. Antagonizing or trying to persuade him was useless. It would alienate both of us. So I didn’t.

Again, and this is quite natural, and surely this happens a million times a day all over the world—and in many cases, including this story of Valente’s, we find ourselves asking: Is this Anna Karenina or Judith Butler?  A Tolstoy romance or Post-Modern Gender Studies?  If Judith Butler is assumed to be more “scientific,” what does it mean when the general population of non-scientists feeds their hearts on scientific terminology, but terminology of which the deeper philosophical implications they haven’t thought through?  Is this bad, or good?

With this in mind, we now turn to the high paradox of sexual orientation genetics in the most recent study on sex and genetics, where science, poetry and unreliable narrators commingle.

After discussing Valente’s work, the irony and paradox of genes, sex, sexual orientation, choice, free will, knowledge, hearsay, love, romance, binary and nonbinary, should leap right out at you:

It is best to quote profusely from the MIT Technology Review article itself—written, thankfully, for the lay person. And in fact, the article is brief enough that we can quote the whole thing:

Across cultures, between 2% and 5% of men are gay. That amounts to an evolutionary paradox: gay men have fewer children, so one would expect that the trait would disappear over time. But it hasn’t.

Now a team of researchers has carried out the largest-ever genetic study of sexual orientation and found evidence consistent with one possible explanation. The very same genetic factors that predispose people to being gay may also, when heterosexuals have them, lead to more sexual partners and greater “mating success.”

Details of the unpublished study have been described in a public research  plan, in two scientific abstracts, and by researchers at a scientific meeting held in June at the Broad Institute, a genome research center in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

The hunt for sexual orientation genes—which wades into the polarizing question of whether people are born gay or become so—is part of a boom in genomics research that aims to unveil how genes shape behavior, not just diseases.

Powering the new social genetics are huge databases, including the British government-funded UK Biobank and the DNA of millions of customers collected by 23andMe, a consumer gene testing company. Scientists have begun using this mass of data to successfully probe the genetic basis of a surprising range of behaviors, from smoking to insomnia, intelligence, marijuana use, and even time spent watching television.

The research is at its most sensitive when it touches on sexual orientation. Jeffrey Reid, who is head of genome informatics at Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, and who is gay, says he is concerned about how such discoveries are discussed in the press. That could have an outsize impact on already vulnerable people, he says.

“Supposedly ‘clear evidence’ of a genetic basis for homosexuality may lead a parent to deem their gay son irrevocably broken and eject him from their life,” Reid says. “Alternatively, maybe some evidence of a genetic basis of homosexuality may lead a parent to embrace their child as God made them, or lead someone struggling out of darkness and into self-acceptance.”

Because the work could be controversial, the team behind the new gene hunt opted to post their research plan online in 2017. They described their intent to perform a genome-wide association study, a technique originally developed to locate genetic susceptibilities to diseases like macular degeneration and diabetes.

But instead of scouring for associations between people’s illnesses and features of their genomes, they would carry out a vast statistical analysis comparing the DNA of hundreds of thousands of people with information about their sexual behavior.

It’s already well known that being gay is partly genetic—as in all other behaviors, genes play a role. Yet earlier attempts to identify specific genes involved were, by and large, unsuccessful. That’s mainly because there wasn’t enough genetic data available. The new study is about 10 times larger than any previous effort.

“With these large sample sizes, we are finally discovering things we can actually kind of count on being true,” says Michael Bailey, a psychologist at Northwestern University who studies sexuality.

The search was two-pronged. First, the team used DNA data on more than 300,000 heterosexuals who had disclosed in a survey how many sex partners they’d had. Then, to find genes linked to what the researchers call “non-heterosexual behavior,” the team also identified about 28,000 people who had answered yes to the following survey question: “Have you ever had sexual intercourse with someone of the same sex?”

According to a presentation by team member Robbee Wedow of the University of Colorado in June, the researchers located four positions in men’s genomes that were statistically correlated with their ever having had gay sex, and about 40 correlated with whether heterosexuals had had more or fewer sex partners.

“This is not saying that someone is going to be heterosexual or not—it’s really saying there is going to be a slightly higher or a slightly lower chance,” Benjamin Neale, a geneticist at the Board Institute and one of the study’s leaders, said during MIT Technology Review’s Em Tech conference in September.

When it comes to explaining who is gay, though, Bailey says the study is “not ideal.” That’s because it relies on people’s self-reported sexual history. This may be too broad, says Bailey: the researchers may have categorized people willing to experiment sexually along with those who consider themselves gay.

According to Wedow’s presentation, the team had less success finding genetic links among women who’d had sex with women. That could mean they need a still larger number of volunteers, or it could reflect the failure of the study’s design to capture the nuances of people’s sexual behavior.

Nevertheless, the researchers used the results to address the question of why homosexuality is relatively common. One possible explanation for why it is, they say, is that the same genetic factors also give a reproductive advantage to straight people who have them.

According to an abstract the team submitted to the American Society for Human Genetics, whose annual meeting is under way this week in San Diego, the DNA signals linked to gay sexual experiences also appeared more often in straight men who had a large number of sex partners. The team also notes that straight men with the gay-linked variants were, on average, judged more “physically attractive” than others (the researchers decline to say who did the judging). This, the scientists conclude, could mean that these variants also “confer a mating advantage to heterosexual carriers.”

Such trade-offs are a fact of evolution. For instance, gene variants that can cause sickle-cell anemia also lend protection against malaria. The resulting balance means the sickle-cell gene doesn’t die out. The researchers say their new findings about non-heterosexual behavior, though not conclusive, are consistent with such a Darwinian balancing act.

The mystery is solved!

The chief question is: if homosexuals don’t have children, why does the gay gene persist?

And it has a very intriguing answer:

The “gay” gene persists, because, according to this latest, massive study, it is not really a “gay” gene, at all, but a “promiscuous” gene.

Nature, who is always the boss, needs insurance that a least some portion of the population will actively and aggressively breed—and in heterosexuals, that’s just what these genes produce.

But since over-breeding is a danger, too, and too much aggression (promiscuous behavior) in a population is a also danger, nature siphons off a certain amount of these genes—they perish in the homosexual, who is bred not to breed.

Homosexuality is where aggressive genes go to die.

Are homosexuals aggressive?

Most people know the “soft” homosexual is a myth—homosexuals are often unsentimental, sarcastic, and “manly,” and drag queens are often tough as nails; the homosexual aches to be softer—and that’s precisely why they want to dress up as women.

Nature is cruel—she has ideas (articulated by the cunning and complexity of genetics) for the good of the whole—so results for the individual are often not ideal.

As the article so clearly puts it:

One possible explanation for why [homosexuality is relatively common] they say, is that the same genetic factors also give a reproductive advantage to straight people who have them.

According to an abstract the team submitted to the American Society for Human Genetics, whose annual meeting is under way this week in San Diego, the DNA signals linked to gay sexual experiences also appeared more often in straight men who had a large number of sex partners. The team also notes that straight men with the gay-linked variants were, on average, judged more “physically attractive” than others (the researchers decline to say who did the judging). This, the scientists conclude, could mean that these variants also “confer a mating advantage to heterosexual carriers.”

Such trade-offs are a fact of evolution. For instance, gene variants that can cause sickle-cell anemia also lend protection against malaria. The resulting balance means the sickle-cell gene doesn’t die out. The researchers say their new findings about non-heterosexual behavior, though not conclusive, are consistent with such a Darwinian balancing act.

We talked about the bi-part aspect of Valente’s memoir: Anna Karenina v. Judith Butler, the lay person’s feelings about sexual orientation v. the science of sexual orientation.  And isn’t that sort of what the science says? Genetics tells us, in fact, that gay and straight are mysteriously mixed.

Genetics is more complex than we know, and that’s why there is no simple “gay gene;” genetics works more like a sentence—“I came out to T as a nonbinary after we’d been married for a year,” in which “nonbinary” and “married,” two opposites, exist together in the genetic strand.  The individual—in this case Joanna Valente—is riven by contradictions, agendas and considerations of which she is hardly aware.

Nature and its genetic schemes feature trillions of hits and trillions of misses—and Nature is always attempting to regulate the ratio of hits to misses—too many hits is bad and too many misses is bad; Nature is ruthless when it comes to the hits and misses—scientists study genes looking for both behaviors and diseases, for the good and the bad, for the hits and the misses, and scientists often find genes working against each other in paradoxical tandem.

Paradox seems to be the name of the game.  Look at this passage:

The hunt for sexual orientation genes—which wades into the polarizing question of whether people are born gay or become so—is part of a boom in genomics research that aims to unveil how genes shape behavior, not just diseases.

Powering the new social genetics are huge databases, including the British government-funded UK Biobank and the DNA of millions of customers collected by 23andMe, a consumer gene testing company. Scientists have begun using this mass of data to successfully probe the genetic basis of a surprising range of behaviors, from smoking to insomnia, intelligence, marijuana use, and even time spent watching television.

The research is at its most sensitive when it touches on sexual orientation. Jeffrey Reid, who is head of genome informatics at Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, and who is gay, says he is concerned about how such discoveries are discussed in the press. That could have an outsize impact on already vulnerable people, he says.

“Supposedly ‘clear evidence’ of a genetic basis for homosexuality may lead a parent to deem their gay son irrevocably broken and eject him from their life,” Reid says. “Alternatively, maybe some evidence of a genetic basis of homosexuality may lead a parent to embrace their child as God made them, or lead someone struggling out of darkness and into self-acceptance.”

How non-scientists talk about the science impacts the science.

Scientists are acutely aware how a genetic discovery can be devoured by real-life non-scientific behavior.

The science of love and feelings will be swamped by those same love and feelings as they play out and actually exist.

When it comes to love and the nonbinary, science and fiction (poetry) are the same.

And here is where the “unreliable narrator, mentioned earlier in this essay, inserts itself into the scientific study:

“When it comes to explaining who is gay, though, Bailey says the study is “not ideal.” That’s because it relies on people’s self-reported sexual history”

A child is the parents’ genes in action, but where there is no proof of the binary, where the reality is nonbinary, we are always dealing with the unreliable.

Writers like Valente, and this is why they are writers, live in that ambiguous place where proof of love is impossible. Writers, even confessional writers, tend to thrive, silently, in ambiguity. We see this most clearly when the nonbinary Valente is confronted by her husband’s aggressive and binary-crazed lover. Note how the nonbinary Valente cannot speak in the face of her binary rival, who comes looking for precise “timeline” relationship information:

When I met R, T’s new girlfriend over dinner, I fumbled with my umbrella as she introduced herself and felt the metal dig into my finger—felt the irony of this new cut as I saw them together. She was walking arm in arm with T, both of them giggling. I immediately felt like Ursula, old and unattractive and outdated.

The three of us sat down and awkwardly looked at our menus, made small talk for what seemed like an eternity about her move from Australia, what she wants for her career, that time a snake broke her arm. She was light, like a pale lavender crystallizing into something bright. Except that lightness seemed to miss the point, there was something off, as if it wasn’t light I was seeing at all, but something else.

As I sipped my soda, slowly, trying to seem calm and collected, I wanted to tell her the only reason he asked me to meet her was because they got into a fight over dinner where he called her by my name. He asked me over lunch a few weeks before to “do him a favor” and meet her to quell “insecurities.” When I mentioned it sounded like she didn’t trust him or trust that he was over me, he added

“She does trust me, but I think meeting you would just help.” Why did it feel like everyone was missing the point but me?

I didn’t know what to say, and most of all, I didn’t want to ruin his relationship. If it didn’t work, I didn’t want to be the one at fault, the vindictive ex trying to destroy everything. I didn’t want to be Ursula. I wanted to be the cool ex. I wanted us all to get along. How naive. How foolish to put my own needs last—but also how typical of me.

“I’m sorry I have to ask you something awkward,” she said, all of a sudden.

“Go ahead…You can ask me anything,” I said, warmly, trying to be what everyone wanted me to be. Trying to be happy.

“Well, why did you two beak up? I just want to make sure our timelines are correct, you know, because men can be awful and I’ve been hurt before,” she said.

I wanted to scream. I wanted to tell her that I had been hurt, over and over and over by men. That I was hurt right now. Instead, I massaged my feelings into a softer batter.

“Well, we faded into friendship, basically. It’s hard to say when it happened, we had been together for five years from a young age. I think sex in general has been hard for me, because I was sexually assaulted only two years before we met. I was still dealing with that trauma. And I think, because of all of those things, it lead us to where we are today. We didn’t have a big fight or a falling out. We obviously don’t hate each other. I still love him, as a friend,” I added, looking at him as I finished.

He nodded, then turned to her.

“Oh, I’m so sorry to hear that. Thank you for telling me that, for being so honest,” she said.

She looked down at the table momentarily. Maybe she felt ashamed for asking me. Maybe she didn’t know what to say. I put my hands in my lap to prevent them from shaking. The rest of the conversation reverted back to small talk until she went to the bathroom and he asked if I wanted to split the check with him. I stared at him, feeling my eyebrows lift. It’s not that I didn’t want to pay for my own meal, but I also didn’t want to pay for a meal I didn’t want to be at—that was a favor to him.

When she came back from the bathroom, he put his card on the bill and gave it to the waiter. I held back a smile. Everyone’s performance was convincing.

It was still raining as I got off the subway and walked home, put Miles Davis on repeat until I didn’t even notice the sounds, didn’t even hear what was playing.

 

******

 

 

 

 

THE ONLY FLAW

Image result for city scene walking dogs in impressionist painting

For Milo

The only flaw is death, and this flaw

(Remember!) Is invisible. My dog has a perfect paw and jaw and claw,

Blonde coat, muscles, and human eyes;

Every moment, his nose smells a subtle surprise,

And he has emotions just like me;

When I come home: a fountain of grateful, happy alacrity.

The only flaw is death, and death’s flaw

Has one cure: birth. Birth, the hero; death, the law.

They fixed Milo today. Looking in his eyes, I say, “give me your paw.”

He gives me his paw. The only flaw is death, and this flaw

Gives me everything: sleep, fear, sorrow, surprise, affection, awe.

 

 

 

SINCE EVERYTHING IS CERTAIN

Image result for dark curtain in renaissance painting

Since everything is certain

And I manifest, in comity, certainty,

Everything is certain to be uncertain around here.

The winds of uncertainty are blowing through the woodlands of weir.

Since everything is certain,

Your nakedness for me the highest feast,

Steps will be taken to make that the least

Thing on your mind. And if I say death

Is my certain fear, you’ll say with your tender breath,

“I welcome it.” You won’t fear death.

Since I avoid what is ugly and disgusting,

You will then find ugliness more trusting.

You are certain to find

Whatever is different in my mind.

Then it’s certain I will change from beauty

To the more honest nudity

Of art and opinion and fashion.

But doubt will enter you. I will find your passion

Changing. Your certain volatility

Is my poem, my smile, my ability

To say goodbye to you; certainly

You didn’t think your dark curtain,

Your acts, would make me uncertain?

I will meet you on either side.

Since everything is certain.

 

THE MORE LOVING ONE

Image result for wh auden

When he was doing something he was thinking about something else.

If you are not paying attention, you’ll get run over by a car

And no philosophy will save you.

Pity yourself. This is what you are,

A scrap which the cook at supper gave you,

The cook, the God of somebody else.

Conqueror or poet, you live in a limited box,

No better than Louisa, the typist,

In her room; no better than Jonathan who fixes the locks.

Auden, the lazy, was finally the best,

Too lazy to be a genius through and through.

He would wake, smoke, write a poem, rest;

It’s quiet. Don’t disturb him. I’m warning you.

 

UNABLE TO LOVE AND LOVE

Image result for rose in renaissance painting

Unable to love and love, you loved like mad

Someone who couldn’t help but hate all the hatred you had.

I realize now why I had to get away from you.

Every time you loved me, you had to hate me, too.

Unable to love and love, you soon hated one

You loved, because love meant you couldn’t have any fun.

You were like Diane Downs who loved a married man

Who didn’t like children. So she bought a gun

And shot her three children, with no remorse.

Love was the reason she loved abortion and divorce,

Love was the reason she drove to the hospital slow

And shot herself in the arm so maybe people wouldn’t know

That she did it, though she laughed and only talked about herself

Afterwards. You love, but it means you have to hate someone else.

Unable to love and love, you loved me like no one I’ve ever seen.

For the rose, perhaps. As long as there wasn’t any green.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I DON’T KNOW WHAT I SAID

Image result for a bay in renaissance painting

I don’t know what I said!
Or why I said what I did!
Maybe, as a poet, I’m mad
To say what should be hid.
These counterfeit passports will get
My passion into every country yet;
And when you let my poetry stay,
Your dry decency will be a bay.
Logic becomes wise beyond its years,
The beautiful laundry is wet with tears,
Hidden love speaks out, without trying.
My words are flying, flying,
Into places flesh would enter
With force, or crass banter.
Do you think I’m wrong
To spread out my song?
Should we just let the simpleton honestly tell
How she is making him feel unwell?
For the simpletons are desperately trying,
And failing. They don’t know it’s because
Only the words of poets please love.

 

SAY GOODBYE TO YOUR HEROES

Related image

Say goodbye to your heroes,

Though they are still heroes, say

Goodbye to them. Life changes every day.

A day changes your life and a life changes your eye.

Say goodbye, say goodbye.

Say goodbye to your body, defended

By other bodies, with motives false, or true.

Your body has been changing. It’s no longer a hero to you.

The hero will always be a hero, your body

Made bodies do thoughtful things—

Making love, decorating, assassinating kings.

Say goodbye to Shakespeare. Desire

In Shakespeare’s day was a fire,

But modern cycles, as Andy Warhol came to know,

Has made desire a covering of snow.

The statues of monarchs are not feared any more.

No paths of beaten gold lead to the golden shore.

Gods no longer expect to receive

Stone phalluses, tokens; the gods don’t believe

In planets, bottles of tears, obedience, whether we joy or grieve.

On the vulgar internet, the women come and go.

What the liberal arts developed, is moving much too slow.

The influential believe in indiscriminate sex,

The powerless ponder how much they love their ex.

Say goodbye, say goodbye.

There’s a cake and a video in your eye.

You wept for a hero yesterday,

But no one is heroic now.

Today you weep alone.

Technology gave you a stone.

No one sees you, even though they can, now.

How is it we know less, now that we know how?

Where are the heroes? There are none.

In Chemistry they teach us there is hydrogen in the sun.

You finally got over poetry. You write it, alone.

The worm sits on the elephantine throne.

 

 

 

 

 

THE MORBID MISANTHROPES ARE WISE

 

Image result for proud fool in renaissance painting

The morbid misanthropes are wise.

They are selfish like you,

But unlike you, they don’t wear a disguise.

The one who is bought is the one who buys.

You are garrulous and reach out

To peers, who never succumb to doubt.

They will buy your book if you buy theirs.

The value of the book? Who cares?

You buy their book if they buy yours.

Look at these naive, gullible, affectionate, whores.

The morbid misanthrope will never be

Like that. From the very beginning the misanthrope says, “No.

I don’t really like you. I have to go.”

You wish sometimes you were like that, too.

You are. Enthusiastic, disguised. But that is you.

 

THE POETRY, TO BE POETRY, HAD TO BE OUTRAGEOUS

Image result for small town main street in black and white photo

“The row of stores along Main Street was unchangingly grey.” —Shirley Jackson

The poetry, to be poetry, had to be outrageous,

Which is to say, unscientific. You cannot say

Everything you need to say about Main Street. Just say it’s grey.

You really hate Main Street; this is why you say this.

To stand up for the eccentric individual is to be

A poet. Hating is the best way of loving in poetry.

Knowing you will die? This will make you hate death,

And your poem, immortal in someone else’s breath,

Your revenge, but only if you hate death so well,

That its opposite, life, won’t let you down,

Because if life hollers and sings and claps its hands like a clown—

Then ragged life is now the thing you hate.

The slender woman in black who makes you wait

Is the poet you want. Her name, mostly vowels. Her book, outrageous:

No pagination; and the death of her name the theme of its pages.

 

 

 

LOVE MISSES

Image result for girl holding a dove renaissance painting

When sorrow turns to anger, thought fades away.

I always thought I loved you. But not today.

Simple physical love is the highest form of love;

Fret and worry added, is love we define as love.

Insult—the source of pain—drives love away.

Love has no insult. But you insulted me today.

Afraid to lose you, my love chose to be kind.

My heart chose to love. Love opened my mind.

Physical love is heaven; there is nothing bad

About carnality, but socially, comparison is sad

When desire, measured by hot embraces per week,

Shames us, whether we speak or don’t speak.

Our desires were slightly unequal. This insulted me.

Love dreams its love mathematically.

What you remember loving, you tried to love that day.

Your memory was off. So love faded away.

 

 

 

 

I ONLY WANTED TWO

Related image

When I loved you, Rosalinda,

I loved the vowels of your name.

The specifics I sought

Were, in the wind, the same.

A storm, the difference,

From what happened before.

A storm inhibited by the mountainous shore,

Where I would go bathing,

The sunset and the sand hardly worth saving,

For what is it about sunsets and sand,

Beyond peace, Rosalinda, one needs to understand?

Your arms were the first thing

Which made my senses sting.

I looked up and down them.

I loved the slight down on them.

I loved the wrists and the skin.

Your arms were my entrance to sin.

Arms have to be a certain way,

In the proportion to the body,

In the things they do by the side,

And they cannot be hairy or spotty;

No extraordinary poet who loved or cried

Could understand. Rosalinda, I lied

About my love for arms to everyone but you.

They desired a thousand things. I fell in love with two.

 

 

 

THE CHAMPIONSHIP

Image result for bacchus in renaissance painting

Logic leads us astray. There are those who will browbeat you with logic, the most patronizing bullying types, who believe that they, unlike you, are playing by the rules. Their authority lies in mathematics, but the mathematical formula always applies narrowly and not universally.  Take the most famous piece of logic. A tree cannot be both a tree, and not a tree, at the same time. The proof of this formula cannot be proven except by evidence of the senses. The “logic” of something never proves anything—not even its own “logic.”

As we come to the end of Scarriet’s ’19 Poetry March Madness, we are sadly confronted with the axiom that one cannot both lose and not lose a sports contest. The Muse of Mathematics, as she often does in poetry, specifies a window of time, (a partial clock) in which to compare two sums, measurable ticks (points) on an otherwise unmoving clock.

Two partial and variable clocks plus one partial and constant clock. This defines the harmonic pleasure of sports, and might be said to resemble the Surprise Symphony of Hayden. It is a never-ending source of delight. Time is surprised while there is still time.

The Final Four this year consists of small windows into poems—this was the format of the competition—poems which are not poems, imploding the very logic which some hold dear.

There is no set limit on these poems which are not poems—they are the “size” of the universe which hides from our senses in the vastness of the word, “infinite,” a mathematical term no better equipped to describe the universe as a poem, or a poem which is not a poem—for we know the Big Bang ran its course when the universe first sprang into existence—but how was it decided how large the universe would be? There was no “large” before it existed—no “size” for it to exist in as it made its “size” felt.

Two contestants who reached the Final Four, Daipayan Nair and Sushmita Gupta, describe the totality of life from a subjective perspective; we believe there is nothing else to describe the drama of human existence after reading these two capsules:

I RUN,RUN, RUN AND RUN/STILL I DON’T REACH MY BIRTH/DON’T CROSS MY DEATH —Daipayan Nair

EVERYTHING HURTS/EVEN THAT/WHICH SEEMS LIKE LOVE. —Sushmita Gupta

Only a majestic rhythm can make the majestic invoking of life, in a sweeping manner, successful.

Not a wasted word or syllable is allowed.

The other two Final Four contestants came here in a different manner from the other two—they both haunt us below the moon, below, below, in the quotidian, where dreams are intimate and almost infinitely small:

SURE, IT WAS A DREAM, BUT EVEN SO/YOU PUT DOWN THE PHONE SO SOUNDLESSLY —Jennifer Barber

THE SHAVER MISSING, YOUR GREEDY LAPTOP: GONE TOO, HIDING YOU —Divya Guha

These euphonious masterpieces have eccentric rhythms—I could dreamily listen to them all day, as if they were 1960s psychedelic rock—Sgt Peppers or Dark Side of the Moon, or pieces by Satie or Debussy.

In the profound atmosphere of reaching the end of a long and arduous tournament, one which began with 64 contestants, the advantage will go to the universal and the majestic.

Therefore, Daipayan Nair and Sushmita Gupta win their Final Four contests, and advance to the Championship Game!

THE CHAMPIONSHIP GAME

DAIPAYAN NAIR V. SUSHMITA GUPTA

THE WINNER OF THE ’19 SCARRIET POETRY MARCH MADNESS TOURNAMENT IS:

EVERYTHING HURTS/EVEN THAT/WHICH SEEMS LIKE LOVE

Sixty-four flowers, symbolizing the 64 contestants, are laid before the feet of the winner at center stage.

Thank you to all.

 

 

 

%d bloggers like this: