Jay Besemer


this critical cycle                     years spent underground
like a locust nymph weathering damage above
sitting out the battle because a larger struggle is yet to
come you see how things pass

he says       there is no justifiable war in the age of nuclear
so underground is where we stay
because war is made everywhere & there is no place
for us to live

the sound of the drones & planes is too much even under the 
earth we wait to be changed


first that business with the night       & the startle reflex
times stranded among no one you know all
those strangers eyeing you

then her memory loss & your blast of recollection    &
collation temporally unmoored like a hero
whose dream determines the next experience

trains rumble everywhere       in waking or in sleep   
& the dream becomes the kind with a train in it &
the odor of rotting flesh

she doesn’t remember

there was a window                        it led to the sky          but
there was nothing around it there was a door open
onto a path through the woods but she never cared
for the forest

& these places fade       the light around them turns to metal
the metal flakes in oxidized ruin wind rises what
do you find beneath it
some tiny bones              & a playbill

Jay Besemer is the author of the poetry collections Theories of Performance (The Lettered Streets Press, forthcoming 2019), The Ways of the Monster (KIN(D) Texts and Projects/The Operating System, 2018), Crybaby City (Spuyten Duyvil, 2017), Chelate (Brooklyn Arts Press, 2016) and Telephone (Brooklyn Arts Press, 2013). He was a finalist for the 2017 Publishing Triangle Award for Trans and Gender-Variant Literature. Find him online at www.jaybesemer.net and on Twitter @divinetailor.

Speculative genres of writing, film and television have always suggested the possibility of a future for me—something that, as a young chronically ill trans person growing up in the 70s & 80s, I could never take for granted. These poems come from a lifelong saturation by and of alternate worlds, selves, and ideas. They combine the current moment of “perpetual war”—and the need to respond to constantly increased threats to trans lives/bodies—with the complementary search for solace and care.