SELF PORTRAIT AS ALIVE AND NOT DEAD
I think that feeling happy is akin to feeling briskly alive,
aware and cognizant of your hands, the gravity of
your body, the sounds of each singular thought that
I have paired with some kind of movement. There is
rain on the horizons. There are lines from here back
to where I am, a circular motion that leads me back
to myself. That isn’t a new notion. To discover oneself
against the grinding uneasiness of life. You are eating
something that I find disgusting. But I let you eat it.
I whisk Time in a large Pyrex bowl where it fluffs like
eggs, a meringue, tart & delicate. When I wake in the
morning, I call you sunshine. You are a new brilliance.
I get too drunk & someone I barely know tells me a
story wherein I am the hero, normal, valiant, smiling.
There are many apples. There are rain clouds that
hang but do not burst. Every sound hurdles towards me
in a gracious manner: I love you I love you I love you
To sup on ice cold martinis, like babies,
like little village people on the
prowl of alleviating wanton feelings—
To want more than your two hands can hold.
A white queer, wearing one of those large
locked chains says that conversation is going
nowhere—to us as we discuss the dumb
fallacy of gender. The moon glides
between the clouds,
hanging softly like earrings on the ear,
low & silver. I don’t believe you when
you when tell me no one dies by falling into
one of those grates at the edge of bars. I say
I’m a highly anxious person. & I touch my
heart. Everything is always looming
over me. Now, I resolved to just live in it.
Because I don’t deserve much more than
I have been given. Even if it all drowns
me, I’ll pretend the water is gin & the
moon will be the twist.
I’ve been made to lick my wounds. I can’t find what animal I am.
Am I an animal? See, where the thing differs is that
I have no hair on my head. No fur to caution against the cold wind.
Animals love their mothers—that is the same. I perch atop my bed
like a small bird. Or a bird of prey. I killed a mouse in my room
once. See, I do love death. I sing when the moon is full. There is a
lack of children as I gave them away. See, I have no feeling for
material things. I count the wolves, brethren. One. Two. A mole
hides and sometimes I do that too.
But look at the havoc god has placed in between my body and yours.
Isn’t it a blessing? Not to be hungry, venomous,
for something more? Ha! I don’t understand
that blessing. I want more. Ravenous, raven-like,
like a beast with an empty belly.
But that’s not nice.
See, writing a poem about being
an animal and being Black is hard.
The poem’s been written before
GO TO YOUR BOSOM: KNOCK THERE, AND ASK YOUR HEART WHAT IT DOTH KNOW.
The shape of what you know is, say, a circle. & what you don’t know is a triangle.
You could see how they wouldn’t necessarily fit together.
I am sweating on the train home carrying a vampire costume that I paid
too much money for.
I keep thinking some things are behind me.
Metaphorically, but also literally. The train is moving forward.
Yesterday, I felt an acute sense of sorrow mixed with contentment.
Why do I feel lost when I’ve been found?
The great sorrow of this is THIS I S the way
things should be.
Sometimes I dream of things that end up being real.
So maybe I’ve known these things all along.
Sometimes we are made to listen.
To keep the ear wide in anticipation
of great new learning.
—I’m meant to put the knowing around what I do not.
travis tate (they/them) is a queer playwright, poet, and performer living in Brooklyn. Their poems have been published in Southern Humanities Review, Vassar Review, The Boiler, among other publications. Their first collection of poetry, Maiden, was published in June 2020 by Vegetarian Alcoholic Press. They were a fellow in the Liberation Theatre Company’s Playwriting Residency and currently are in Theatre East’s Writers Group. Their plays have been produced by Dorset Theatre Festival, Victory Gardens, Theatre East and Breaking The Binary Festival. They earned their MFA in playwriting and poetry from Michener Center for Writers at the University of Texas at Austin. Find out more information at travisltate.com