So many amazing poems here around experiences of gender identity and race. Elegant syntax and introspective atmosphere. The series of “Once” poems and “The Child Formerly Known As ____” stand out. And then there’s the sequence of “Theory of Motion” poems, starting with this one:
Essay on the Theory of Motion
You remember reading a poem about a boy driving his grandmother to the library across town. Someone said that the car is a perfect device for giving a poem the feeling of motion, though you think the two must end up back at the grandmother’s house eventually, must walk hallways lined with family ghosts, all smiling through the window of a photograph & is that motion, really? This tendency to cross & recross the small terms of our own lives?
They expect me to talk about Newton. Fine. An object at rest stays at rest. An object in motion stays in motion. Friction has many names — it’s no surprise that when the train stops, so do you.
What else is true? You beg each thing to answer. You make mouths for the answer to crawl through. You bite the inside of your cheek. You paint the world red all the way through.
I’m only kidding. You can’t expect everything to speak your language. To use these new mouths for what you imagine mouths are for. After all, you make a mouth on your upper thigh, the doctor calls it a wound, your dumb hands at work again. You can’t get your body to tell the secret. Can’t get it to tell you anything at all.
Anyway, you’ve begun to suspect that theory is less movement toward truth & more movement through a series of puns.
For example, a queer theorist — you don’t know who, but imagine their white spectacled face ﬂoating above a soft butch sweater — once wrote that they feel most at home in airports, because there everyone is in transition.
(Let’s get the obvious out of the way — you were a girl & then you weren’t. You moved into a boy & the girl moved into misplaced language, into photographs.)
Get it? Gender is a country, a ﬁeld of signifying roses you can walk through, or wear tucked behind your ear.
Eventually the ﬂower wilts & you can pick another, or burn the ﬁeld, or turn & run back across the tracks.
It seems the paperback may be out of print, but Button Poetry sells an e-book version.