A dream, one night:
Some demonic demiurge,
A skinless, noseless fiend
Casting a corporeal curse,
Imprisoning my self or soul
Or something in a floundering
Flesh-puppet for them to jolt,
Prod and plague, sending pangs
Of pain to penalise arbitrary
Indiscretions. His bluntness
Notwithstanding, Dream is right;
That is how it feels sometimes.
A memory, one of the first:
I stand in front of the mirror
And see my childlike self,
Buried in an embodied
Meat bag, face like a freak show,
Big-nosed, cross-eyed, pimple-faced,
Body like a barrow, bony and pale,
Clumsy and coarse, a mouth like
A sewer drain, spewing monotonously
And without end. I remember
First realising, despondently,
The uneasy correspondence.
Over the years, necessity bred
Resignation. I tried my best,
Tried to make this vessel mine.
Performed masculinity, which
Never suited me—alas, to escape
It is a quest that itself seems ill-fitted
And ill-fated— so I softened
Its crude edges, but never managed
Total comfort or mastery. This body,
Its responsiveness often reticent or obtuse,
As if held back by some laughably bad lag,
Still seen through the othering gaze,
It seems like some cosmic parody,
And yes, I know
This isn’t helping. Some science
Or sagecraft says mind is body
And body mind and any separation
Is just Neoplatonist self-indulgence.
I know. I know, but knowing
Is not living.
Then there’s this undignified display:
Self regarding self, the quotidian struggle.
For me, at all times, it is akin to an armed peace
Between the various bits of mind and body,
Always on guard, always silently seething
At this involuntary coexistence. Subtly foaming
Sneers come bubbling to the surface, waiting
For a battle cry, sudden like a flare above
No Man’s land—BLAST! Now
The lacerations come flying fast,
Bellowing like whizzbangs, goring
The mindscape into a blood-soaked mire
Of muddy recriminations—then quickly
As it came, a refreshing breeze rises
And all open hostilities cease without
Reconciliation or closure.
D.H. Lawrence said
Something along the lines of
The loveless reveal themselves
By searching for love, and so
Can never find it, only the loving
Find it easily and they do not
Even need to look.
To the loveless these words might
Sound like yet another reprimand
From culture’s romantic reinforcers;
The loveless are losers, sad, guilty
And contemptible at worst;
They have heard it all before.
It is plastered on every screen,
Like proverbs for the incurious.
Society says: look for love lest
You become the despised loner,
Only to condemn those who
Do, finding the search itself
Sufficient reason for scorn.
But who decided that loveless
Meant worthless? Who decided
That partnered life is the way
And anything else is worth
Only pity or derision?
We know who.
We know who wields
The dread of the lonely—
Unavoidable—and the shame
Of the celibate—insignificant—
As patriarchal tools to whip
The malleable into reactionary
Societal shame is useful
Only to those that seek
To do harm; to fashion it
Into a noose, a lash or a garotte,
So that they can bear their shame
By spreading misery around.
But there is no need
For shame. Virility is not
Virtue nor is fragility
Some sin. Shame
Is the mask of powerless
Rage, which leads to
The only truly pitiful state:
To live thinking love
Is some panacea, or else
Is nothing but the chemical
Cattle prod for reproduction;
To live thinking sex
Is worth and romance
Is possession; to live thinking
Family is a mere accident
Of birth and friendship simply
A means to an end.
To live like this is to hollow
Out each meaningful connection
Of its nourishing flesh and bin it,
To sit there munching on the flavourless
Rind, thinking its noxious
Hardness will make you stronger,
Even as it makes you sick.