The Best Poets: Hear From Lambda's Nominees
BY Daniel Reynolds
March 31 2014 7:31 AM ET
Poem by Adele Hampton from Flicker and Spark: A Contemporary Queer Anthology of Spoken Word and Poetry, edited by Brittany K. Fonte and Regie Cabico
You told me if I spit out my gum on the ground outside I would be a murderer. But since I didn’t want the title of baby bird slayer attached to my last name, I asked you for a piece of paper. You pulled a CVS receipt from your backpack and I spit my gum out in the evidence of your purchase of O.B. tampons.
Now, how you use an O.B. tampon is something that confuses the hell out of me, but I was too afraid to ask for instructions because the topic of female hygiene makes me a little uncomfortable.
Just like how this attraction makes me want to open my ribcage and let you settle inside my chest regardless of how much it aches to set my bones by the wayside.
Your beginning was ferocious. Back-handed me across the face within ten minutes of our first conversation; I wanted to know all the places you’ve called home. Your quiet thoughts thundered so loud when they sifted through my body that sometimes I wish my marrow had earplugs.
But I’ve realized my bones can sometimes be too brittle for your amplified crashing against my skin, and I’m afraid I’m not strong enough to hold steady through your floods.
So I am trying to stand two feet, two hands in front of you with a windmill heart painting a Dutch sky because I want to take you there some day. Show you where my roots started to form hair triggers; peel back my skin, love, and you’ll see I’ve been wrapping my heart in Kevlar. I’ve never been called delicate, so do not tip toe around my mines.
I’m not asking you to drape your ribcage across my chairs, only that you leave enough room in between your bones and your blood for the possibility of miracles.
I would have cradled your fears in my belly and filled your bones with stardust confidence, because that’s how much hope I saw in your fingertips. I would have braced your fleeting eyes and told God to hold steadfast the levies because I’ve been running head first into mortared bricks for the glory of open hearts.
But now, I want you to talk to me about loneliness, love. I want you to tell me tall tales about hearts that can’t remember how to breathe through sawdust forests or lungs that have forgotten how to pump red blood cells into clouds because I’m starting to lose track of how many times I’ve been bent under this weight and not broken.
I’m not elastic, love. Keep in mind that I have the ability to snap, buckle. I can become willowed and will forget how delicious your name tastes even though my tongue will always remember how to form the syllables.
I refuse to call myself empty even though you’ve left me scattered bone dust for the stars to sweep under carpets. I will not label my heart vacant or my stacked marrow bowed just yet. So show me how to walk these streets upright, knowing I’m not fit enough to chase after the ground.
These are not easy words gasping for air between the gaps of my teeth because I never wanted to write this poem again.
So I preach to you caution from the pulpit because I know how good I am at this pen to paper, feet to pavement. Know that I’m not one to repeat myself. So please open your beating drum heart to my gospel. I will walk away from your smile and feel good about not looking back.
Now the least you could do is pretend you know how to pray.
Excerpted from Flicker and Spark: A Contemporary Queer Anthology of Spoken Word and Poetry with permission from editors Brittany K. Fonte and Regie Cabico. Copyright 2013. Published by Lowbrow Press.
Flicker and Spark: A Contemporary Queer Anthology of Spoken Word and Poetry is the quintessential international and intergenerational spoken word and page poetry handbook. Published by a straight man (Lowbrow Press) in support of his 13-year-old-daughter's coming out, this collection features what others have not: both performance and page poetry, U.S., U.K. and Canadian poets, LGBT writing icons like Eileen Myles, Maureen Seaton, Gerry Potter and Bill Bissett, as well as new word stars like Sophia Walker (2013 BBC Slam Champ), Sam Sax, and July Westhale (Nominee for AWP Intro Award). This book embraces all sexual orientations and gender identities, as well as cultural rituals and historic LGBT moments on two continents. This collection is a contemporary guide to living LGBT poets who are making fabulous and important impacts on our community around the globe.
Brittany K. Fonte holds an MFA in Creative Writing, Fiction. She is the author of three books, in addition to being the co-editor of Flicker and Spark: Buddha in My Belly (Poetry/ Hopewell Publications), Fighting Gravity (Young Adult/ QueerTeen Press), and, just out in 2014, A.K.A. Charming (Fiction/ JMS Books). She teaches at the university level and is currently working on a Middle Grade novel about an adopted zombie with a single mom. Her goal is to one day be more banned than her hero, Judy Blume. She lives in Annapolis, MD, with her wife and two children.
Regie Cabico is the first queer and Asian poet to win top prizes in the 1993, 1994 and 1997 National Poetry Slams and has appeared on two seasons of HBO's Def Poetry Jam and NPR's Snap Judgement. His latest solo play, Godiva Dates & A One Night Stand premiered at the 2013 Capital Fringe Festival. He performs throughout the United Kingdom and North America. He produces and hosts Capturing Fire: An International Queer Poetry Slam and Festival and resides in Washington, DC.