Read This Year's Best Lesbian Poetry

By Ana Božičević

Originally published on Advocate.com June 26 2014 5:00 AM ET

Ana Božičević's second book of poetry, Rise in the Fall, just won the Lambda Literary Award for Best Lesbian Poetry. Also the author of 2010 Lammy finalist Stars of the Night Commute and co-editor (with Zelijko Mitic) of The Day Lady Gaga Died: An Anthology of Newer New York Poets (2011), Božičević currently studies poetics, makes films, and teaches writing at the City University of New York.

Božičević immigrated from Croatia to New York City in 1997, and has since garnered much acclaim for an irreverent poetic style that has been called "rambunctious and charismatic" (poet Anne Waldman) and "brillianty unbalanced" (poet Eileen Myles). She has received a PEN/American Center/NYSCA grant for translation, a writing fellowship from Kingsborough Community College, and been given the "40 Under 40: The Future of Feminism" award by the Feminist Press.

After winning this latest honor bestowed by the authors and editors who make up Lambda Literary's voting members, Božičević agreed to provide The Advocate with an exclusive excerpt from Rise in the Fall. Read it below.


Rise in the Fall

It’s spring in Manhattan, but everyone’s wearing
summer dresses, through that bit of cold
that death. At the table next to mine, the young Brit and the witch

brainstorm about holding
enormous healings. At this point I’d settle for you

just trembling next to me. Don’t you know how to do that anymore?
Do you know how unhappy one is
who wants a ghost for a horse

when told that only the living can marry the living?
This poem’s boring. I dreamed some lesbian wrote a really good poem
called Pinko and

I woke up to a straight straight world.
Let’s sit here in the café for now. We’ll rise up

next fall, when they can no longer deport me.
And at the end of our revolution…It’s real hard to say what I’m seeing

I see, a planet?
the kind of green I can’t even describe
I’m falling asleep. I see

Pinko

They found me sleeping
on the tallest wave
blanket and all. They said my name and
down I wept—
next I stood on the sand and
the love pulled back
I could see the sea floor
all those hinges in the sand-grass
needed tongue-grease to work. I said Come back
and it came back in, like it forgave me


That’s all. Pinko was not even that good but
I can still change everything
about it.

Change everything.
 
War on a Lunchbreak

What’s war? You’re not able to find
the other dark pearl earring, and you don’t really care, except:
that earring’s your brother. He’s dead,
and there was only one, you’ll never see him again.
What’s war?

Eternal countrylessness.
Lady poets writing about cock,
not thinking about gender. My friends married in Vegas
to good-ol’-boys or hipster drummers, just ‘cos they can, or
when I contemplate
starving myself
so I’d be “the bomb,” or. I’m sorry
I keep tossing & turning. My livelihood here

depends on people who’ve never tasted
war, and act offended when one leaves work
on time. Not that I ever lay hiding

dying in a ditch, but if I had, I think that I’d
know much about dry grass, the incredible value of it:
simply to see the stalks
move would be enough.

I’d like to have time to type this,
but all day long they’re looking over my shoulder.
I do

feel sorry for them. What’s it like
to care so much? Talk morning and night
to a proctor-god, tidy your toy box before bed:
to get degrees, have interests—
is that the anti-war?

Is that why I can’t even read? I know there’s war all around me,
and inside there’s war: who died, who cheated,
when will she look at me like that,
what language is this, I hope no-one breaks in and rapes us.
I never see sunlight.

The sun in the yard is so
contentless, it almost heals.

It is a series of chambers
where I’m shown
what I do have: weight.
Electricity. A sense of balance. Can that be enough?
I don’t know how to end this:

a fadeout on the grass? A copout.
Something a sexy girl poet would say, like
“The terrorists have won, kiss me awake”—

encore, cock your boot, show us your boobs!
I’m so fucking tired of the sound of “sexy”

of me being sexy, muse-body
with ship-launch face:

I can’t read because I’m dying, that’s the truth,
I’d rather take in this sunlight like a dog.
You theorize your own way out of this paper bag.
What’s

war? This:
I feel the sunlight but I keep asking why.
 

Read more of Božičević's poetry on the following page. >>> 
Children’s Lit

I saw a lake
make it into your dream. It was weeping all along the bedpost.
I never seen a lake act like that

and I saw a bumblebee fall from his
home in the rafters
the hole in his laughter
done him in. Poor that bee.

I’m writing in some kind of vernacular
that’s not even my own, just to endear myself to you
am I not endearing?

I’m a fat married girl
and a mushroom cloud
a downright doom boutonniere

blooms behind me all over the lake in your dream but
the bees’ bodies keep filtering it out, as well as
the presence of my parents

and my sister’s bride’s parents

isn’t it nice how everyone’s married and fat?
I love big cars. I fucking love to stuff them up my cunt.

I feel so much tenderness for you
as you sleep…

 

--

Excerpted from Rise in the Fall by Ana Božičević with permission of the author and publisher. Copyright 2013. Published by Birds LLC.

Contributor: 
Mitch Kellaway
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