Tender Bottoms, a Collection | The New Engagement

Tender Bottoms, a Collection

By Ryan Tracy

Our white blinds

 

are always in some position
are always shut or almost shut
are always open
   in some position

Our blinds are always opening
   and shutting in position

in white
in closing
in positioning the light
   above the bed

 

 

 

Two a.m.

 

He has a swallowtail butterfly in his mouth
He knows I’m here, he talks,
    undressing

Truth, somewhere between the cloaca
    and the cochlea
My head dampens pillows

I don’t want to kill him,
    and yet he lives

 

Soberly I drove us home
    from the wedding party
        where you had luck with the bartender
            and I stood next to the fire escape ladder
                watching dancers dance
                                                            dancerly
                                                                in circular ceremony,
                                                                    gathering the distances
                                                                        with expert limbs

They served
    a cocoa cake,
        wet raspberry sponge liqueur

                 Eleanor thought it was gross

At three a.m.
    you have a red-black butterfly on your tongue,
        sleep infecting what remains
            of sense

 

        and I had the car keys
           and your tongue and my ear
              in our bedroom
                talking after a wedding party

 

 

 

 

Reading Nella Larsen

 

 

 

I saw you in the restaurant, in the library, in the medic’s tent, sitting back with your pen, knowing all the bullshit that people serve, and writing down your infamy—a burden worth walking away from when it stopped being fun—when the flirtation with notoriety drew more than narcissi on a summer dress in Chicago—when people had forgotten how to read and everything just fell—literally.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All the serious problems I have summed up in one poem

 

I had decided to stay out of the latest Facebook debate, but in the end I couldn’t help myself. It seemed urgent and I was drinking cold coffee and ordering Seamless. I put a lot of energy into that post just to make sure that I’d done the work and to minimize the chance of being misread or attacked or called out for being racist or misogynistic or neoliberal or heteronormative or homonormative. I typed it on the screen and deleted it and retyped it and reworded it and deleted specific words and put them back and deleted them again. I thought about the world. I thought about other people. I thought about other points of view in relation to my own point of view and I typed it into the screen and made some final changes and reread it many times and it looked good to me and so I posted it. The buzzer rang and my delivery came. Not having to exchange money directly with the delivery person makes it feel like they’ve showed up with free food, and so I feel momentarily guilty about not giving her a cash tip even though I know I’ve already given her fifteen per cent through the app. She handed me the heavy feathery bag and we both smiled and bowed and nodded and she went on her way and I locked the door behind her. I sat down on the sofa and pulled out my food, setting the plastic and paper containers onto the glass surface of the coffee table. I turned on the television and started an episode of Buffy and paused it, because before I’d eaten a single piece of pad see ew, I checked my phone to see if there had been any response to my post. My stomach sank when I saw the little red seven. Losing my appetite for feedback, I closed the screen and aimed the remote control at the television even though I didn’t need to, even though I could have just blindly hit “OK” from the crevice between the sofa cushions where the blue tooth remote control had fallen when I sat down to eat.

 

 

 

 

Q and P

 

    are,

    it turns
    out,

the
initials

        of a pedophile

            serial

killer

          in a Joyce
                Carol
                Oates

        novel

As far as

 

    pet names
    go

we

            picked

    a winner

Signing

        our-
        selves

after

    the un-
    canny

                eponym,

        a doll

with wide
  open arms,

    dilated
            eyes,

        a kind of deranged
hospitality

    marked
    with a
    question

        mark

                swirl

at the pinnacle
of the fore-
        head

    Mass
    produced
    plastic

                affect-
                    ion

 

  Pet
      names

            are

 

always shared
        be-
        tween

                lovers,

    automatic reflex,

whether
you’re there
    or not

                P
                is for

psycho-
sis,

        love

sui-

    cide
    pact,

        life

part-
ner,

                pees

    in
    a

        pod,

phallic

    imp-

ropriety,

    pleasure
    domes

        and
        pleas-
        ure

    quart-
    ers,

                and

pill-
ows,

                and

    prep-
    arations for

        end
        of life

care

                Q
                is for

        occasio-
        nal

dis-
content

        for quilts,

    pin-
    cushion

                kiss-
                es,

quest
for

                fire

        crotch,

    the beau-
    tiful

            quim,

membr-
anous

        mem-

  ory

of

        an

or-

                if-

    ice,

cold

                plast-

        ic

ex-
  plosives,

            com-

    fort-

        able

queens,

                fear-

  less,

        ever-
        y

night,

            to

    cuddle
    up

        with

a

                sex-

            ual

        pre-

da-

          tor

    for

eve-

      r

 

FROM RYAN: Tender Bottoms explores observations and anxieties about contemporary gay domesticity—the vicissitudes of romantic attachment, aging, fucking, social accountability, politics, and the reliance on life-sustaining pharmaceuticals—refracted in an homage to Gertrude Stein. The poems variously hew to and depart from Stein’s compositional program, finding something new to value in her poetic innovations while also asking for something more, not just from Stein, but from the present moment. A wry map of pleasure and presentiment emerges between the repetition of nightly television watching and the daily ingestion of anti-retroviral pills; between the incessant loading and unloading of a dishwasher and the dreams of love and professional success that such an appliance is implicitly asked to support; a queer portrait, perhaps, of what Stein called “the bottom nature” of American life.    

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