“Ex Boyfriend” (Poem, 02/19/08) Doc. #022

The Text:

EX BOYFREIND BOYFRIEND

Written February 19, 2008 (Age 21)

Dinner last night with a boy from the city,
his ice-blue eyes like foggy marbles,
hiding some sort of secret thought:
Shakespeare watching Juliet-
but I don’t like suicide stories,
and didn’t go home with him that night after.

I remember the way you used to tell me things,
your brown eyes were clear as light itself.
All around me men are bleary-eyed,
their tongues moist with boasting.

Saturday night at the pub:
yelling small-talk over the DJ.
a boy is trying to touch my forearm,
his fingers moving millimeters, crossing
a space of inches in hours, lightly grazing.
a And this is their idea of consent.

I remember the way you used to touch me,
your hands moving with a surgeon’s assuredness,
opening all physical gates, crossing all borders.
The men I meet are out of touch.

Sunday mourning on my own. (“mourning,” pretty slick)
l Lying in bed trying to remember your smile
in the morning, the way you would brush
the hair from my eyes and gently kiss my nose.
Remembering wanting you not to go
the night the fire broke out in Derby:

There was a little girl screaming, and Brendon, 
he just ran in. They said, he got caught when the
ceiling collapsed. I didn’t want you to go.
I didn’t want you to leave me that night, alone in bed.

The next man to love me will have to be fire-proof.

Critique:

“Ex Boyfriend” is a heartbreaking, clever, and whole poem that leaves the reader touched and filled with sympathy. The speaker’s search for love after the death of her beloved is an old story, told anew in modern settings.

I was particularly impressed by the reference to Romeo and Juliet and the speaker noting that she “doesn’t like suicide stories.” At first, this line just seemed like a throw-away, an easy reference to Shakespeare to give the poet some literary cred. But when the poem concludes with the death of the boyfriend, and with the repetition of “didn’t want you to go,” the speaker’s unstated belief that her boyfriend died intentionally is revealed.

There are moments when the poem is a bit cheesy and clichéd. I’m still not a fan of the phrase “opening all physical gates, crossing all borders.” But overall, it’s so good I can’t be that frustrated with it’s few weak moments. Grade: A.

This is one of the most whole pieces featured so far in the Regression Collection.  On most of the entries I want to comment that there’s a lot of potential that could use a lot of refinement, though to be fair, I say that about almost everything, even some classics.  This one isn’t a couple of interesting thoughts let’s see where they go.  This one is a complete thought to be conveyed to the audience.

There is some heavy handed wordplay.  Foggy marbles for eyes came off especially corpselike to me, and for that early in on a poem with zero zombies it was an odd first impression.  The surgeon thing.  On the other hand there are some very evocative moments.  The extra-alert feeling of watching another slowly push at one’s personal space is apt and personal.  The back and forth comparisons between courtship (or similar) of the present and love in the past is effective and natural.

This is a robust effort not only to get the reader into the author’s head, but also to get the author into the head of someone completely new.  Such radical empathy is one of the highest pursuits of fiction.  Of course, it could use some refinement.  Grade: A.

Reflection:

I did a lot of writing in the spring of 2008, but I have no intention of only talking about the times immediately surrounding the writing of each piece; that would be boring and repetitive.

You may have noticed that the speaker in today’s poem is female, so today I’m going to talk about the ways in which I am like a lady.

Wow. I could actually feel myself stepping into dangerous territory there. Better put on my “SUPER-SPECIFIC-AND-CRYSTAL-CLEAR-PERFECTLY-SOCIALLY-RESPONSIBLE-AND-CULTURALLY-SENSITIVE” hat, so I can be honest with you c***s without offending anyone. Hold on.

Being a Girl

*sound of an enormous hat being adjusted*

Okay, so when I say “like a lady” I’m kind of implying that there is some sort of core “ladyness,” and that women who aren’t “ladylike” aren’t really “ladies.” And to a certain extent, I am referring to traits within myself that are stereotypically associated with women, but I would hate for you to think that I have many expectations as to how you might act and think just because you happen to be female. I will withhold judgement until I actually see how you think and behave.

But let’s just assume that there is, in fact, some element of truth to gender stereotypes (No). I don’t want to get into to what extent I think that truth might go, but I do believe that there is some truth in the idea that men and women are fundamentally different on a wiring level, and that this expresses itself through trends in thoughts and behaviors. (Luckily we both think Bernie Sanders is aces, so that cancels out this fundamental difference in perspective.)

Given this belief, I am open to the possibility that I have half a lady-brain.

Let’s start with my proclivity for crossdressing, a desire to be “get pretty” on occasion. This started in the laundry room of my parent’s house when I was a kid, 3 or 4 years old. I used to put on my mom’s clothing and high-heels and talk in a “woman voice” (as if I didn’t have one already). I’d wear my dad’s postal uniform too, or other costume accessories, but I had no qualms with pretending to be female (or pretending to be a dog or a giant spider [HOT], but that’s a little off-topic).

I’d continue to cross-dress occasionally in high school and college, usually for halloween, but sometimes just for the hell of it. I looked damn good in those later attempts, by the way. My lipgloss was always popping and my eyeshadow was flawless.

But crossdressing is hardly proof of a female mental state, in what ways do I feel like a lady? Well, let’s talk about Orlando Bloom.

Orlando Bloom
One of the few men on the planet with hair as outstanding as mine.

You know what, scratch that, let’s talk about being short.

I’ve been short my entire life. Short for my age, then short for a man. My driver’s license said I was 5’5″ for years because I would rather break the law than give up my imaginary two inches (male readers will understand what I’m talking about). The thing is, stupid people immediately don’t respect you when you’re a short man. I imagine this is similar to the way stupid people don’t immediately (sometimes ever) respect women because they are women. Now, I don’t really care much for the respect of stupid people, but the are just SO MANY OF THEM, and I have to deal with them ALL THE TIME!

This is a little off topic, but I know first hand that about 90% of women-seeking-men’s dating profiles include the word “tall.” This doesn’t make me feel like a girl, it makes me feel like an ugly girl.  (Ugly:  The worst thing that can happen to a girl.)

Speaking of feelings, damn I have a lot of them. Anxiety, self-doubt, worry, guilt, fear, neediness. I swear I have a wider range of emotions than your average bear. Sometimes I have feelings about feelings! It’s sick. (Or human.  Synonyms?  You decide.)

Maybe it’s not so much that I feel like a woman as that I don’t feel like a man. It’s almost a point of pride; the stereotypical representation of maleness is a brutish, arrogant show-off.

Now I’m an arrogant show-off, certainly, but brutish? I’m a kitty-cat. It’s probably just that other men are better at faking self-assuredness and decisiveness, or at least more willing to do it. (Once I saw a guy punch a vending machine.  Just kidding!  I’ve seen this multiple times.  And every time I was just so overcome with his manliness that my sensitive and receptive female self wanted to projectile vomit.) I never feel like I’m making the right decision, even when it’s obvious that I am. If I were more “manly” I probably would have proposed to my wife a lot sooner than I did, and I wouldn’t have let multiple ex-girlfriends talk me into staying with them when I wanted to break up.

Right now my girl-brain is questioning the wisdom of posting this. I better wrap it up before her fear of exposure wastes all the time I put into writing this. (For our next anniversary, write me a poem called “Gender is performative.”  Then eventually we can talk about that on the blog.)

I took a Facebook quiz once that told me my brain was something like 55% female, 45% male. Now, I doubt there was a double-blind study that went into the creation of this quiz, but I did find the results pretty unsurprising. I think I would rather be in a state of balance between the masculine and the feminine than be Jack f***ing Bauer (even though he has the best handbags). (I had one tell me I was an Orc! <3)

Anyway, I hope you liked something here. And if you did, please, please, please click on one of those “Share” buttons. It’s 100% free! Thanks for reading!

~Sean L

 

 

 

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