kaberett: Overlaid Mars & Venus symbols, with Swiss Army knife tools at other positions around the central circle. (Default)
[personal profile] kaberett posting in [community profile] poetree
One: I am trans and I am disabled. For me, intimacy often has physical aspects: [personal profile] lightgetsin wrote an excellent essay on some of these intersections, last year, entitled Do I Do It For You? Service kink and disability, on some of the ways in which disability can encourage or compel physical - and emotional - intimacy.

Two: when we talk about intimacy, about trust, we often frame it in terms of the physical. In terms of romance, yes: we fall in and out of love, and making that fall physical is only a little stretch; but also in terms of closeness, as Simon Armitage's Homecoming: Think, two things on their own and both at once/The first, that exercise in trust, where those in front/stand with their arms spread wide and free-fall/backwards, blind, and those behind take all the weight...

These are my two things, each on their own and both at once. These are what I carry with me when I offer you this poem.

For more about this poem - in origin terms - please see Gabe Moses' website, and his reading of the poem.

How To Make Love To A Trans Person

Forget the images you've learned to attach
To words like cock and clit,
Chest and breasts.
Break those words open
Like a paramedic cracking ribs
To pump blood through a failing heart.
Push your hands inside.
Get them messy.
Scratch new definitions on the bones.

Get rid of the old words altogether.
Make up new words.
Call it a click or a ditto.
Call it the sound he makes
When you brush your hand against it through his jeans,
When you can hear his heart knocking on the back of his teeth
And every cell in his body is breathing.
Make the arch of her back a language
Name the hollows of each of her vertebrae
When they catch pools of sweat
Like rainwater in a row of paper cups
Align your teeth with this alphabet of her spine
So every word is weighted with the salt of her.

When you peel layers of clothing from his skin
Do not act as though you are changing dressings on a trauma patient
Even though it's highly likely that you are.
Do not ask if she's "had the surgery."
Do not tell him that the needlepoint bruises on his thighs look like they hurt
If you are being offered a body
That has already been laid upon an altar of surgical steel
A sacrifice to whatever gods govern bodies
That come with some assembly required
Whatever you do,
Do not say that the carefully sculpted landscape
Bordered by rocky ridges of scar tissue
Looks almost natural.

If she offers you breastbone
Aching to carve soft fruit from its branches
Though there may be more tissue in the lining of her bra
Than the flesh that rises to meet it
Let her ripen in your hands.
Imagine if she'd lost those swells to cancer,
A car accident instead of an accident of genetics
Would you think of her as less a woman then?
Then think of her as no less one now.

If he offers you a thumb-sized sprout of muscle
Reaching toward you when you kiss him
Like it wants to go deep enough inside you
To scratch his name on the bottom of your heart
Hold it as if it can-
In your hand, in your mouth
Inside the nest of your pelvic bones.
Though his skin may hardly do more than brush yours,
You will feel him deeper than you think.

Realize that bodies are only a fraction of who we are
They're just oddly-shaped vessels for hearts
And honestly, they can barely contain us
We strain at their seams with every breath we take
We are all pulse and sweat,
Tissue and nerve ending
We are programmed to grope and fumble until we get it right.
Bodies have been learning each other forever.
It's what bodies do.
They are grab bags of parts
And half the fun is figuring out
All the different ways we can fit them together;
All the different uses for hipbones and hands,
Tongues and teeth;
All the ways to car-crash our bodies beautiful.
But we could never forget how to use our hearts
Even if we tried.
That's the important part.
Don't worry about the bodies.
They've got this.
--Gabe Moses

This is a poem about sex, yes, and it is an instruction manual: but that is not all it is.

It is an offering and it is a prayer: it is about emotional intimacy and vulnerability and fear and longing and tentative, aching trust as much as it is about sexual intimacy. If she offers you her breastbone: then she is offering not just her body but her heart.

If you are being offered a body/That has already been laid upon an altar of surgical steel calls to mind, for me, my horror at the scars I've had inflicted on me by surgeons, with my consent, out of medical necessity. I feel a little giddy when I look at them, even faded, even four years on; I curl away from them. They don't belong here, on me; they are not mine; I'm dreading the day when I get the major open surgery resulting in the six-inch abdominal scar, and I'm planning the tattoos I'll need to reclaim my self from it.

These scars of mine - these bruises that, maybe, after the longest fall, will look white after all - were, on this occasion, the result of diagnostic laparoscopy (keyhole surgery). I will acquire more, from top surgery; from, as above, other surgery. I will find all of it harrowing. I will find it the more harrowing that I feel coerced into consenting to have these marks laid on me, this history written on my skin: my body as it stands (or sits, or lies) needs to change, to be changed, and so I am left with the lesser of two evils.

I offer up control of my body to surgeons, and it is complicated and at best bittersweet: my trans status, and my disability, compel me. And, in the parallel that is drawn in the poem, I also offer up control of my body to lovers, implicitly or explicitly - and, again, my trans and disability status are always, inevitably, in play.


I think it important that the title Moses chose was not how to have sex, but how to make love.


This poem is a plea. It acknowledges the risk we take in baring ourselves, in offering ourselves up for scrutiny. It is about the intimacy, perhaps unwanted, that has been forced on us through our interactions with surgeons: cold and surgical intimacy. It is about choosing intimacy again - in anticipation or with the memories of that cold steel - but nonetheless choosing it, taking that breath, and saying: here I am, and I am whole.

It is about embodiment: our histories inscribed on our skin. We cannot hide, and when we remove our disguises we ask you to accept us not just as we are now, but as we were then. And we ask ourselves, too, to accept us as ourselves, with all our history, with all the ways we can car-crash our bodies beautiful. The language is raw and painful and explicit, but so are our scars: our bodies compel physical intimacy, and physical and emotional intimacies become tangled and reciprocal.

It is about empowerment and function and reclamation; about the ways in which complicated embodiment, complicated relationships with our bodies, muddy the water between physical and emotional intimacies; about - in a parallel I've only just realised, writing this sentence - bringing our own truths about the shoe-scuffs on the canary-yellow coat against the tide of other opinion, against the people who would tell us we are wrong and shameful; and about stepping out into the cold, all alone, and picking up the phone.

This poem is about the person on the other end of the line, and the power that we hand you, tremulous and hopeful.

Date: 2013-06-19 12:50 pm (UTC)
jjhunter: Dean Winchester (SPN) suspended on the right hand side; beautiful colored texture on the left (Dean hanging)
From: [personal profile] jjhunter
If it helps, I am weeping a little as I write this; I have heard this poem performed as slam poetry in a way that electrified the audience, where the performer built intensity and a vein of biting triumph into his reading until we were all on our feet by car-crash our bodies vulnerable, but here you have invited me closer, brought out the bitter-sweet that complicates the intensity of transcendence, re-roots it in bodies (your body, many bodies) in a way I have no defenses against - so yes, it moves me, it makes my breath chat and my shoulders yearn toward each other to enclose and protect the naked trust you are offering out into the void.

I hear you.

Date: 2013-06-19 01:13 pm (UTC)
jjhunter: Drawing of human JJ in ink tinted with blue watercolor; woman wearing glasses with arched eyebrows (JJ inked)
From: [personal profile] jjhunter
Thank you for this gift - for this is a gift, a precious one - of a close and intimate reading.

I come to it with a different background, a different body. I am cis, and physically (if not always mentally) able. I am also someone so enmeshed with the life of the mind that I have had to deliberately work to stay present in my body, have pushed myself to row and run and cook and meditate and breathe because otherwise I just - forget, and my body stages sullen revolts of pain and changed perception. I am an artist, and I have to work to look at my body as canvas instead of a coat rack.

What you are saying here about finding ways to reclaim your body from surgery, finding ways to change and present your body not to hide or erase your history but to transform it - you make of yourself a transformative work, and it makes me wonder, it makes me weep, that I might find a way to do the same, might find a way to match my body to my story and feel more at home there, that I might find a way to match my parts to others' stories in ways that half-terrify, half-electrify my heart.

So - thank you. I look forward to coming back to this again (and again and again) as I let these insights settle into place. Thank you.
cadenzamuse: Hank "Beast" McCoy grinning at an exposed brain which has light rays and bubbles bursting from it (Beast: mad scientist)
From: [personal profile] cadenzamuse
I'm not sure where to put this, but, from the poem, "We are programmed to grope and fumble until we get it right."

And I think that is true for our relationships with our selves (body/mind/spirit/heart/soul/head/hands/whatever you want to call bits of what makes us human) as our relationships with other people.

And I should point out that relationships with other people are surely transformative works as well. Or at least...in the way you are someone different with each person you interact with, just by virtue of being who-you-are-with-them and being viewed by another unique human being with a unique perspective. Obviously some of those transformations are more healthy than others. But still.

Date: 2013-06-19 01:51 pm (UTC)
jelazakazone: black squid on a variegated red background (Default)
From: [personal profile] jelazakazone
Wow, this is really amazing. Breathtaking and ... it just brings so many emotions up, about laying oneself bare and giving yourself as a gift, but not as a sacrifice. The tenderness and just unf.

It's so fucking sexy, this poem.

I seem not to really have words any more. I am sorry about that. Thank you for posting this and your commentary.

I am wondering about recording this entry (I wonder if I could record it without choking up).

Date: 2013-06-19 02:13 pm (UTC)
jelazakazone: black squid on a variegated red background (Default)
From: [personal profile] jelazakazone
Thank you!

This not having words business is kind of new for me and I'm not super down with it. Thank you for understanding.

Do you have time to look into how he feels about people recording his works not for profit?

Date: 2013-06-19 02:26 pm (UTC)
jelazakazone: black squid on a variegated red background (Default)
From: [personal profile] jelazakazone

OMG. You are awesome. I have developed anxiety about contacting authors. <3 <3

Date: 2013-06-20 01:46 pm (UTC)
jelazakazone: black squid on a variegated red background (Default)
From: [personal profile] jelazakazone
Er, by the way, could you let me know how to pronounce your username? :D It is possible I will record this before you get permission, but I will not post until I have permission.


Date: 2013-06-21 02:28 am (UTC)
jelazakazone: black squid on a variegated red background (Default)
From: [personal profile] jelazakazone

Ok thanks! Recording did not happen today, so it won't happen until July at the earliest. I can't wait. :D

Date: 2013-07-10 01:03 pm (UTC)
jelazakazone: black squid on a variegated red background (Default)
From: [personal profile] jelazakazone
I am back from my trip and am starting to think about recording projects again. I assume you still haven't heard anything? I am not anxious, just wanting to make sure my information is complete:D

Date: 2013-07-10 01:31 pm (UTC)
jjhunter: Drawing of human JJ in ink tinted with blue watercolor; woman wearing glasses with arched eyebrows (JJ inked)
From: [personal profile] jjhunter
I may be getting in touch with Gabe on another matter in the next week or so - want me to follow up with him then re: this on your behalf?

Date: 2013-07-10 10:25 pm (UTC)
jelazakazone: black squid on a variegated red background (Default)
From: [personal profile] jelazakazone

Yes! That would be awesome if it's not a burden to you! Thanks:D <3

this icon means i have my admin hat on

Date: 2013-06-19 02:05 pm (UTC)
jjhunter: Paper sculpture of bulbuous tree made from strips of book pages (poetree admin icon)
From: [personal profile] jjhunter
Sometimes choking up is part and parcel of the package. If it's okay with [personal profile] kaberett - go for it.

Re: this icon means i have my admin hat on

Date: 2013-06-19 02:13 pm (UTC)
jelazakazone: Chekov smiling (chekov smile)
From: [personal profile] jelazakazone
<3 Thanks for the encouragement! <3

Date: 2013-06-19 03:09 pm (UTC)
raze: A man and a rooster. (Default)
From: [personal profile] raze
Oh, hell. This was fantastic - both the sharing of the poem itself, which I greatly appreciate, and the meta delving into it. You did a beautiful job, and I'm too full of inarticulate "wow" to conjure a more meaningful response. Thank you so much <3

Date: 2013-06-19 04:23 pm (UTC)
lizcommotion: Lily and Chance squished in a cat pile-up on top of a cat tree (buff tabby, black cat with red collar) (Default)
From: [personal profile] lizcommotion
Thank you. This was frelling incredible. I will share with some folks I know who are offline/not dreamwidth if that is okay? I can think of at least three four who would really I don't know if enjoy is the right word? Who would grok this.

Date: 2013-06-19 06:16 pm (UTC)
avanti_90: (Default)
From: [personal profile] avanti_90
Oh, wow,this was beautiful. Realize that bodies are only a fraction of who we are - just incredible, I don't have words for this - and really, I think its message is universal.

Oh, wow.

Date: 2013-06-20 12:59 am (UTC)
alee_grrl: A kitty peeking out from between a stack of books and a cup of coffee. (Default)
From: [personal profile] alee_grrl
Thank you for this amazing, wonderful, articulate and beautiful post.

I waited to read this until I got home from work, and I am glad that I did. Because trying to explain to my co-workers (at a very new job) that I am crying because of the sheer beautiful truth of this post, the power of it and how very hard it hits home would have been very difficult.

I wasn't sure if I would be able to identify with a poem that was about having sex, as I am asexual myself and usually have trouble connecting with sexual topics. But as you pointed out in your poignant and amazing meta, this wasn't about having sex so much as making love, being deeply, intimately involved with another person emotionally and physically. This was about the power of vulnerability, of opening ourselves up to being seen in our entirety by another. That terrifying feeling of putting yourself out there and hoping someone will pick up your call. It is about how powerful and important our connections with others are, because in acceptance and love we find a wholeness that is hard to find elsewhere.

And that was a lot of wordage to say that wow, this resonated, particularly as a disabled person, and thank you for sharing this with us.

Date: 2013-06-20 03:40 pm (UTC)
sylvaine: ticky-boxes labeled "male", "female" and "fuck you" with a tick in the the last box. ([gen] gender: fuck you)
From: [personal profile] sylvaine
I have loved this poem for a good long while & your analysis of it makes it all the more powerful, all the more apparent on just how many levels I connect with it. Thank you. <3


poetree: Paper sculpture of bulbuous tree made from strips of book pages (Default)

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