Poem of the Week | September 10, 2018

This week we feature a new poem by Kenan Ince!
Kenan Ince is a queer, Turkish-American mathematician, poet, and organizer from Texas living on occupied Shoshone, Paiute, Goshute and Ute territory (so-called Salt Lake City). Their work is forthcoming in Pleiades and has appeared in Word Riot, Duende, and Permafrost, among others. They are the recipient of scholarships to the Antioch Writers’ Workshop and Lambda Literary Writers’ Retreat and winner of the Utah Pride Center’s Poetry and Prose Contest.



I want slash love
             your space-print leggings.
                                              Give them to me.
Give me your glitter eyeshadow,
             your bedazzled snakeskin heels.
                                     I want to wrap you
                                              in a cashmere shawl,
                                                                  you hunk of self-actualized fab.
                                    You do you, honey, and let me
watch. I want to learn
                                              how you dip and weave
between slurs and shade and never
                                              smudge your Jeffree Star
lavender lipstick. I am still sliced
                                              by the razor-front
of my father’s words, ten years later:
                                              “There are no gay people
                                                                  in Turkey,” – my dress
                                             rips at the midseam, loosing
                                                                  an avalanche of chest hair
                                             and glitter body spray.
                                                                  “That shirt is too girly for you,”
                                             —my left wedge cracks
                                                                  in half. I stagger into
                                              the night, eyeshadow
             smudged, city lights bright
as flames smeared across
             my vision, everything burning
                                                             or being renewed.
I want to wrap myself around you
             like pashmina and soak up some
of your warmth, that fire I need
             to gut the skyscrapers my father
             built within me. I want to sow
             the foundation with salt
             and stand there holding
             your hand, dreaming of Gaudi
             or Wright, you the hunk
             of stone on which I begin
             to build. Don’t tell me I need
             a layer of foundation, a coat of
             blush, before I can build
             my face.
                                     Don’t tell me you, too, are inconsolable.

I’ll be in the bathroom forever
               building sandcastle cities in the tub,
digging moats to keep out the invading
               armies of others’ opinions. Every night,
high tide, cheapest of makeup removers,
               wipes away any trace
                               of the previous night’s look.
In the morning, I’m swallowed again
               in my body’s masculine quicksand.
I’ll see you tonight in the Bayou City
               DJing in a Midtown biergarten,
black wig flawless, safely

Author’s Note:

I was doing a small scene in a music video with my friends for the incredible Houston riot grrl band Giant Kitty where I reassured another nonbinary person that they were fabulous. Everyone in the video was covered with Post-It notes representing gendered/racialized microaggressions reading things like “SIR” or “are you a boy or a girl?” I maybe internalized the role a bit too much, as I developed quite the crush on my scene-partner and admired their ability to own their queerness in ways that, at the time, I didn’t feel comfortable doing. From there I was led to examine the sort of “always-on fab” that queer folks are often expected to exhibit even among those sectors of society that accept them and my own inability to live up to those standards, and “Foundation” was the result.