The Brooklyn Rail

NOV 2019

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NOV 2019 Issue


The Poetry Jukebox

I meet my kid at the poetry jukebox on Sixth Avenue

She is starting to walk home alone, half way

I wait for her bobbing head, craning for me

I want this poetry jukebox on every corner
I need Hart Crane
I need Frank O'Hara
I love it when Edna's ghostly howl startles Sixth Avenue
I want an all people of color poetry jukebox too
   because Baldwin is not enough and this jukebox is very white
I want an all women one and an all queer one too
      and maybe animal sounds just barking out of this telescopic portal

But that’s not Hart’s voice.
It's a robot Hart
Not Frank either but a good gay poet who I might even know
   (and I’m sorry if you are that poet reading that poem very well in your own voice).

And so I went home and I found Frank

                     Here he is
                     with his phones and sweet laughter
                     Lana Turner we love you get up!
                     The jukebox edited out get up!
                     They de-sissified him too
                     and the get up is what matters most of all right now
                     and the sissy
                     Do you know my first nickname is sissy
                     and I will answer to that
                     how to get up
                     how to get up
                     and what if we don't want to get up or can’t

On the walk back from my kid's school and away from the jukebox
I thought about the white powder after 9/11 and how scared I was then

I am not as scared now
I've had a lot of therapy
I will go when I go and I will be powerless to stop that
though if I die early
   I will want you to mother my kid because she will need a lot of mothers

                         Who doesn’t need a lot of mothers?
                         I don't want you to go or be afraid
                         Are you afraid?
                         All of the time?
                         I want to be your mother
                         in this fear and
                         your daddy too

Somebody is making bombs and it's probably an angry white man,
   but what do I know about history?


They think it's cool because the president the president

An article said the media hasn't portrayed trans people with enough humanity.
That’s true and isn't it the job of the humans to know the other humans?

The notes my kid told me to read from her best friend who identifies as genderfluid

At the playdate I kept messed up and called them Girls and then I asked
   Which pronoun do you prefer? and they said Any, any, any.

It hit me, Duh,
   My being a girl is so arbitrary
      While online dating people tell me I am the femme or not quite the butch
         but definitely not femme enough or butch yes or butch because daddy
         feelings and this is very silly because
            I could be both or all or any any any

And my kid and her friend are writing sweet notes of affirmation
   and that's what they do all day is send these notes back and forth
      they also fight about territory and cis boys and other friends because fifth grade

                     And the dad who lives two blocks away
                     who I have stopped talking to because of
                     the mansplaining who made fun of lesbians
                     in front of my daughter who told him to
                     stop insulting my mom and I hate him and
                     can't believe he would do that when I have
                     loved his child, fed that boy, treated him as
                     my own, kept him once from being run over
                     by a bus in Queens and I think this is not
                     fair this dumb world the care we give and
                     never get back and You are just five blocks
                     from Stonewall
, I want to shout to him on an
                     old rotary phone in my best impersonation
                     of Frank O'Hara

I want to tell him off as Sissy or Sissy Spacek
in my favorite movie
A Home at the End of the World,
What the hell are you doing?
but my kid says
No Mama, don't make a scene
so I won't but I am waiting
For what I don't know?
For snow in Hollywood?
For rain in California?

But I am not living in my own movie or commercial for dish soap
   I used to pretend this in my upstate town
         and when I first moved to NY
            It's a hard habit to break
               This seeing yourself outside of yourself in third person

I can't write a poem on paper anymore or even the computer
   only phones or social media allows me to unspool

The sentence fragment is lost to me because I've been busy trying to sell books
                         which will not sell themselves at all
                         I miss my fragments and spells
Frank says, I was trotting along and suddenly

Trot, don’t forget to trot

oh Lana Turner we love you get up

I am Lana Turner

I fall and I don’t get up

Actually, I did some research and she did get up
   She was just exhausted like every person I know right now trying to live in America
      who is not rich

Eventually, I got up

So did they

And then they couldn’t

I’m to call myself pansexual

I think of that goat with his rape flute and I don’t want to

Once I sewed pan goat pants for my ex-husband and then I dressed myself as a dunce

I looked like the guitarist for ACDC with his little boy suit

Early drag, truly cute

I thought it was funny
   but joke was on me because a lot of cis straight men at that party were like,
      Hi Stupid!

But I got in touch with some sad little girl part of myself
Who am I kidding?
That was me for my whole life until like five years ago
I thought I was a dunce
Maybe it was the pot
But even my then husband Pan couldn’t save me

Because I’ve been told I was stupid lots of time
Lana Turner we love you get up

I accused him of flirting because
   I wanted somebody to fuck me senseless against a car or a wall and I couldn’t
      Say that out loud

Before I could speak desire, I put it on others and made it bad

After that party I quit sewing and realized I had to be careful on Halloween
      about what my unconscious would reveal about me to myself in costume

Now I’m 46 and I am a fucking genius

You never hear women say that, so there I just modeled it for you, now you say it out loud

Do it now.

How did it feel?

Say it a lot just don’t be a dick about it okay?

Don’t replicate the patriarchy

I dated a sexy woodworker for two months

We fought a lot and didn’t have enough sex

But that time we tied each other up with my new soft rope

and I made her come with my mouth

and then I lay on top of her for a long time

and she let me stay there and cry

and then she blindfolded me just like I like

tight with her punk black bandana

and her thumb was big and her tongue was wow

I have seen poets hold terrible grudges

I have held them myself

I have seen a lot of the gates

I’ve been some gates

I’ve been inside and outside

Both have their charms

I have made 850$ from selling a novel

I paid my phone bill and bought cat insurance which is a luxury

We need to talk more about money

In 2010 I sold a young adult novel for $15,000

I used it to pay for one year of part-time Brooklyn nursery school so I could write three novels
   that didn’t sell

Maybe you think I’m a shill

But I like people should get paid for their labor, especially poets and adjuncts and sex workers

The LA Review of Books paid me $100 to interview Sarah Schulman

The Poetry Project paid me $250 to read.

I think that’s everything I’ve made from writing

I’ll keep you posted


What do we do with the names they call us?

   Can you hear them/they talk about us/telling lies, well, that’s a surprise

Are you a gold star lesbian?
How many dicks have you sucked?
Fat Ass
Are you queer enough?
Too much
Too much

I met a man like the other men but different, but the same
                   What is a man, but a thousand swiping faces
                      Smootching Baby and Bitch at me and
                         Telling me to wait at the bar
                            So I can finish my dinner.

I put all of the names in my body, I mean, my box
   I got up
   I fell down
      I got up
      I fell down
         I got up
         I fell down
            I got up
            I fell down
               I got down
               I fell up
                  I got down
                  I fell up
                     I got down
                     I fell up
                        I got down
                        I fell up

                           She got up and down
                           With all of them
                           She didn’t care what
                           They said
What is a man but the father of my baby

The wolves I have loved

That woman with a wife who fucked me awake

The woodworker

My Daddy in Oakland who held my hand for four days and ate up my heart



I don’t know what to do with your long hair

I am the sissy of this poem

I am the girl of your naps

In the future I will be a boi without a uterus

I am your mother too

If this poem mothers you, say thank you

Say thank you, and pull me a card


Carley Moore

Carley Moore’s books include a novel, The Not Wives (Feminist Press 2019), 16 Pills, an essay collection (Tinderbox Edition 2018), a poetry chapbook, Portal Poem (Dancing Girl Press 2017), and a young adult novel, The Stalker Chronicles(Farrar, Straus, and Giroux 2012).


The Brooklyn Rail

NOV 2019

All Issues