Thursday Night Poetry

This week it's a poem I taught today, one that made the frat guys in my second class a little uncomfortable (which made it all worthwhile). I can't really complain about them, as they're active in commenting on the poems and sometimes show surprising insight into the work. But still, in the end, they're Sig Eps.

Anyway, tonight's poem is by my old friend Bruce Snider, who should be finishing up his first year as a Jones Lecturer at Stanford soon. This poem is from his book The Year We Studied Women. Enjoy.

A Drag Queen Is Like a Poem

in the same way that a drag
queen is like a woman
except of course that the woman
has real breasts while the drag queen
unbuttons her blouse
to reveal the realistic breast form
for cross dressers
she’s ordered
like alligator shoes
from the Gucci catalog.
But then it’s not so much shoes
that matter when talking
about poetry as it is the hair
and jewelry and the way
lipstick has been applied.
Any teenage girl can tell you
that a good poem needs
to wear a short skirt if she
wants the boys to notice,
and that eye shadow can say
just as much as the subtle shadings
of anything Keats or Eliot
ever wrote. The truth is
it’s all about truth
and beauty, or what passes for it,
and so there will always be someone
to argue it doesn’t matter
what sprouts between
your legs like so much moss
between the paving stones. You can
always just pad or shave
or powder. You can strap
on foam tits and a rubber ass
to remind yourself that the language
of the body can always
be rewritten, that ultimately poem
is to the poet as drag
is to the queen, each word
fitting together like male
and female, like an infant
and his mother, two bodies
two hearts, but one
coming out of the other.

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