Self-Portrait as the Changeling

after René Auberjonois

Wet, where all I had longed for             
was the determined touch of softness. Wet, 

             I watched the solids come and go. 
             I counted feet, that ache

and echo of planets, became 
the prosecutor and defense 

             of my own heart, that red-tailed escape 
             from the struggle to represent 

the shapes required of love. 
A rose bud, briefcase 

             or snarling mutt, pea soup, 
             blood blister—I knew hate most

not as these but in my 
formlessness, poured into a coffee cup

            my keeper mimicked to sip. 
             I could not honey my clay. 

The shape of our star days, 
a hum in the rookery of birds 

             I’d know, and never be.
             And when I found my people—

when my people meddled 
with me—they opened a hole 

             to home in the punch-clock 
             of deep space I was destined 

to fall through.


Copyright © 2020 by Halee Kirkwood. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 9, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“This is a persona poem in the voice of Odo, a character in the television series Star Trek: Deep Space Nine—an attempt at writing lyrical fan-fiction. I'm drawn to Odo, in particular to his loneliness. He can mimic the shape of just about anything, yet struggles to become an entity unto himself. That is, until he embraces the instability and surprise of his natal form—a sentient goo. When he finally finds the homeworld he longs for, he must reckon with his people's tyranny and hostility towards those he loves. His experience is legible to my own, concerning queerness and mixed-raceness, of a hometown that doesn't love you back and which you can't resist returning to.”
Halee Kirkwood