Untitled (Havana, 2000)

after Tania Bruguera

Queers—confirmed or suspected—were one of several groups of ‘social
deviants’ imprisoned and sentenced to labor following the Cuban Revolution.
The Cuban government has since taken responsibility, and today, trans
healthcare is provided to Cubans for free.

power falls twice: you’re either rain
or a worm reacting to it


to whom or what do you choose
to bow?


may cuba live
island her own, free from us
of a, por siempre


gusanería: worms piling
in the absence of light


you’ve entered now
your feet crunch mashed bagasse

the cool air whiffs molasses wafts 
can you feel the humans here

each distinct from their rulers?
no one name names the unnamed


hands behind your head
you have the silence to remain right

you have the silence to remain
right there, between tooth & gum


to whom do you bow
against your will?


look: looped video in darkened cove
all you see is leader smiling

leader in profile leader hugging
& kissing the masses

he bares his furry chest
sans bulletproof vest

young fidel? you would
& so would we—

what about young w. bush
or younger or older obama

& there’s that one stalin shot!
we see time after time

how politekind thirsts for stained
palms on our star-struck thighs


once you walk away
what becomes of those who cannot?


gusanería: light’s absence
piling the worms


a man who thinks himself rain
would claim any old flood was just

Related Poems

Gaman: Topaz Concentration Camp, Utah

after Tina Takemoto

I will paint us together
in lemon and burnt shoyu.

I will squeeze us out of
flour, water, yeast

while you dress
behind the thin curtain

while you flatten
lapel, collar, slacks

in our tightly ironed
tar paper life.

Your tie clip, carved from
ancient wood and not

the real topaz you deserve.
Outside, we shuffle in dust

flap powder
from between our feathers.

I used to be a swamp.
In this government aviary

dust storms can’t be predicted
unlike the government

which splits atoms
the way it did your chest.

Spilled you
on the ancient sea bed.

The mountains blow
their alien breath in you

while sleek muscle men
cactus across my humid eyes.

They don’t stop
to light my cigarette

or palm a slice of
fresh, warm bread.

Now bluebirds trill
from my cuffs

and it’s time to clock out.
Beyond the perfect

frame of this prison city
desert peaks buzz

the rich, rich song
of my hunger.

from EXAQUA [I've begun to grow fatigued.]




I've begun to grow fatigued. I've learned that writing poems is possible and possibility diminishes exploration. When I arrive elsewhere, say, to the essay, I feel at play. I feel like I have come upon new toys with no instructions. I wander. I hold at an idea longer. I think freer. I don’t look for the exit door as quickly as I would in a poem. It lets me explore the wildness that I initially found so exciting in poetry. So, in that sense, our trajectories are similar, just going in opposite directions. Exhausted, the essay brought me to poetry. And for you, exhausted, poems are bringing you to the essay. Then, there’s the artless essay, the dreaded personal statement. The last one read: I intend to contribute to the seldom-told narrative of living as an undocumented Filipino-American whose path to citizenship is tied up with another politicized modern moment: the legalization of gay marriage. As a corporeal intersection of both undocumented and queer identities, my body is seen by many as unnatural—a site of horror, a target of the phobic. As such, two major threats loom over the project: the risk of sexually transmitted diseases on the gay male body and deportation for the undocumented non-citizen. For many who share my unique position, the desire for state-sanctioned citizenship is analogous to the cure for HIV, two statuses that are, for now, locked in utopian vision—objects on the horizon. 

NDN Homopoetics

I hoard dirt in my ears; months later, I pull out a summer dress. The dress is not a dress to be worn but to be hung, like a flag on a wobbly pole that is noticed only when crowded in the mouths of those near it. The dress is not a dress to be worn but to be hung, like an NDN condemned to death by the judiciary of historical ignorance, an enactment of white fellowship and care. We all bear the dress, not as an article of clothing, but as an ontological imprint. To bear is not to wear, of course. To bear and to birth, however, are from the same neighborhood of experience. It is there, in the neighborhood of experience, that my childhood home is nowhere to be found. And so, my childhood home could be anything, even a dress made out of dirt.

Boy becomes a 3-D printing of a man. It brings me comfort to think of my gender as a farmer’s field already rototilled, already cleaned up. I become less of who I am by the second. Look at the branches growing from my teeth! Then there’s the mare, tipsy on me, grazing to no end. If I were to speak, I’d sound like a cracked windshield, typo-ridden. These 206 lonely bones have each gained a type of consciousness; they pretend not to harbor hard feelings about me, my ungodly molecularity. What can I say about my shadow? It loves the unlit street more than it does me. Sometimes a body is that which happens to you. Everyday, dime-sized holes proliferate on my flesh, as if I were trying to free myself from myself. I will go on like this forever: with the earth ringing in my chest.


I am a body of knowledge, not one of chemical compounds. Which is to say that I live as ideas do. This is the fate of NDNs. It is on the rez that one can hear sentences speak as though in a chorus. To tear the page is to tear our world apart. What shame to be a sentence on its knees! The day I obtained my driver’s license, I followed a cumulus cloud through a maze of dirt roads until it evaporated. Forty minutes. That was all it took. I bore witness. It did not ask this of me, but I wanted to keep watch of the dying everywhere, so I could figure out how to care for a bleeding sentence.


What to an NDN is the intrinsic goodness of mankind? Maybe justice is a lover who regurgitates the English language so it comes back sweeter. Canada, why are your elevators filled with mud water? What is it about a palm that makes a country feel like a garden? I dug and dug. I pulled out a bouquet of skyscrapers. I kissed each window softly. Is this not what an NDN does in a poem?