Salamat for Intersectionality; Post-apocalyptic; They Call It “LGBT Family Building”
By: Dani Putney
Salamat for Intersectionality
I’m not growing into a Man
under indigo sky, on saffron fields.
My swamp hemolymph perspires through Cebuano skin:
thick and brown, pliable and brown.
Manure-rich air depresses my joints,
supple as the wrist-flicks of white Man signatures
of 1776, of iced black –not green– tea, of Ben Franklin orgies.
I’m not patriotically un-Man,
just orient-ally brown, un-human.
My teeth are whiter than mold that dampens
my carcass, litter on a saffron field under indigo sky.
What remains is gelatinous, un-human scat
mixed with cow pats
+ Bud Light + Cattleman.
I’m not the pioneer un-Woman
nor the Cebuana manic pixie dream girl.
My closest relative is Kafka—
we bleed kaleidoscopes, scare cow(Men), repel suburbia.
Our faces don’t read West-East, M-F.
Man buries us in mud, smiles,
says God bless America.
I wake among eviscerated liver-kidney-rectum,
wipe eyes with hemoglobin knuckles,
smile for the bile of yesterday’s
survival. Another romp
through our queer hellscape.
My body thrives in our world’s transition
from falling apart to long gone—
I’m the interstice,
the guy or gal in Prada combat boots
and one-piece death dress.
The infected come, come, cum
as I chop through necklines,
splatter Z-positive gunk on limb-ridden beds.
My comrades—partners in flux—
laugh at our slaughterhouse.
Agender Ray and androgynous Jay
don’t know the power of our waste land.
I want to twist and shout every time
we kill among ruins of before:
their corporate reproduction.
frozen fingertips, unshaven faces, flattened bellies:
O barely anything lives.
We own our bones here.
They Call It “LGBT Family Building”
You squeeze my slick palm,
we walk into our first consultation.
I’ve never thought myself a sweaty person—
bless my mother’s East Asian genes—
don’t worry, you interject.
I weakly offer my thanks-
We’re just looking at our options,
your lips graze. This kiss,
it makes me think I want to marry you,
even though you saw me frown
too many times at your friend’s Big Fat
Irish Wedding, listened to me curse
assimilation during Queer Eye binges,
our legs entwined like couch sardines.
Last night I prayed to a nameless creator,
begged Them to make me infertile.
50 percent chance of failure, I thought.
You first, straight shooter.
I hand you a checklist of pre-existing conditions.
Your eyes crack, not unlike
teary crows that flock
when you wrestle with favorite nephew
on our pit bull–trodden carpet,
erupt into action-figure Chautauquas,
gunfire and victory speeches,
succumb to requests to play video games,
pretty please, Uncle.
We sign the patient consent form.
I’d rather become the alien in our home
than war with a phantom.
Dani Putney is a queer, non-binary, Asian American poet exploring the West. Their poetry most recently appears or is forthcoming in The Blue Mountain Review, Juke Joint Magazine, and trampset, among other publications. Presently, they're infiltrating a small conservative town in the middle of the Nevada desert.
"In writing this suite of three poems, I tried to capture a sliver of the capacity that exists with queerness. "Salamat for Intersectionality" is a reclamation of the queer monster trope and contemplates what it means to celebrate your monstrosity, whatever that may mean—queer, non-binary, person of color, etc. I often consider myself a grotesque poet because of the vivid—and sometimes flat-out gross—imagery I choose to use, but there's something inherently beautiful about that lens, I think, when it recasts the perceived grotesquerie of the queer experience. "Post-apocalyptic" imagines a genderfluid apocalyptic future where individuals can own their bones, so to speak. I'm often compelled by the apocalypse because of its potential, whether that be for good, bad, or something in between. Why can't the apocalypse be ruled by queers then? My last poem explores queer family building, which is a subject not only relevant to me personally but also many of those around me. There's such a tension when it comes to having a child, especially because of its heteronormative roots. However, it doesn't have to be heteronormative—as queers, we make our families whatever we want, and that's certainly radical in its own right. Still, I don't want children, so it's a struggle to navigate my life when the lives of many people around me include kids. It's complicated, what can I say—but then again, isn't that part of what it means to be queer?"
Interview with the Poet:
Cathexis Northwest Press:
How long have you been writing poetry?
Six years, though I've been a fan of the genre a lot longer. It took me falling in love with a boy in 2013 to gather the courage to finally write a poem.
Can you remember the first poem you read that made you fall in love with poetry?
"OCD" by Neil Hilborn. This was one of the first times—maybe the first—I felt like a poem "got" me as a neurodivergent person. All my love to you, Neil.
Who are your favorite poets? Any specific poems?
Neil Hilborn, of course, but I also adore Ocean Vuong, Andrea Gibson, Hieu Minh Nguyen, and pretty much everybody in that crew. As for more classic poets, Sylvia Plath is a huge inspiration—I have a portrait of her face tattooed on my thigh! There are too many poems I love, but I find myself revisiting Mary Oliver's "The Journey."
Can you share for us a little bit about your writing process? Any specific rituals that get you in the zone?
I suppose you could call me a "bad" poet because I frequently write from moments of inspiration, but I do pride myself in keeping a log of observations to draw from later. I have a lengthy note on my phone dedicated to poem ideas. Whenever something happens in my life worth writing about, or when I see something poem-worthy, I make sure to jot it down. I call this process "seeing like a poet," which is my form of daily writing. Every creative writer has received the advice to write something daily, but that's not practical for everybody, especially not for me. As long as I'm engaging my poetic mind, I think I'm doing all right.
How do you decide the form for your poems? Do you start writing with a form in mind, or do you let the poem tell you what it will look like as you go?
The poem tells me all. Sure, I sometimes write with a stanzaic pattern in mind, but in general, I prefer to give myself over to the poem. I've arrived at forms I wouldn't have even fathomed this way.
Any advice for poets who have yet to find their voice?
Keep writing, as clichéd as that sounds. It takes a lot of time and practice to develop a consistent voice. Conversely, though, don't worry too much about establishing a solid voice. Our poetic sensibilities evolve over time. Go with the flux, baby.
What is your editing process like?
Frankly, I do a lot of micro-editing. I'll perform substantive edits, of course, but when I get to the polished phase of a poem, I often revisit it in short bursts. I'll change a line here, modify the diction there, delete a few words over there, etc. The downside to this process is that most of my published poems are earlier versions of what they are now, but I think that's ultimately okay. Poetry is meant to grow.
When do you know that a poem is finished?
I believe a poem is never finished.