Cathexis Northwest Press
Settings for Performance
By: Wheeler Light
i. I stand up to perform for an audience and I perform for an audience ii. In my bedroom I stand in front of the mirror and perform for myself I will be performing for an audience later and don’t want to seem ill-prepared iii. I kiss a girl in front of my mom and absolutely am not queer iv. I stand up to perform for an audience but one of my legs shatters as I stand up I drag my corpse to the stage and start to read my poem before fainting of shock v. I play baseball for my father and absolutely am not queer vi. In the bathroom I pop pimples in the mirror I am performing for an audience later and don’t want to look like I don’t care about skincare or being presentable Blood trickles down my face and I cannot stop This is how to be vulnerable in performance If an audience knew I would be disgusting too relatable Someone might want to talk to me after and say they share this experience and that is not what my performance is about You are not the monologue the direct action of your own existence You are not a queer even if you feel like one vii. My father calls me a faggot and I do not cry I am not sad about this I have become accustomed to having roles thrust upon me so I am faggot for a day or a week or for the rest of my life I am not queer I am just acting I tell my friends viii. I bend over backwards to love a girl I hate who hates me We wrap our bodies around each other until we are a car accident I lose my virginity to a man after our seventh break up before getting back together with her so I can act straight again ix. I stand up to perform for an audience but start crying instead and the audience cries too We all get stage fright together imagining everyone naked in their sorrow Sometimes I think I don’t want to wake up tomorrow if I’m not putting on an act but I don’t tell anyone this because I am not my performance and I don’t want anyone to worry about me x. I come out to my family and they are fine with it They already knew me as the faggot xi. I burn down the house I’ve been locked inside of in my head. Everyone on the train looks at me like I am the crazy person on the train but I’m not the crazy person on the train, I’m just a queer who’s been acting his entire life but I will act like the crazy person on the train if it makes anyone’s day easier. xii. I stand up to say I am queer on stage But when I say I am queer on stage I am not myself I am queer on stage Do not relate to me I am acting the way I want to be day to day instead of acting straight like I do day to day Right now I am a queer on stage But I want you to understand what it is to be rainwater Constantly in motion whether or not it wants to be I want to be part of a lake Or a community I want to act okay today Like I’ve never been hit by my father Or like I never hit my girlfriend Like I’ve never used my queerness to justify my behavior Like I do not know what irony is I stand to perform for myself in front of a mirror Like rainwater is not entirely transparent That when people see me acting They know that this smiling face It is not my face And that when I perform I am the only person who doesn’t know it
Wheeler Light lives somewhere in the US and is taking recommendations on places to live. He is the author of Blue Means Snow (Bottlecap Press 2018) and Hometown Onomastics (Pitymilk Press 2019). "I tour and perform poetry a lot. There’s this one poem I do you can find on Slamfind, “Poem Not Applicable,” that I do at every show because it helps sell books—people like it. Queerness is complicated—both performance and breathing. Sometimes, I’ll forget I’m queer while shopping for groceries or taking a shower. I wrote this poem because I’m not always sure the image I purport of my queerness in performance is what my queerness is—how I live it. I grew up in a very intense household where lots of language was thrown around that really stuck to me. Some people don’t like that I use the “f” word in poems but it was one of my first nicknames and it’s followed my entire life. I only performed this poem once and it was very intense and I don’t think the crowd understood it. I had a small panic attack on stage. Sometimes, my queerness is that small panic attack. This poem exists to try and capture that."