Cathexis Northwest Press

© 2018 

Settings for Performance



I stand up to perform for an audience

and I perform for an audience





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





I kiss a girl in front of my mom

and absolutely am not queer





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 





I play baseball for my father


and absolutely am not queer







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





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





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




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 





I come out to my family 

and they are fine with it


They already knew me as the faggot





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. 





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."