body politics, Dora-Mittelbau, effeminate, fey, Holocaust, homophobia, Paragraph 175, pink triangle, queen, self-portrait
Yoked to my lisp, I want you to know
this compulsive arching and pulling and
expanding of flesh at the gym burns
my flesh yellow. I live
in a town where lumbering, stiff
postures serve as reference, where
cropped “Are You Butch Enough?”
buzz cuts act as testimonial.
Where the gym’s trainer says: to be totally hot,
to be truly huge, you need this fat burner!
Get jacked! Get slammed!
I hear the body is
our only sanctuary.
Where men at the bars say: I may be gay but
at least I’m not a queen. Or fat. Or femme. Where
I feel that stare at my back: Hey faggot! Hey
faggot! Hey! How do they know?
I accept, I accept all this.
Yoked to my lisp, I want
you to know Hitler took us
to stretch us out. Recall
Paragraph 175 of the German Penal Code
would have defined me
as one of the “unneeded consumers,”
one of the men “incurably sick” with effeminacy.
Is this why I’d try to reshape my body?
Since I’m judged not by an act, but
rather this sashay?
What do I do with these butterfly hands?
It might still happen. It will
have to happen. It happened before
(I was scared, I cowered, I swore).
I have studied these men: I may
be gay but at least I’m not a queen.
Did it happen to them? A queen?
Is that all I am? Here
in this suburban bungalow,
behind these drapes,
this cross, this little madonna (what was it
that they saw in our bodies?) alone
in a white room, my lisp singes the air,
infusions of smoke from the factory.
I accept, I accept all this. There is a word
I carry with me: mannweiber, “manwoman,”
a word used near Buchenwald, at Dora-Mittelbau,
where camphor and elms shivered over the lanes
leading to the underground cement factory
where we Hundred-and-Seventy-Fivers
were to be “bent straight.”
My body burns yellow to recall
when we were incurably sick. Hey,
faggot! my body burns, their words
branded into my frame:
I’ve tried to live anonymously, I’ve tried to live
with it. I’ve
under the spectator’s stare, and I feel
that stare at my back. I accept,
I accept, at least I am