written for a performance with Dohee Lee and Simon Pettet on March 28, 2014


Poetry is not for the passive. It is, as Mayakovsky knew, at its very heart tendentious. Even the love poem agitates the beloved to fall in love with the poet.

Like the first time I ever heard “Crazy in Love” is the only time I’ll ever understand.

Once open the books, you have to face
the underside of everything you’ve loved—

none of the forms feel big enough

nothing occurs to me
but blood, filling blisters
on the stomach or legs of someone
that is a friend or lover to someone—

all his money                   taken away,
whose children hold his hand at the perp walk,
Rachel Maddow smirking,
I love a little,
I don’t use the word lightly.

I stop my hand midair

After my friend’s accident I take care of her.

Just as sometimes there are seven stanzas in a song.

i am the tiredness of this room, its low lighting

everyone out there listening knows
my body feels so way off the ground
as all the big stores go reaching for me

this little piggy loves to kiss my neck
and this little piggy loves to kiss in the rain
and this little piggy goes out of his way to kiss only lightly and call me Stevie

I’ve always loved to count.

The tricky part is keeping your eyes.

Loving isn’t enough, not with needles

I want to use your body for my own pleasures. In other words, to be historical.

If you want me to play the part
You have to give up some part
Of yourself.

It’s too too dark for you to read me

City which is
a love letter.

This is a piece of blue onionskin paper inked with the names of the detained and deceased.

This is my cardiac chest unfeathering.

since I am the topsy-turvy

glad apparition
for free education and
paradise now

I’d kiss your eyes three hundred thousand times
if you would let me

even if I had three hundred thousand friends I’d be yours

I go where I love and where I am loved,
into the snow;

I go to the things I love
with no thought of duty or pity

Sometimes Ruby went first, sometimes I did, and these decisions came naturally and without any discussion.

I couldn’t believe in love until I got
to the creation of the animals—

All the pee is yellow. All the shit is brown. All the blood is red. All the guts are pink.

lying on the table,

To tell you how it is, was, maybe
Isn’t necessary, but if you want to listen
Take it

My love speaks through the merging traffic. Especially with the radio on.

I left my heart in the teeth of jumper-cables—

a pear-shaped
structure roughly
the size of a fist.

Some never had a body to call their own before it was taken away

No one tells you about these boys: their quiet feminism

We sit on the floor of public places, our faces wet.

If you stand in the grass with me. Wait.

When he is asking for his mom, he thinks she is at work

The work is difficult, traceable
By the love in me
Open the door
Show us your teeth

Keep your jaw open and your shoulders down.

be secretly in love. to read everything to caress
the sinful communism. A hideaway underground in the
jailhouse by the water.

Fuck me harder, leave the haters behind
As you know I am a slut for leisure

I’m lying down with myself and kissing myself
By sucking my lower lip in and thrusting it out.

by way of 40 buckets worth of mopping
The sentimental hug of the horizon.
Too much to bear.

You must have seen how stupid I felt
brushing the sideways cup to get it upright on the floor

Because of the passivity that distance manufactures

Everything I loved, I could not keep
in one place

Raw oysters even more wet than water, I would wipe my eyes with one in a desperate moment.

I saw myself wearing stilettos of meat
& laughing
I saw myself dressed in pink-eye & tumors

public, inconsolable, and totally myself

My whole life is a letter to you.

To begin with I know that I am not
In the whole galaxy of people an angel.

As you drift toward sleep
I would know not seems
like Hamlet’s grief
this love of mine
in the month of drones

the barista’s smile, the impossible cake, the change in weather, us, you, whomever you are, reading this

This isn’t the body I wanted, or to hold

How much it hurts.

We work too hard
We’re too tired
to fall in love.
Therefore we must
overthrow the government.

We work too hard
We’re too tired
to overthrow the government.
Therefore we must
fall in love.

So that the pixels actually spark.

The book of this repels its reader.
It is physically hard to open, like a weapon.

Otherwise, by now
We would love each other

if we had dope for an excuse

as a rippling confection of impulse

I ask you, who has yet to speak, where shall we meet again?

A thing can be lightweight or heavy.

When I saw you in the morning my eyes were full of paper.

The city looked okay from the window
But if you clicked on the zoom button

a guard rail.             teeth knitted together.             a corrugated tongue.
the hollow once a quarry

that man is still standing there, begging for change

I turn into a trailer and Hurricane Rita blows me away.

What has love to feed the poor—in auburned days, we drafted one fox heart to ferry the nightmare of this people,

If hurling myself down gently, love.

What must we call each other if we meet there

If I read it out loud I should sigh and say self-righteousness.

right here where I’m
and I feel it
in my ass

except more like marching, listing all the people we are.

so much that we all become curious, that we all run outside

foaming wake / productive creaming

It’s not precisely for you, this flood of cramping

Backwater rising come on.

every point of the body has a trapped story. If you touch the point, the story explodes.

if I spoke
another language
I’d break into
It now

talking as we are—now
our desire is—to keep
talking why—would our talking

ever—end naturally—by itself
the leaf swings: I don’t hold it

the kissing
started to feel mindless
like chewing
so I stroked your hair instead

I promise you don't have to be my mother or teacher.

When a stereo goes by playing Mary J. Blige’s Real Love
That’s when the revolution begins

through the torn fabric, light pours in

I play my green kazoo for you

And you, could you have played a nocturne using a drainpipe for a flute?

Rushing to put our weight on one another

is there something transcendent about self-abasement?

That loud hub of us,

as all roads disappear
& ruin geometry

we worry that our circuits will blow

we split to become a greater thing

for every whoever who has lost all its letters

haven’t I said that part of having intercourse
with anyone, is loving them when they are weak,
when they can’t speak.

at the podium, I say in my head, “I love you, be my friends, exchange these promises, you to whom I aspire.”


Originally Published: April 3rd, 2014
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Stephanie Young lives in Oakland, California. Her collections of poetry include Telling the Future Off (2005), Picture Palace (2008), and Ursula or University (2013). She edited the anthology Bay Poetics (2006) and is a founding editor of the online anthology/“museum” of Oakland, Deep Oakland. Young and poet Juliana Spahr coedited...