Reading Queer

(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life by Maureen Seaton

(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life by Maureen Seaton

cropped-DSC09564-A.jpgAt age thirty, newly divorced and waking up to the fact that I had a body, I wrote a graphically sexual poem called “Lois Lane” about the boyfriend who helped release me from my Stepford twenties. I kept writing poems about my so-called normal straight life until I turned thirty-nine and met a woman who turned me into a full-blown lesbian in the front seat of my old Honda in Brooklyn New York, during the theme song from Dirty Dancing. I’d officially entered my own queer life of desire and I’ve been wrestling with my libido ever since, both in and out of poems, writing it all down because I think my head will explode if I don’t. Thus, I queer the world.

I love the verb “to queer.” I love that I can “queer” something—a relationship, a restaurant, a poem, my father’s funeral, the planet, my classroom, just by being there. Is that true? I like to think it is. That I bring the possibility of a new flavor into a roomful of people all tasting strawberry as they gaze in the same direction, which is presumptuous of me, I know. But they all appear to be riding the same horse when I prance in on my green zebra. They sure look at me funny.

Queering desire for me is about bigger and fluid and messy, although those of us who love messy find it beautiful. I wrestle with desire (and therefore libido) now for the same reason I’ve always wrestled with it—it’s so big and fluid and messy—it doesn’t fit in the drawer I was taught to fold it into. It bulges like a blob when I try to poke it. It hits me in the back of the head. It whips me around.

My poems have gone from neatly enjambed beings that are actually recognizable poems—to big messy collages that no one, even I, can wrap her whole mind around. Sometimes they grow into prose—a memoir or a story—and then I recognize them again. Ah, I say. Whew. I’m normal. I can get these published somewhere. They fit. But that in between thing—that transliminal, boundaryless, unnamed thing, that stretchy, messy, unpredictable thing—I’m not sure what to call that, and I hope the umbrella of poetry will continue to embrace it because poetry is where humans break records and bonds and rules—that thing, I believe, can only be called queer.

It’s fun, because, like a convert, I’m so happy to be wrestling on the queer side of libido instead of the straight side that even the tricky stuff has been a pleasure. Stuff like trying to figure out exactly who should I and who do I desire and who, out of that motley crew of possibilities, I’m actually going to get naked with. And am I going to allow this poem to spill over and over until it has no genre whatsoever? A many-eyed thing with no parents or country?

My first mentor told me: “Poetry is about compression, Maureen,” and that worked for me until I tongue-kissed a woman. Then poetry was about galloping and sloshing through mud and rolling down hills and flying my own jet. I certainly do not speak for anyone but myself and I have no answers today, only more questions, like: Are queers the only ones who write queer? Or: Are we simply reloving Whitman? Or: Is there such a thing as queering yin and yang? Or: Is yin already queer? And what will happen if we write whatever we want and don’t call it anything and don’t call ourselves anything and we all just do what we want all the time without hurting anyone, of course, well, not intentionally, at least, and no one knows what to call us and everything we write gets wider and wider and we sleep with any number of people of different genders and genres and our writing gets fuller and our desires are met and grow again and now we are so full of music that our poems never even reach paper and someone asks us because they just can’t believe we could be so queer–who the hell are you—what will we say then?

For another thing, you would think I’d be on the crone side of libido by now—all dried up with no one wanting me or my poems? Ha!

I wish I had that old “Lois Lane” to read to you today, that it hadn’t gone missing along with others I composed on my beloved Selectric II. I’d like to honor the woman I was at thirty sleeping with Superman. But I’ve got this one to share with you, about the evening my lover and I queered Ohio at an upscale mall which has actually turned into its own town called Easton.

I’d like to dedicate it to a host of literary queers—hetero and homo and—who have celebrated themselves and me along the way—and to my amazing fellow panelists —and to the literary journal Bloom—where it first appeared as “Dine the World.”

–Maureen Seaton, April 8, 2010, AWP Denver. Originally published in Pank.