Poem for the Day: October 14th, 2021

On Confinement by torrin a. greathouse

I sit across the table from my partner
in the atrium of the psychiatric holding facility

our hands churched into our laps. We are not allowed
to touch. The air between us thick as Perspex.

They tell me all the ways this place resembles a prison.




Everything a sterile white
so clean it could almost disinfect
a memory.




In 1787,
Jeremy Bentham conceived of what would become
the most common prison design:

the panopticon.

Intended to control prisoners through the illusion
that they are always under surveillance.




My partner tells their therapist
they are afraid of taking
their own life,

that they balanced on a building’s edge,
& three officers escort them from the room.



The first cop who ever handcuffed me
[was my father]
left me bound
till my fingers blued.

On the days when I can’t remember
his face,
he becomes the scent of
vodka & zip ties
the sound of
cuffs & a bottle
petaling into blades.




At the booking office they remove my glasses
& the guards blur into a procession
of fathers.




I bring my partner clothes & pads
when the hospital decides to hold them longer,

shove each shirt that could mark them
as queer back inside the closet & shut it [like a mouth].




The word faggot scrawls across
the jail guard’s lips like graffiti.



When I visit my partner
they insist on staying inside

the sky above
the patio cordoned
off  with chicken wire.




I plead my sentence down
in exchange for: my face, my prints, my DNA
& ten years probation.

When I see a cop, I fear
even my breath
criminal

& when my therapist asks me
if  I’m suicidal
I lie.


Perhaps
both are a kind
of  surveillance.




Tear gas floods the street,
sharpens water to a blade
hidden in the orbit of my eye.

& just like this, a squad car
remakes my sadness a weapon.

If my partner snaps cuffs
around my wrists

[& I asked for this]

have they also weaponized
my desire?




A woman in the facility
tells my partner:
I know what you are.
Says:
Sinner.
Says:
Anti-christ.

My partner goads her on,
babbles in false
tongues & is confined
to their room for safety.




Once, a cop dragged me
into an alley &
beat me like he knew
exactly what I was.

What does it say if sometimes
when I ask my partner to hit me

I expect his fist
tightened in their throat, his voice
bruising their tongue?



I am arrested & placed
[in the men’s jail]
in solitary confinement.

They tell me this is protective
custody. That they couldn’t afford
the lawsuit if  I were killed. In this way,
they tell me I am a woman

only when I am no longer
breathing.




The origin of the word prison
is the Latin prehendere — to take.

It follows, then,
that to take your life is to prison
the body beneath dirt.




[Historically,
suicide is a criminal act].




Balanced on a building’s edge, I imagine
some permutation of  this moment

where to fail at death
would be a breach

of my probation.




We both weep for the first time

upon release

when we see the sky.

Pale blue

sliced through

with a single helix

of razor wire & bordered

in sterile white.

© 2018 torrin a. greathouse. Today’s poem first appeared in the November 2018 issue of Poetry.

torrin a. greathouse (she/they) is one of the most innovative and startlingly luminous poets we have writing today. I remember reading “On Confinement” the month it first appeared in Poetry and being arrested by the following lines:

The origin of the word prison

is the Latin prehendere— to take.

It follows, then,

that to take your life is to prison

the body beneath dirt.

Everything in their poem suggests a limitation, a box the world would build around the speaker. Whether the prison is literal (the men’s holding cell in solitary confinement) or metaphorical (the actions and assumptions of people with the authority to categorize and strip away the dignity of the speaker), the effect is the same, which is to police and draw lines of demarcation around the ways in which marginalized people, especially in this case people who are queer and disabled, are allowed to express their humanity and exercise agency.

“On Confinement” also brings into stark relief the Othering Trans* people undergo when they try to access basic social services. Any facility serving members of the general public ought to be devoid of the homo- and transphobia greathouse talks about. Historically, the Trans body is often a site of both state-sanctioned and private violence, and for all our high-handed talk of equality and progressiveness, this is still largely true today. Anyone able to bear witness to these acts of dehumanization and look away from them places their seal of approval on the acts themselves. And shame on them. Shame on a world that makes someone live in constant fear of violence because of who they are and calls it justice. Shame on all of us.

*Trans is an umbrella term for anyone whose gender identity and/or expression in any way deviates from what was assigned to them at birth. Trans people may identify as transgender, gender fluid, gender-expansive, bigender, agender, gender non-conforming, nonbinary, etc. These are just a few of the identifying words Trans people may or may not use to express their identity(ies), but regardless of terminology all humans deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. It is NEVER okay to deliberately misgender someone or use their dead name.

Thanks as always for being a faithful reader of The Voracious Bibliophile. If you like what you see, please like, comment, follow, and subscribe to my email list to get notified of new posts as soon as they drop. You can also email me at fred.slusher@thevoraciousbibliophile.com or catch me on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Pinterest @voraciousbiblog. Keep reading the world, one page (or pixel) at a time.

Quote for the Day: October 12th, 2021

Lie With Me: A Novel by Philippe Besson and Molly Ringwald (Translator)

Later I will write about this longing, the intolerable deprivation of the other. I will write about the sadness that eats away at you, making you crazy. It will become the template for my books, in spite of myself. I wonder sometimes if I have ever written of anything else. It’s as if I never recovered from it: the inaccessible other, occupying all my thoughts.

Philippe Besson and Molly Ringwald (Translator), Lie With Me: A Novel

There’s nothing in the entire world more painful than unrequited love, or love given then taken inexplicably away. It’s maddening, truly. You never forget it, and for the rest of your life the hundred thousand scenarios called forth from the interrogative haunt you like a bad dream you see every time you think of the one you lost.

The only real cure for this kind of heartache is love, and it needn’t necessarily come from a romantic relationship. It turns out you can give yourself the love you deserve. You just have to be willing to put it in the work.

Thanks as always for being a faithful reader of The Voracious Bibliophile. If you like what you see, please like, comment, follow, and subscribe to my email list to get notified of new posts as soon as they drop. You can also email me at fred.slusher@thevoraciousbibliophile.com or catch me on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Pinterest @voraciousbiblog. Keep reading the world, one page (or pixel) at a time.

Quote for the Day: October 11th, 2021

Lie With Me: A Novel by Philippe Besson and Molly Ringwald (Translator)

I discover that absence has a consistency, like the dark water of a river, like oil, some kind of sticky dirty liquid that you can struggle and perhaps drown in. It has a thickness like night, an indefinite space with no landmarks, nothing to bang against, where you search for a light, some small glimmer, something to hang on to and guide you. But absence is, first and foremost, silence. A vast, enveloping silence that weighs you down and puts you in a state where any unforeseeable, unidentifiable sounds can make you jump.

Philippe Besson and Molly Ringwald (Translator), Lie With Me: A Novel

Lie With Me was one of the best books I read in 2019. It first came to my attention months before it was released in English, lauded as the next Call Me by Your Name. Side note: Can we stop doing this? By this, I mean using one work of LGBT art as the reference for its successors ad nauseam until something else captures the attention of the mainstream crowd. Okay? Thank you! Anyway, I was immediately attracted to the gorgeous black-and-white cover and when I saw that it was translated from the French by Molly Ringwald (yes, that one!), I knew I had to get my hands on it.

Even in 2021, even in progressive areas of the world, the simple fact of existing as an LGBT person can invite stigma, ostracism, and violence.

Luckily, it did not disappoint. No spoilers, but Besson’s novel is not an easy read. Because of the world LGBT people are forced to inhabit, so much of our lives are lived under a veil of secrecy, which engenders both shame and repression, neither of which are healthy. If not for love, we would all perish. Even in 2021, even in progressive areas of the world, the simple fact of existing as an LGBT person can invite stigma, ostracism, and violence. My hope is that one day everyone will wake up and realize that love is valid and should be celebrated in whatever configuration it expresses itself.

Thanks as always for being a faithful reader of The Voracious Bibliophile. If you like what you see, please like, comment, follow, and subscribe to my email list to get notified of new posts as soon as they drop. You can also email me at fred.slusher@thevoraciousbibliophile.com or catch me on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Pinterest @voraciousbiblog. Keep reading the world, one page (or pixel) at a time.

Quote for the Day: October 10th, 2021

Call Me by Your Name: A Novel by André Aciman

We rip out so much of ourselves to be cured of things faster than we should that we go bankrupt by the age of thirty and have less to offer each time we start with someone new. But to feel nothing so as not to feel anything – what a waste!

André Aciman, Call Me by Your Name: A Novel

I know that if I allowed myself the space and energy to honor all of my feelings, I’d never get anything else done.

Arguably the most powerful moment in either the novel or its film adaptation, this exchange between Elio and his father provides CMBYN with its emotional and philosophical core. It also begs the question: is it possible to live authentically without eventually becoming jaded? How do we honor our feelings without suppressing them and still carry on with the daily grind of life? I know that if I allowed myself the space and energy to honor all of my feelings, I’d never get anything else done.

Life, after all, is not just one singular experience or expression of selfhood. It is so many different things, sometimes all at once.

These are naturally questions without easy answers. Perhaps there is no answer. Life, after all, is not just one singular experience or expression of selfhood. It is so many different things, sometimes all at once. The truth, it seems, must lie somewhere in the middle. What do you think?

Further Reading

The Arrival of Timothée Chalamet by Daniel Riley, in GQ March 2018 (cover below)

GQ March 2018

Super Bonus: Timmy Edit Because I Feel Like It

God, what a stylish man….anyway, see you next time!

Thanks as always for being a faithful reader of The Voracious Bibliophile. If you like what you see, please like, comment, follow, and subscribe to my email list to get notified of new posts as soon as they drop. You can also email me at fred.slusher@thevoraciousbibliophile.com or catch me on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Pinterest @voraciousbiblog. Keep reading the world, one page (or pixel) at a time.

Quote for the Day: October 9th, 2021

Call Me by Your Name: A Novel by André Aciman

Is it better to speak or die?

Call Me by Your Name: A Novel by André Aciman

Note: Even though I took today’s quote from Aciman’s novel, most of my commentary references the film adaptation of the same name. But you know how things go here at The Voracious Bibliophile—we start off on one path together and end up taking another road entirely. Enjoy!

This is, in my opinion, one of the best quotes from CMBYN. I can’t remember exactly how the scene plays out in the novel (time for a re-read), but in the film, Elio (Timothée Chalamet) is being counseled and comforted by his parents, Samuel and Annella (Michael Stuhlbarg and Amira Casar, respectively), about his love troubles. Now, Elio never really comes out and says exactly what (who) is troubling him, but they are not fools. That aside, anyone living in the same house with Elio and Oliver (Armie Hammer), their gorgeous summer house guest, would have to be completely oblivious not to notice the mutual sexual attraction that practically crackles every time they’re in the same room together.

I mean, is there any delicate way to tell your parents not only that you like boys but that you’re both enjoying and being tortured by a once-in-a-lifetime summer love affair with their houseguest?

This scene in particular is as heartwarming as it is awkward. I mean, is there any delicate way to tell your parents not only that you like boys but that you’re both enjoying and being tortured by a once-in-a-lifetime summer love affair with their houseguest? Now, don’t misread me. The Perlmans are highly-educated and cosmopolitan. They have same-sex couple friends and wouldn’t think twice about their son becoming involved with another man. No, their concern stems from that basic parental instinct that kicks in when you know your child is in pain. Annella caresses her son’s hair while he lies in his father’s lap, and she reads from the book containing the line which provides us with today’s quote.

In that moment, you become part of the scene, and a feeling of exposure, of becoming emotionally naked, surrounds you and fills you up. Returning to reality feels not unlike leaving Eden, filled with a beautiful and terrible knowledge.

Anyone who can watch this scene and not ache with longing must have their soul stripped of all feeling. The world around you disappears and the wall that separates the performers from the spectators crumbles. In that moment, you become part of the scene, and a feeling of exposure, of becoming emotionally naked, surrounds you and fills you up. Returning to reality feels not unlike leaving Eden, filled with a beautiful and terrible knowledge.

Bonus: I found a YouTube clip of the scene where this line is spoken, and it’s just as powerful after repeat viewings.

Double Bonus: The entire soundtrack to CMBYN is sublime, but Sufjan Stevens’s “Mystery of Love” is on another plane entirely. It was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Song as well as the Grammy Award for Best Song Written for Visual Media.

Thanks as always for being a faithful reader of The Voracious Bibliophile. If you like what you see, please like, comment, follow, and subscribe to my email list to get notified of new posts as soon as they drop. You can also email me at fred.slusher@thevoraciousbibliophile.com or catch me on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Pinterest @voraciousbiblog. Keep reading the world, one page (or pixel) at a time.

Quote for the Day: October 8th, 2021

Call Me by Your Name: A Novel by André Aciman

We had the stars, you and I. And this is given once only.

André Aciman, Call Me by Your Name: A Novel

Call me basic if you want to, but I love CMBYN (both the book and the film adaptation). It is full of passion, angst, remembrance, and regret—all the hallmarks of a devastating love story. You can’t really pigeonhole Aciman’s novel, though; it is just as much a philosophical treatise as it is a story of love and heartache.

Forewarning: I’m cheating because for the next several days I’ll have multiple quotes from the same book/work. Quotes are like potato chips—it’s hard to just pick one.

Thanks as always for being a faithful reader of The Voracious Bibliophile. If you like what you see, please like, comment, follow, and subscribe to my email list to get notified of new posts as soon as they drop. You can also email me at fred.slusher@thevoraciousbibliophile.com or catch me on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Pinterest @voraciousbiblog. Keep reading the world, one page (or pixel) at a time.

TikTok Discoveries: Confrontations – Single by Alex

I love discovering artists on social media and TikTok seems to be the best app out there right now for creatives to have a platform for showcasing their work. I was scrolling through TikTok this morning and ran across @songsbyalex and his new single, “Confrontations”. In it, he talks about the double lives queer people are made to live when they’re growing up. There are all these rules and codes you have to follow in order to fit into the larger heteronormative culture, because refusing to do so often leads to ostracism in the best-case scenarios and bullying/harassment/violence in the worst-case scenarios.

That’s really what “Confrontations” is all about—those first forays into learning and unlearning to find out who we really are when we can finally be free.

Even when you come out of the closet, you still have to do a lot of work figuring out who you really are. You’ve spent years, decades even, masking your true self behind behaviors that kept you (and your secret) safe from exposure. You don’t even know which parts of you are authentic and which you had to manufacture in order to make yourself palatable to the rest of the world. That’s really what “Confrontations” is all about—those first forays into learning and unlearning to find out who we really are when we can finally be free.

“Confrontations” is now available to stream wherever you get your music. Do yourself a favor and give Alex a listen.

Thanks as always for being a faithful reader of The Voracious Bibliophile. If you like what you see, please like, comment, follow, and subscribe to my email list to get notified of new posts as soon as they drop. You can also email me at fred.slusher@thevoraciousbibliophile.com or catch me on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Pinterest @voraciousbiblog. Keep reading the world, one page (or pixel) at a time.

Poem for the Day: September 15th, 2021

Someone Somewhere is Googling “Stonewall,” Inauguration Day 2013 by Stephen S. Mills

A screen is filling with black and white images:
police officers, drag queens, and a few actual
stone walls. There are links to history pages,
organizations that have taken the name,
and the website for the bar where it all began.
A bar that now makes its money off of tourists
paying homage to the riots, raising a gin
and tonic to a movement that’s still not over,
but has changed direction. Today, people talk
of marriage. Of becoming like everyone else.
It’s cold outside and inside our Harlem
apartment. A place that knows something
about fighting, about surviving, about deciding
how to be equal. Here on this day our computer
screen is filled with a president taking a second
term. A president we’ve fought to keep.
A president willing to acknowledge our fight.
We’ve learned to adapt, you and I. To find
our own meaning. Our own way into love,
sex, happiness. In the coming years, we’ll make
choices, and yes, one day, we’ll probably be
legally tied to each other. Protected under
the law. Written down in the history books.
Two men. Two names. Two bodies.
But that act, no matter how simple or elegant,
will never capture our lives, or our history,
or our desire to be undefined.

© 2013 Stephen S. Mills. Someone Somewhere is Googling “Stonewall,” Inauguration Day 2013 first appeared in the Summer 2013 issue of Referential Magazine. Stephen S. Mills is the author of He Do the Gay Man in Different Voices, which won the 2012 Lambda Literary Award for Gay Poetry; A History of the Unmarried, which in 2015 was named to the American Library Association’s Over the Rainbow List; and Not Everything Thrown Starts a Revolution, which in 2019 was named to the American Library Association’s Over the Rainbow List. You can read more about Stephen and his work at his website.

Thanks as always for being a faithful reader of The Voracious Bibliophile. If you like what you see, please like, comment, follow, and subscribe to my email list to get notified of new posts as soon as they drop. You can also email me at fred.slusher@thevoraciousbibliophile.com or catch me on Twitter and Instagram @voraciousbiblog. Keep reading the world, one page (or pixel) at a time.

Poem for the Day: September 6th, 2021

The Same Word by Jacques J. Rancourt

Last night I watched the drag queen’s hip-pad
drift down her leg
and distort the full moon
of her figure. By dawn you won’t recall
how I hummed her song to you while you were
sleeping.
We call this a marriage, but it isn’t
called that
outside
this room. It isn’t called a thing. I’ve searched for
a word
that means what I mean it to - how we are a part
of the world as much as we are apart from it -

and it does not exist. Still, we make of this thing
an imitation, an effigy. Still, we make it each day
because we exist, weary phantom, as both the
flesh
and the illusion,
because we live together
even if we live as a drag queen does, drawing
applause from a world that holds her at bay.

Jacques J. Rancourt’s Books

In the Time of PrEP by Jacques J. Rancourt

Novena by Jacques J. Rancourt

Broken Spectre: Poems (due to be released on September 14th, 2021) by Jacques J. Rancourt

Thanks as always for being a faithful reader of The Voracious Bibliophile. If you like what you see, please like, comment, follow, and subscribe to my email list to get notified of new posts as soon as they drop. You can also email me at fred.slusher@thevoraciousbibliophile.com or catch me on Twitter and Instagram @voraciousbiblog. Keep reading the world, one page (or pixel) at a time.

Book Review: How to Be You by Jeffrey Marsh

How to Be You: Stop Trying to Be Someone Else and Start Living Your Life by Jeffrey Marsh

I have followed Jeffrey Marsh on Twitter for years. Before I found a therapist, before I got on medication for my anxiety and depression, their videos helped me to be able to take a breath and center myself so I could get through the day. I’m sure I’m not the only person whose life has been impacted by them in this way, but I will forever be grateful for their calm voice affirming my place in the world over and over again until I started to believe it for myself.

How to Be You is the self-love manifesto that everyone in the world needs to read, but it is especially essential for those of us in the LGBTQ+ community. We live in a world that is often hostile to us, a world that bullies, beats, threatens, harasses, disenfranchises, and belittles us to the point of fracture, to the point where our very existence is seen as a threat to the standing order. Jeffrey’s assertion throughout their book is that it is our choice whether or not we are going to capitulate to the people who would make us smaller. We can be expansive or we can shrink. We can grow and learn and change and accept ourselves in all of our glorious complexity or we can draw lines of demarcation around ourselves and always exist as less than our true selves.

We can be expansive or we can shrink. We can grow and learn and change and accept ourselves in all of our glorious complexity or we can draw lines of demarcation around ourselves and always exist as less than our true selves.

I’m not going to lie, a lot of the self-help material circulating in the world today is worthless pablum at best and an avaricious money-grabbing scheme at worst, but Jeffrey Marsh is the real deal. Their work comes from a deep place of understanding what it feels like to be marginalized and maligned for being queer, and I am so grateful for their existence. I am grateful for this book’s existence. Thank you, Jeffrey. A thousand times, thank you.

Favorite Quotes from How to Be You

Confidence comes naturally if trust is present.

Aren’t you lucky that you get this life, this chance, to learn to set aside the yuck and muck of other people’s sometimes nasty words and do your best to live your life as fully as you know how?

Even if it seems like the whole world is against you, you’ve got to trust yourself. Even if no one else will honor you, you must honor what your truth is in any given moment.

Beginning to see yourself as worthy and trustworthy is the start of something beautiful. Why? Because you can finally let go. You don’t need to spend all your time trying not to be too much. You can relax. You can feel safe. You deserve that. Everyone deserves that.

Trusting yourself is the way to claim the life you’ve always been waiting for.

Trust your own self-examination more than you automatically believe someone else’s pronouncement.

Worry and hate are habits, and so are love and forgiveness.

Whatever your imagined crimes were in the past, they are not worth ruining your today for. You deserve to feel free. You deserve to be let off the hook.

The above quotes are © 2016 Jeffrey Marsh. All rights reserved.

Bonus: Jeffrey Marsh’s TedTalk

Thanks as always for being a faithful reader of The Voracious Bibliophile. If you like what you see, please like, comment, follow, and subscribe to my email list to get notified of new posts as soon as they drop. You can also email me at fred.slusher@thevoraciousbibliophile.com or catch me on Twitter and Instagram @voraciousbiblog. Keep reading the world, one page (or pixel) at a time.