Category Archives: poetry

World Poetry Day

Debbie says:

Two for this year’s World Poetry Day. First, a body celebration by Lucille Clifton:

“Homage to My Hips”

these hips are big hips.
they need space to
move around in.
they don’t fit into little
petty places. these hips
are free hips.
they don’t like to be held back.
these hips have never been enslaved,
they go where they want to go
they do what they want to do.
these hips are mighty hips.
these hips are magic hips.
i have known them
to put a spell on a man and
spin him like a top

and second, in empathy with the people of Brussels, living and dead, the famous “Wild Geese” by Mary Oliver:

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

Justin Chin: 1969-2015

Laurie and Debbie say:

Just before Christmas, Justin Chin died, at the age of 46. Justin was an award-winning  queer poet and performance artist, who wrote (among many other things) about being HIV positive. He was also featured in our Familiar Men: A Book of Nudes.

nude of Justin Chin from FAMILIAR MEN

About this picture of Justin, Laurie says, “I photographed Justin in his home, in places he chose, surrounded by his things. One of the feelings I absolutely wanted to include in Familiar Men was joy, so making this picture of Justin was a real gift.”

In Justin’s obituary in the San Francisco Chronicle, Justin’s friend Kirk Read said: ““He was a soft-spoken visionary who could go on a rant about generations of gay men dying and then toss in a completely inane pop culture reference and have it all make sense. … He brought gravity and levity to the microphone.”

Friend of Body Impolitic Steven Schwartz has a Justin Chin recollection:

The first time I saw Justin Chin perform, it made an impression I will never forget. This was in the 1990s. HIV was still very scary and HIV+ blood was something that policemen feared and everyone else viewed with a near-magical awe.

Justin was lactose intolerant. The piece was addressing how that lactose intolerance played out where he went to school — because he was offered milk every day as part of school lunch.

But the moment that transfixed me was when, as he was telling the story, he took out a syringe, and drew some of his own blood.  There it was, on the stage — HIV+ blood, the boogeyman of boogeymen. He injected it into the milk carton he also had on stage with him.  Towards the end of the performance, he opened the carton, and drank the milk — and the
blood. Everyone was afraid of the blood, but it was the milk that was, to him, dangerous and poisonous.

I have never seen anything like it on stage, for its bravery, for its inversion of expectation and understanding, and for the way it changed perspectives in a moment.

Justin wrote several poetry books, including Gutted, winner of the Thom Gunn Award for Poetry and a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award, Harmless Medicine, and Bite Hard. His  essay collections are Attack of the Man-Eating Lotus Blossoms, Burden of Ashes, and Mongrel: Essays, Diatribes, & Pranks. His one short story collection is 98 Wounds.

We’ll close with two excerpts from “Grave,” a Justin Chin poem about death.

In the harsh glare of an easily
reprehensible life. The channel changer is lost
in the crack of an infinite sofa.
       Everything falls apart, everything breaks
down, torn into a million
              fragments, Jericho everyday.
I want to be the blameless
victim in this canceled puppet show,
the marionette every mother loves, the one
souvenirs are modeled from.
You know what they say,
God never closes a door before making sure
that the windows are barricaded
and the fire escape is inaccessible.