To be butchered between the banks
of North & South Bend & Black Lives
Matter asked her to suspend
her campaign. What would she say,
Genghis from the Land of 1,000 Lakes?
Perish the wilderness—Laura Ingalls
Wilder’s wildness. After we burn
down the homestead we can pitch
a fire inside the house. He’s like a stevedore—
a man who can really handle his cargo,
or a pink-fringed pony setting
all of the Middle West to wonder:
“Is that fruit a fucking queer?”
The ballgag shows he means business—
& with sailors for sale or rent, what exactly
is the wellspring of your hesitation?
Don’t be a stranger around the bend,
Lone Ranger. Your belt buckle as far
as the eye can breathe, the penumbral curve
of the rain shadow—a geometry
more abstemious than the tongue
can inaugurate if trained only on Guthrie
& Cash. What can you do, though,
when the plastics bloom from your body
like a cactus tree? A drop of hogwash,
a dash of hornswoggle never hurt nobody.
Call me Lord Lushington—I gotta paint
my nose—before I acknowledge the corn,
before eating any peck of trouble pie.
Jarred full on corn-fed Indian mysticism—
as when the pale-faces conjured fish
from the ground & planted their crucifixes
in sleepy Comanche chests. Bottle’s empty
save for the worm. Swallow it!
Image: Untitled (cowboy), Richard Prince / The Met.
Mining a deep cultural archive of homoerotic imagery in the American frontier, our collaborative project responds to iconography of the Gay Cowboy, pulling from and critiquing material spanning multiple decades and forms—from Andy Warhol’s Lonesome Cowboys to folk ballads and Orville Peck’s Pony, from whitewashed fantasias of prairie life to the contemporary political landscape of the Rust Belt. On this latter point, we wrote “Above One’s Bend” while both living in South Bend, Indiana—which is located on the traditional homelands of the Myaamiaki and Pokégnek Bodéwadmik peoples. Putting our heads together, we tried to make sense of the depiction of the Midwest peddled by presidential hopefuls Amy Klobuchar and our former mayor Pete Buttigieg. We were struck, for instance, by the disparity between the reality of our “bent” lives and the corporatist neoliberalism Mayor Pete embodies, the violent enforcement of which has been borne overwhelmingly by Black and Brown people; our poem hopes to contribute to the chorus of productive critique aimed at such policies that has been sustained by the South Bend chapter of Black Lives Matter, our dear friend poet-scholar Chamara Moore, and The Root‘s Michael Harriot, among others.
Taking on a seemingly inexhaustible physical and historical landscape, from the era of Manifest Destiny to the present, as our backdrop and compositional field, our collection includes experiments with various established collaborative forms and newly invented ones. In so doing, we map the lyrical terrain of a mythically limitless frontier. All of which is handled with our “dairy queen” brand of camp humor.