Maud Lavin 🔈
I walk with walking sticks now. Spine damage.
Always clumsy, now I’m clumsier.
I give you my poetry as clumsy, too
As a performance.
I take a word, a long ungainly adverb instead of a short, blunt Anglo-Saxonism
Try to carry it, let’s say – surreptitiously – a romance language-rooted word,
Blurry with syllables,
Into a room sideways, under one arm, one walking stick in the other hand
Only to have the word hit the door frame, and me to be pushed back a step.
I draw back from neat language, like Wordle’s – check, crisp, waist, snort
And words like my mother trying to assimilate, ones that aren’t Anglo-Saxon
But weigh like them – judge, repugnant, respectable, force.
I choose to be a tongue mutt, mixing long words like romantically with
Key short words like fresh, cute, straight, queer, bi –
A tongue explorer, who bounces back a step
And then walks into a room, stick first, tongue second,
Holding ungraceful and taut, together.
About the Author
A professor emerita at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Maud Lavin has published work in The Nation, Artforum, the New York Times Book Review, Portable Gray, Chicago Artist Writers, and other venues. Her most recent book, Boys' Love, Cosplay, and Androgynous Idols, co-edited with Ling Yang and Jing Jamie Zhao, was nominated for a Lambda, and an earlier book, Cut with the Kitchen Knife, on the Berlin Dada artist Hannah Höch, was named a New York Times Notable Book. She is a Guggenheim Fellow and a person with disabilities.