“If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher” — Abraham Lincoln, 1838
“There are no charters” —Audre Lorde, 1984
found me then
found me as I
I encountered them then
Then I was caught by
The sentries as they
made their rounds
went about the city
in the city
for the city
patrolling our city
watching the city and guarding the walls
They found me
in our city
of the walls
They beat me
they beat me
they beat me
they beat me
They beat me and bruised
they bruised me
and wounded me
they stripped off my veil
they beat and broke me
they smote and wounded
they struck me
They took off my clothes
They took away
they stripped away
they lifted my
they lifted my cloak
They took my
forcibly removed my
placed their hands on my
of the walls
beat me and left me
at the walls
at the foot of
in the shadow of
of our city
The city’s keepers
The men who keep
the city safe at night
(dedicated to all LGBTQIA+ BIPOC victims of
racist and trans/queer-phobic police brutality)
Springcreek, Miami County, Ohio. September the 11th, 1862.
Dear Brother in Camp,
“What sacrifices have you made for your conscience?
why oh why dont you write I have been waiting very patiently but alas I want
to hear from you in about three shakes of a dead sheeps tail if you are still
living and have paper and the use of your right arm and hand we heard
What books have you read on the subject of pacifism?
you was very low with the consumption which I hope is not true
Margery is here and we get along she is baking bread pies and cakes
she brings me whiskey for my rheumatism we have thrashed
Why do you refuse to fight or object to killing?
our wheat and got 109 bushels and we have the best corn we ever had
though not much cabbage we are not dutch enough I guess there is
plenty of apples this year I am drying what falls of the maiden blush
Are you against all war?
when Tom thrashed our wheat the driver was a soldier who lost his
left arm at the battle of pittsburg landing he is staying at Mrs Eastys there
has been several deaths some that died in the hospital and some sent home
What alternate method would you use to resist evil?
Alexander Sohell is dead so now there is only the old woman and one boy left
Frank Denoman was in the battle at pittsburg and had a hole shot in his hat
John Beamer was wounded in the thigh though not dangerous Mrs Beamer
Why is it wrong to prevent evil from happening to others?
is in the lunatic asylum and crazy old Duke was nearly blind but the doctor
turned his eye inside out and cut the blubbers off and now he is better
Will says you knowed the man that was killed in Bill Andersons company
Why is it wrong to defend your country?
his name was Miller Berry he was a blacksmith in piqua the morning that
the rebels got in to the camp before they was seen and the union men
run like the dickens Jimmy Burns run a mile and a half before he over took
Why accept the benefits of a country you won’t protect?
his company and he had nothing but his pants and shirt on he says
there was about ten or a dozen rebels close to him and he could hear the balls
whizzing close to him he had to run for dear life oh and the folks down at
Do you have any civic duties at all?
smalley town are nearly scared to death on the account of the small pox
a young man come back from the war that they think has it our old sow has
two pigs and Tom is going to sell them to the butchers our old cat has three
What happens to people like you in Russia or China?
little kittens and we got a dog and call him tip old Mrs Mosier was going to
kill him Frank is a very hearty child you ought to see him when he is hungry
he will set on the floor and take his bottle in his hands and throw his head back
These are the sort of questions you may expect from your draft board.”
and then he dont care if milk was ten dollars a gallon he gets all he wants
well I will have to quit till after dinner for Margery will soon want the table
and I believe I have wrote just about all the news there is I remain
[Handbook for Conscientious Objectors,
Your sister till death
Mary E Sustin
8th Edition, 3rd Printing, 1966]
p.s. write soon if not sooner unless you are dead
Here’s the thing:
In the 2013 anthology Troubling the Line,
trans poet Zoe Tuck writes that “it’s a commonplace
that all language is quotation. Is it any less true
that gender is?”
But because you’re not here
to give whatever answer you might have
on this thesis of echoey performativity,
I turn instead back to the 1992 anthology Men of Our Time,
the closest I can get to your generation, your voice,
where language interrogates gender as quoted
here by every line in the 408-page book
from the 169 [cis] male poets
that begins with “who”:
who will do whatever he wants
who wore one suit
whose father it belonged to
who have forgotten one another—
whose eyes close in a filmy dream.
Who answered to the name Father
whose time doing chores must have ended
who have been killed in a few seconds’ surprise.
Who crosses easily into her point of view
Who only knew
Who can hurry past the five-and-dime,
Who held like a rivet
Who filled her lap with hot gold,
Whose fingers found the one hundred triggers
whose dreams each night
Who can’t quite master the real
(“Whose mission in life is to play with me”).
whom she loves, and hasn’t seen for a while,
who has killed his first birds
whose scarred beauty Reubens would surely have missed,
who never looked back across the thick swale
who this boy was or what happened to him, kept asking
Who are you? Where can you live?
Who never said more than an averted hi. Good-goddamn!
whom you still loved. He had jilted
whose breezy tongue gets completely out of hand
who put the message in the bottle
who she is. I just hope she wasn’t conscious.
who came toward me.
Who’s seen bliss; now I can drive back
who can’t call it off—
Who are the men speeding away? You are.
who tore off Monique’s flimsy panties
who breathes at the center
who died before I was born
who, in the thirties, would vanish to New York, catch a show, buy a suit,
who for over forty years came down each morning, “How’s the old goat?”
who had one there.
who would have thought
who strolls the shoreline, or just
Who’s this? Is this church business?
Who will see me till I die deliriously
who wrote about the moon on a southern ocean,
Who might have been a doctor or a priest
Who jeered. We were lucky. We didn’t go.
who kidded the waitress
who cried softly all night
who can’t endure their desires.
Who climbs on a chair
Who demands to see the breasts of his wife
who did not have to tell me
who didn’t get the facts straight
who drank their way from one small cottage to the next,
who piss against the wall of good fortune.
whose very clownishness might let him get away
whose reputations burgeon as their eyes stray from the next
who seem to have lost forever
who have gone so long
yet leaves me, and possibly you, whoever
you are, to conclude whatever it means
that there are only an additional seven other lines
in the book about being manlike
that start with “why”:
why is he going there
why is he traveling alone
why is it your eyes look so wild
Why you gaze outward, brother?
Why did it sound