Lodestar Quarterly

Lodestar Quarterly
Figure reaching for a star Issue 7 • Fall 2003 • Poetry


Gerry Gomez Pearlberg

...hay barcos que buscan ser mirados para poder hundirse tranquilos.
...there are ships that want to be seen in order to sink in peace.
-- Lorca, from "Moon and Panorama of Insects"

Grey, static sea I hold before me like a microphone. But indolence
doesn't listen, it's too busy lapping the edges, trying to extract
the bare minimum from any situation. So here I sit, covered
in sand, crying over a lost androgyny, my apathy
to gender which once held so much promise.
Hobby, trinket, snow-choked hamlet.
In this place, a job (like gender)
is something to "hold down."
It's usually the other way
around, the phrase
almost human
truly an in-
Listen up:
here's to some luck
in attaining a clue. Start
where you are, kissing the
whimper of every startled animal,
webbed foot, hoof, fin. The new crew-
cut of which you're so proud, experienced
knuckles, well-filed lesbian fingernails... they've
taken you just about everywhere & it's smooth sailing
from here: Animaline. "Dynamic lethargy" is how Burton
described Eastwood, a spider's indolence, a shiftless montage.
If "Yanks have tails" & "Jews got horns," what's potent enough to
rinse the grit from your brain-stem? It wasn't that you were a bad kid,
Mom said, just that it was hard to follow where you were going.
Where was I? The time was 1970, 15 years after the invention
of "Cool" & I was nine. Panavision Reflex was in its heyday
filming our society after the bomb, pure macho. Is that
why I longed for horns & was so hard to swallow?
I wished each dawn for antlers to rise upon my
head, a velvet chandelier: stubborn, baroque,
a manifestation of mind -- signal of my
improvident aberrance -- willing &
able to stake out a territory I
could call mine. I never
felt fully part of this
world. That's not
a bad thing. I
where I was
going, longed like
a lizard to drop my tail --
go hybrid -- a composite creature
in a children's book, a horizontal slash
across my pages, where head & torso might
become a goat or frog or terror, & down below
a kicking bear. I wanted to be the jellyfish (Hydro-
medusa; Man-of-War) whose tentacled skirt lashed out
& stung the numbing scenery while back upstairs the wild
bull gored open its world of platters & false answers: my plaza.
Because gender, though illustrious, just wasn't giving up her clues.
In that context I wanted not the golden keys to the kingdom but a Talking
GI Joe -- the 14 holes in his chest a spatter of gore-wounds, neat &
perfect -- opposite of any war -- a sieve through which the 7
seas of language roared their static monologues. I wanted
better, but he was a sailor on the open sore of sea.
I aimed to be lost in a bigger story than that
which girlhood normally receives, adding
my own embellishments, trading in de-
pendency for a more legitimate
principle: surprise! To love
the tale & live to tell it.
But there was
to contend with
& science can squelch
you harder, faster, more
obliquely than even gender. We
give it more power. I turned away
from it -- one less wrong road to go down
-- & traced instead a loner's sense of justice.
I walked the pebbly beach, rarely found it serene
or stream-lined. It was active, implicating everything.
Physical power & the capacity to act from that place has
sickened me since I was young & fell for tadpoles. I mean for
a collaboration with stillness that lasts a lifetime. No more, no less,
no brain-dead gawking. That means a willingness to be accused of under-
acting. Let me take a moment to acknowledge my debts. I'll do it
silently, like a director: "very little fill into the shadows to let
the shadows speak." For surely you realize that where we're
headed is best if turned away from. The limits of a hero
are the clues to my character. Beginning without you,
tomorrow begins, snarling or wagging or drooling
at the sky. Clouds like antlers lodged in high
branches, picked almost clean -- just a trace
of meat left on the skull, a little
meat & fur, an eyebrow
raised in genuine
disbelief at
Animals are
so earnest. What can't
we learn from them? Even
their skulls convey great delicacy
of mind, attentiveness. I'm fully fledged
now, a frog pushing dinner down with either
eyelid: I squint at what I've swallowed & put aside,
a self-created image with patience enough to let stillness
come through everything else: a unifying theory for absolutely
everything in the universe. I am a kind of Eastwood, facing all directions
as global extinctions fly in the face of my world in many grand &
tiny guises. I aim at the onslaught in a last heartfelt gesture --
not clowning around -- the dusk on my boots I sleep in.
When the badge is tossed, it's up to you to read
between the lines. The cup of atonement
is a moon-flower in mud, indigo-open,
ready to take on the trees with stoic
tendrils, pushing skyward, a
harrowing arrow.
from the buckskin
quiver, who really cares
how badly you're portrayed?
Reckless. Arrogant. Cranky. Chaste.
Choose your weapon. You talk a lot about
days without rules but look how you're living.
Without pity for yourself, or mercy for anyone in
the line of fire. Or maybe it's a lie, a shadow you filled
in simply for effect or the sheer pleasure of erasing it later:
a woman's power. No one who has truly lived remains indigenous.
Nothing -- not even the sea -- is static. If you listen hard, the shadows give
their opinions. I look them in the eye & like the shadows speak,
filling myself in as surely as the ocean swallows every hole
of silent sand, storing it behind the eyes through which
the 7 seas do follow. No mark is truly permanent.
To thyself be indigenous. Be indigenous to
the world. I lay down my swagger,
sword to plough-share at
ocean's edge, where
gender smirks
back into me
before the
autopsy, for
there have been
many. My swagger
undulates -- bruised seahorse
in the ripples -- crying out so tenderly
as it drowns, I'm almost tempted to save it.
No. I lower the dagger on which I impaled my life
in waiting, O elusive, golden lyre. I pull myself through
the repossessed music & aim my last arrow toward translucence of purpose.

Gerry Gomez Pearlberg

Gerry Gomez Pearlberg's first book of poems, Marianne Faithfull's Cigarette, won the 1998 Lambda Literary Award. Her latest collection, Mr. Bluebird, reissued by University of Wisconsin Press in fall 2003, was awarded the 2001 Audre Lorde Award for Lesbian Poetry from the Publishing Triangle.

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