by Kay Gabriel
Kay Gabriel is the author of Elegy Department Spring (BOAAT Press, 2017), the finalist for the 2016 BOAAT Chapbook Prize judged by Richard Siken. She's part of Negative Press, a gay Marxist poetry collective, and an editor for Vetch: a Journal of Trans Poetry and Poetics. Find her recent work in Lambda Literary Poetry Spotlight, TAGVVERK, the Believer, Tripwire and elsewhere.
Letter for letter, bath for bath. You anticipate my figure for camp decadence—uncanny, except for talking every day, like a lover who preempts your sentences and exacerbates them. How did the bathtub get here? How did I? Today I shuffled through the Kosher market at Empire and Brooklyn. In a social realist novel of the 80s this scene would have featured a telling social encounter in which I’d either succeed or fail. In a movie I'd have shoplifted. In a Belle and Sebastian song I'd be pregnant. In this poem I dissociate, crawl home, act out in a warm envelope. I'm largely indifferent between my bed and hot water except that one of them is illicit, the master bathroom with the expensive soaps and makeup brushes and the exquisite Chanel bottles on the vanity. For shame, girl: what kind of Gomorrist, I mean, flâneur, retreats to her chambers? What kind of enthusiast of glances? Well, shut up, it's January, nothing sexy ever happened.
Or is that right? A couple days ago en route to the Sterling St. 2/5 some teens said faggot very loud. You know what I mean when I say they're not wrong, a white queer in south Crown Heights is a walking icon of rent going up and that's why they looked and said it. It's a telling social encounter after all, but there's no success or failure—on one side of a schoolyard fence a white queen with a big pink bag, on the other Black teens notice who comes in and out of the subway.
The irony is that I can't afford to live in my building either without the ministrations of Money and her Chanel. I have fantasies that this intense courtship will culminate in a home—have we written ourselves into a sitcom? There won't be any dying young and we'll be very good neighbors to everybody, there'll be time for writing or to do whatever, masturbate, mutual childcare (will there be children?), time at the beach, no more Januaries. I got this image from somebody else, does it matter?
Except that it's predicated however distantly on the family. In the bath I wasn't supposed to take I watched a dire riff on Bake-Off, the same thing only more so: in place of benign patisseuses dialing grandkids when through to the semis the whole family trundles on set, planting Swedish flags on meatballs, reciting the stages of a risotto, serving up for the judges in their converted warehouse condo, Shepherd's Bush. BE NICE OR LEAVE, blonde wood from a sanded mouth. Spacious counters, chocolate, rice, martinis, kitchen island, poppers, Tina, is this thing on? I agree that the beautiful is beautiful, a fenced playground of peach and apricot. Andy I write not in consolation but a shared miserable grievance, brooding in now-tepid water, out for blood. "The judges must now decide which family to put through." It's not a game you win, but some lose it by shitting in the sauce. Love from me, sharpening my shrewish claws—