Six Poems from Oliver Baez Bendorf’s THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO X

Flicker of orange outside the window. Day breaks into pieces. What man feels man enough? Twinge while the oil seeps in. Is not for chit chat. He brought himself forth and called himself X. That is the good news.

 

Is this still the good news? Scientists believe all mammals dream. I believe in the necessity of darkness, but that doesn’t mean I like it. I feel glad when the stars align, but it’s getting harder to remember what they look like. Does the handle of the Big Dipper shoot up, or down?

 

X feels calm, considering. Has been out past the lights and made it back again. “My whole life,” he says, “I felt haunted by a handsome presence.” Nostalgia is another word for the way some bodies more than others carry the feeling of a different place or time, and sometimes—as we established elsewhere—that’s a sin. Still, though, he is less afraid to die. Wishes for me to note that, as of today, still able to cry. Will update if it changes.

 

Patch of morning glories next to an abandoned prairie. Did he lie down in it? “I did,” he says, “but the fit was all wrong.” The light shone yellow and huckish through the trees. Smell of leaves burning.

 

I wake up to shiny yellow light and the sound of X weeping. Or is he singing? I think he is singing the words to a hymn we both know. “I’ll fly away, fly away, oh glory …” From the bedroom I applaud, but through the wooden door he mistakes my clapping for a bad dream.

 

The last time I see X he is carrying firewood into the wilderness. I can still hear his voice when I put my ear against the knotty pine and quiet. How does it sound? Red, and cracking. X sang like a dirty brake when we sang. I’m not worried. I’m stopping here.

Oliver Baez Bendorf is the author of The Spectral Wilderness, which won the Stan & Tom Wick Poetry Prize and was a finalist for the Thom Gunn Gay Poetry Award. He is a Trans, Queer, Latinx writer from the Midwest, and his poems are in recent and forthcoming issues of American Poetry Review, Black Warrior Review, Foglifter, Poetry Northwest, Third Coast, West Branch, and elsewhere, and anthologized in Best New Poets and Troubling the Line: Trans and Genderqueer Poetry and Poetics. The 2017-2018 Halls Emerging Artist Fellow at University of Wisconsin’s Institute for Creative Writing, he is a CantoMundo and Lambda Fellow and beginning Fall 2018 will be Assistant Professor of Poetry at Kalamazoo College in Michigan.

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