Two Poems

On the Ethical Flaying of Corpses as a Form of Escapism (Or: Castlevania III)

                  It is 1990 and I’m not there, in the room with him,
                  terrified, my invaded body and mind both warped forever. I am

genuflecting in the rubble of the House of God,
a house toppled by hoards pouring from the castle shrouded in eternal night.
I’m revenge at the hands of a whip –
the heavy door slams shut behind me and I smile,
because you can’t escape me.

                  It is 1991 and I’m not there, waking in my mother’s arms at four a.m.
                  on the frosted lawn of November
                  as she escapes our haunted house in New Jersey. I am

barreling through rotting pawns,
gutting and burning gnarled visages of Hammer Horror
and Universal Monsters.

                             It is 2002 and you did not find me naked in a puddle of urine on the kitchen floor,
                             an erasure poem of Goldschläger rolled away,
because I was in the Forest of Darkness.

                  It is 2005 and I’m not there, watching a man as he is
                  beaten into a coma for forcing himself on me, I am

the hunter of twilight that climbs the royal staircase
every hundred years, the gristle of war on my fists as I
approach the Castle Keep. Your arrogance fades as you smell my bloodline.

                             It is 2006 and you did not leave me sobbing on the sofa,
because I was on the Haunted Ship of Fools.
                             That was not the sound of the apartment door closing behind you,
it was a decayed wall cracking as I look for sustenance.

                  It is 2012 and I’m not there, un-in-love with some life
                  I tried to build,
                  some identity I thought I could persuade myself of. I am

on a cliff-side with a friend, with a lover,
watching the castle crumble with exhausted satisfaction in having
done something good with this life,
having survived,
or merely escaped.

                  It is not tomorrow, where I find myself in ruins again. It is
1476, and I am starting over, giving myself a moment to breathe.

Deadnaming Birdetta

He thinks he is a girl and he spits eggs from his mouth. He’d rather be called “Birdetta.”
– Instruction Booklet, Super Mario Bros. 2

Like so many of us, your existence is overrun
by other people’s interpretations of it.

When your world is ruled by another,
you are forced to perform, to spit,
to jump,
to be cruel when all you want is to be beautiful.

They didn’t care enough to get your
wrong name right –
They’d called you Ostro by mistake
then Birdo, the one that took,
never Catherine or Birdetta as you’d
asked, politely corrected,
insisted in Japan, then in America.

Years later, when you’ve made amends with heroes
and you feel you might finally know peace,
when you learn to ignore the subtle snickers,
the gender indeterminates,
someone will lock you in a birdcage –
a displayed punchline.

They’ll laugh,
but never to your face,
and no matter how familiar you feel or how iconic you become,
no one will ever say your name.