Poem: "Ode To Rereading Rimbaud In Lubbock, Texas" By Chen Chen
"So why isn’t Lubbock the new Fire Island or P-town? For months I dreamt it was, could be."
In the armpit of summer. In the asshole of August. In the what-the-fuck-am-I-doing of more grad school. I am in the 20th grade, rereading Rimbaud’s “Sonnet du Trou du Cul,” co-authored with his often-fucked-up sometimes-boyfriend Verlaine. Their joint ode to the asshole. The literal hole, puckering. The literal hole, the surrounding hairs. The metaphorical lips, & hunger. In Lubbock, Texas. In Jesus saves & Buddy Holly rocks. In Guns up! & Ah, that line break! In recently voted second most conservative city in the country. In the year marriage equality is made the law of the land. In the year the law is laughed at, spat on, called a sign of the end. I reread the sonnet, the ode, then go, inspired, horny, to the one I love. Tongue in armpit in asshole tongue on cock on cock tongue in love. My poetics of deepthroat & tonguefuck. I love my poetics. From the French: la mousse humide encore d’amour… From the American: it smells like ass in here… From between my love’s cheeks I sing my song of merde that’s good. Thank goodness for alternatives to penis & anus. Thank goodness for cocks & Rimbaud & butts & sonnets & amour & ass & Verlaine & dicks in the relentless middle of summer in Lubbock.
Oh, Lubbock. Why did I choose you? How did my boyfriend choose to come with me? The name makes me think buttock & banana & hammock. So why isn’t Lubbock the new Fire Island or P-town? For months I dreamt it was, could be. I was teenage me again—dreaming of making out, moving in with Jake Gyllenhaal, dreaming of the day I could bring a boyfriend, a Jake, home. At times I thought, If only, & tried to see myself picking out nightstands with Maggie Gyllenhaal. Now I see even a little gay sex & French poetry would make some folks better citizens. Now I have a boyfriend, a Jeff, who chats with my mom, cooks me food, then sucks me off, anywhere, even here. Isn’t that enough of a gay paradise? All we need is another couple for Mahjong. Or one other person plus Lily, what one online Mahjong guide calls the imaginary missing player. What an absurd concept. What a beautiful name. Lily, come over. Lily, let’s watch your favorite movie. Do you prefer comedy, drama, action, or movies with Jake Gyllenhaal in them? Do you like spicy foods? My boyfriend does not but I love him anyway. Lily, whom do you love? & is it possible to hold hands with your love, on the brightest street, in the bustle & heat of your town?
Lily, after another round of Mahjong, let’s imagine a Lubbock we’d want to live in. Let’s ask our favorite imaginary missing players to help. Ask Rimbaud to come, & maybe not date a gun-toting French Symbolist, a Verlaine, this time. Ask Verlaine to come, to put down his absinthe, his pistol. Let’s say, come back, come to Lubbock, come a big creamy load on all the bullshit. Instead of huddling in the corner of Maxey Park, let’s make Lubbock Gay Pride stream through 34th Street, through Buddy Holly Avenue. Let’s bring back the best slang term for homosexual—cockpipe cosmonaut. Let’s shout. Let’s make sure every gay, queer, cockpipe troublediver gets good food, good rest, gets the goods of marriage without having to get married. Let’s holler & be many verbs. In the lick of many summers.
Chen Chen is the author of When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities, winner of the A. Poulin, Jr. Poetry Prize and forthcoming from BOA Editions in spring 2017. A Kundiman fellow, Chen’s work also appears in two chapbooks and publications such as Poetry, Indiana Review, Gulf Coast and Best American Poetry.He is currently a PhD student in English and Creative Writing at Texas Tech University and lives in Lubbock with his partner, Jeff Gilbert. For more, visit chenchenwrites.com.