God, it would be good to remember leaving a body.
Instead this painstaking appearance.
what a thing, to arrive already left behind.
The first time I was born, a famous storm. Slept
right through. Babies make for easy myths. Wind
mouth pressed on the two bed flat. Beech tree tipped
onto the car. One long moan. The ordinary replaced
with sound, seemingly endless. I slept. Oh, babies
remain babies. Apparently remarkable, to be precisely
the thing you seem at first. But I did not make for a
good baby. Myth shed to irony. Isn’t it always the case?
A mellowing out, an adder bit the dog. Insomnia,
illness. I absolutely refused to stop puking. ‘A scream
worse than a storm,’ they said. Could be I inhaled it!
How grotesque. Oh, we say grotesque things about
babies. And yet:
Never will I be as important again.
Start at the beginning: a strange order —
feeling backwards is better.
I’ve had as many births as I have limbs. I’ve had as
many births as I’ve have organs. Right now I can only
remember three: bellybutton, thyroid, knee.
The second birth: Michelle Pfeiffer as cat woman. God,
her heels startling across a hard floor. Image passed
through me like a cartoon ghost. I happened in the
rough stitches of her pleather. Not alone in this, I know.
So many of us born by the blood at her lip, the way she
wore her whip. Delivered into a different place.
Hands that caught us somehow familiar. First real breeze
felt across the bellybutton. Time paused long enough for
a gut sensation. Air thickened around the telly. Hello
present tense, hello. Melancholy of Michelle’s backless
dress, down the stairs, into the arms of bad masculinity.
Shame, we all thought, I’ll do better than that. A joy, to be
thrown into the world this way. Storm inhaled after all!
Finally lucky me.
Not that I ignored batman. Those rubberised abs!
One day, I hope, someone will chip a tooth on my chest.
Thinking about the possibility of a face, of a chest, the things
they can achieve. Make a promise about masculinity and
you better stick to it. For example certain poems make my
presence on the pavement more important:
Once I saw a window full of cats. Not kidding.
Normal house, were it not for the display. Toys of
different sizes on handmade shelves painted blue.
Plastic cats, plush cats, bejewelled cats, celebrity cats.
And at the centre, my Michelle in a photo frame. The
confidence to make a shrine!
Compartmentalise the body into different votives, I wish.
Swap skin for imitation silver and pray to each part.
If I could kiss my own collarbone I might feel better.
I’m learning how to be holy.
But all these men
In the cathedral the stone priests wait to ascend.
Modelled into glory, how lovely. Eyes turned upwards,
but still casual. Take your time, God, it’s all good.
The confidence to be a shrine!
How dare they.
Feet crossed softly, even in stone, as if awaiting a lover.
God not just a word, but a very special man. Palms
upturned, raised slightly above their mouths. This they
didn’t account for. The way I’m looking at them. These
stone priests. Yes. This they didn’t account for—
me, a kind of faggy medusa.
One gaze and I’ll turn it all to gay.
The way I know fucking, though, because of it, the way we fuck ourselves into history.
In other words: I can hold myself in high regard, high
holiness, all greased up on poetry. Carl Phillips:
You can make of the world’s parts something
elemental, you can say the elements mean
something still worth fucking a way forward for:
Fuck forward, feel backwards. I’m trying to resist
the temptation to say ‘if you don’t believe me I’ll
prove it.’ Whatever! I hang in the air like a rumour.
Things I practice saying in the mirror: that’s the
difference between you and me!/I know how to hang in
the air like a rumour!/How boring for you!/To be
nothing but a fact on legs!
Birth after birth after birth.
For me, the third—almost pissing myself in front of a
Twombly. An experience of art is possible to the peculiarly
lonely, ha. Thigh slapping sense of self. Everyone loves
Twombly but wow it feels good to be obvious after years
of misery, mystery, misery, mystery. The body’s
unclenching in his red carnations. Edwin Parker. Escaped
muscle. Brushstrokes have that after-fuck float. The
ascension, my sweet feet crossed, patches of light
opening in the ceiling. For a few heartbeats I am a total
prince. Scars on my chest like his red carnations!
Noise sealed up. Touch my own skin like a lover might.
Without dissociation, a lump in my own throat.
I know what I’m doing?
Trying to establish a shrine in my thyroid
dedicated to all the fathers who birthed me.
This gland shaped like a butterfly. Resting on my
windpipe. Innocent location, were it not for my voice, a
plant on the grow. Aiming for the octave of heartbreak.
I’ll say such deep things.
Knees, the sex they contain. Engines of pleasure. No?
Will I die a man? On my knees? One of God’s men, a catastrophe of masculinity?
I want to be understood so
I so want to be understood
Masculinity: skinned rabbit, scent of almonds, cold sea.
Clouds tighten above the Scottish mountains like fists. Air
forced upwards by the landscape. Is that how it feels to
leave a body? To shift form, smooth as atmosphere.
I’m romanticising. Blood and Shit comes but seconds later!
Child, I was one.
How to remember it now?
Blood and Shit, wiped clean. That smell of new
life is what I’m after. Sprayed hospital, slight lift of hormone, precise
warmth of a neck. Nestle like a dove below an understanding ear.
All this rumoured honesty: I’d make such a decent saint! Flapping from
one so-called gender to the next. Moving on the fucking wing. Each
breath of mine a private miracle. Moist! Actually I’m
better than a decent saint, I am a small, bossy son of
God. Beg, beg, beg for my forgiveness! Kiss my thyroid, knee,
bellybutton! Father, father, father, I’ll always go one step further.
Do you appreciate the absolute beauty of my life?
K Patrick is a writer based in Glasgow. In 2021 they were shortlisted for The White Review Poetry and Short Story Prize, and in 2020 were runner-up in the Ivan Juritz Prize and the Laura Kinsella Fellowship. They are currently working on their debut novel.
The body, proximity, and place can be far-reaching and boundless—this series intends to question these complex questions through different experiments with language, art, cultural phenomena, and writing as practice, and is led by editor-in-residence Hatty Nestor.