My poetry is about place and desire, about the place of desire in the self, about the way place configures desire, about the way the objects of desire are always conjoined to the particularities of location—whether that location be the Rocky Mountains, the beaches of Mexico, the slums of Nairobi, our backyards, our churches, our imagined heroes. I try to be honest about describing what I want in these poems in the sense of both longing and lack, always trying to infuse that longing, whether queer or spiritual, with the irony of existence, namely, that what we want is always what the other does not have. How can we make music that captures this paradox of existence?
From the book:
The Orb’s Prayer
Deliver us from circles, from the chop of helicopters,
dryers tumbling and the out and back of garbage cans.
Deliver us from potholes and boxers. Averted eyes
zeroing in on acoustic tile in a practice room. Spit
in the hole. Sore throats and coated aspirin. Save us
from stomachs distended. From paper routes and rinks.
Hamsters. The rut of hope and our fathers hallowed.
Our daily bowl of Grape Nuts and those spoons that speak
to us from studied lines. Deliver us, oh please, from halos
above platoons. Orbits and coteries. Circuits around stadiums.
Rides through sectored parking lots, rims of toilet bowls.
Mouths framing questions whose answers are assumed.
Screw caps. Forgive us our gulps and guzzles, our dizzy beers,
our delivered pizzas. Forgive us our circumvented revolutions.
You know this path. You’ve circled this June grass before, these blue-bunch stalks.
You’ve read these names. Larkspur, lupine, bitterroot. Seen the teepees
on the bank in the dirty photo. Before the railroad came. Many times
you waited here for him to emerge from the swirl. On the bank
beside the muddy roil barging down the canyon. You remember the branches.
How easy to peel the mottled bark. How smooth the red coat underneath.
Then the garden. Flaming quince and forsythia yellow against the fence.
Pollen lining the lane, where maple volunteers flag the sod. You came here
with him. Smelled the purple lilac.You used to call him from these plots,
tell him no. So many times. Under needle clumps you stood shouting
his name. Over and over again, you said come. Because it was late, time to go,
and the upwell, you could see, was carrying sunset toward the bridge.
You cried out to him where painted fish and crows peopled the pillars.
Through junipers you whistled where the waxwings sometimes cluster.
Heel you said and cursed the lost lead. Impatient beneath the span.
You know this road. You’ve been down it, turning at dusk into the sun,
feeling the river lift you like a skipping rock on the crown of a dancer’s head.
His stride beside, his posture perfect. Feathered. Until he stopped
to watch the green heads bent-winged light on the inlet. You remember.
The oily beaver ruddering up the bank, a wake behind his eyes. That bark.
In your head, you hear him, low and loud against the river din.
Casey Charles teaches English at the University of Montana in Missoula, offering courses in Shakespeare and queer studies. His first book, The Sharon Kowalski Case: Lesbian and Gay Rights on Trial (Kansas 2003), was nominated for a Publishing Triangle Award in nonfiction, and a collection of essays, Critical Queer Studies: Law, Film, and Fiction in Contemporary America, appeared in 2012.
Casey started writing poetry in Spanish while teaching in Guanajuato, Mexico, and later studied under Patricia Goedicke. His poems have won awards in contests judged by Adrienne Rich and Carolyn Forché. His first poetry chapbook Controlled Burn was named one of the Montana Independent’s best books of the year in 2007, and in 2013, he published another chapbook Blood Work with Seven Kitchens Press and Finishing Line.
His queer life and studies have also led to two novels: The Trials of Christopher Mann (Regal Crest 2013), about San Francisco in the times of Harvey Milk, and the forthcoming Monkey Cages from Lethe Press, based on the Boise sex scandal of 1955.
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