985: Might Kindred
985: Might Kindred
Today’s episode is guest hosted by Shira Erlichman.
I’m Shira Erlichman and this is The Slowdown.
I attended a large public high school in Brookline, Massachusetts. On the top floor of the 4-story building, there is a 53-year-old program called School-Within-a-School, or, SWS. It is a participatory democratic alternative program for 120 sophomores, juniors, and seniors.
My introduction to SWS came one day in a vegan restaurant. At the time, veganism was not normalized in our cultural lexicon, so when I shyly followed a friend into the hole-in-the-wall restaurant to meet his friends, I felt like I was attending a secret basement punk show. Around a long table was a gaggle of short-haired girls and long-haired boys. I later learned that 3 of them (“3 of them?”) were dating, that most of them were Queer, and all of them were vegan and artists. Paper cut outs were scattered on the table. They were collectively working on a zine.
Because SWS was on the 4th floor, SWS kids were affectionately called “upstairs kids;” the mainstream students, “downstairs kids.” I was a downstairs kid, bored to death by mainstream education, longing for risk and intimacy in the classroom. Upstairs they called teachers by their first names, had Tuesday town meetings with all 120 students weighing in on issues from the curriculum to where the couch should be in the lounge. SWSers had their own lounge with posters, cubbies, and a boombox.
I started to tag along with the artists and vegans to protests against the U.S. invasion of Iraq, to concerts, and to their Friday night vegan dinners. SWS required applications to get in & I soon applied. I had found my people. They lay tangled on the lounge couch sharing one sweater, two heads poking out of the neck, bobbing to Neutral Milk Hotel. They instigated curriculum around abolition, and interrupted my every assumption about gender just by existing authentically as they were.
Today’s poem is a seeking of belonging. My favorite part about it is how shyness and a longing for friendship coexist. Reading it, I felt as I once did back in that restaurant. A small introduction turned into a cosmic intersection where parts of myself I hadn’t even known existed waved back.
by Mónica Gomery
Sitting next to a queer poet at the reading my shoulder houses a tiny rose bud its petals wound tightly against its other petals. Is this a queer poetics the way my body becomes terrarium at the chance of recognition? At the front in the dark of the room a poet builds the city with his teeth and I become the smallest petal on the smallest flower in the wildest field of words God of desire who rules that quiet sky, friendship bring me a cousin a cousin a cousin bring me a soft plot of soil Meet me in the space between native countries, city wildflower-lush where blue becomes blue. I want to tell you a story thick with maroons. Praise how we tip toward, spill bright petals, praise glass opening out—is this queer poetics? God of fragile new friendship, war of tender on asphalt in front of this stranger I unhook, small surgery offered in case we might kindness, might ardor together Meet me queer in the city, might kindred might light a match I have longed for a fire of flowers.
“Might Kindred” by Mónica Gomery from MIGHT KINDRED © 2022 Mónica Gomery. Used by permission of the University of Nebraska Press.