985: Might Kindred

20231026 SD

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.

Might Kindred
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.