USEREVIEW 141: The Limits to Any / One / Thing Not Being Queer

Jérôme Melançon/ November 8, 2023/ Book Review

In this experimental review, Jérôme Melançon fucks around with poetry, which is possibly the only suitable response to Kirby’s debut hybrid-genre memoir Poetry is Queer (Palimpsest Press, 2021).

ISBN: 978-1-98928-786-6 | 250 pp | $19.95 CAD | BUY Here


everything being a matter of gravity and lift

everything — being — matter

Kirby you look at me now through dozens of googly eyes — funny how we cover ourselves like that, with the images of others, avowing that we can only be seen as others have seen us, as we attempt to shape ourselves —

Kirby you speak to me and not me, the googly eyes repeated but not as drawings – googliness a watchfulness yes a pen and keystrokes that see that wait, a full elicitation

Kirby you welcome me as a reader, between purple covers that are not yours yet are, draped in borrowings —

I’m certain it’s the same for you, wondering if you’re a homosexual

Or not, or if everybody knows or thinks they know and fuck ’em

— catching me as I’ve stopped knowing and thinking and wondering, leaning in to the one reality I know, this love that’s held me and that I’ve held, fashioned and received and made myself fit into and made it fit me

there is this person and little else matters in the terms of the outward extension of flesh — this I do not celebrate this I do not proselytize this I do not prescribe, this merely meekly I acknowledge

I have not yet written the commentary on Alexandra Kollontai, her revolutionary love, her wings, her flight, her need for varying bodies to meet varying aspects of her own, able only to acknowledge the unlikelihood of meeting this person who meets such and so many needs

Living as I do, the question is ahead of me, unfelt and unfeeling

My body with hers an answer in its endless presence

I have taught myself to keep searching to deepen to translate to shapeshift to be the slow growth of the tree that senses the arc of the light and what it gives to the sun

the tree that orbits the sun

and so I have withdrawn questions and knowings

dear Kirby the address may never end may never slide itself into satiation in a lasting encounter

Awww, fuck, Kirby, we all want something vast don’t we

Us poets a certain breed of poets

Ginsberg shouting with glee about cocks and me at my parents’ breakfast nook table reading his collected poems

thinking then that’s a bit much

knowing wow he really enjoys it doesn’t

Teenage me being like wow, cocks, ok
Hundreds of pages Kirby, HUNDREDS! so much pleasure and what I’ve kept is I’m with you in – and all the cocks and above all the long, long line that reaches for the paragraph

The reach I suppose I knew you wrote having just read it but let myself forget it

You say reign and that’s even further than the reach, wider than vast — that movement of circling that assertion that refusal the abandon that includes abandon: inside there’s more than there is in the fall: inside that reigning in there’s more than can be walled legislated frontiered, offed: inside is an expanse is every growing, entropy, ebullition: inside we do not belong and not belongs to we

You have stories and Ginsberg has stories and we all just sit here and pretend we know how to make them stick to the real but Kirby


I was allowed it was within reach already I broke one state to enter another I was
permitted and being a giving of herself she could not be stolen
a traitor I could not be a criminal a traitor remains within the state even if unchosen
her tongue ma langue mixing in the nation’s capital
but that moment of letting go of getting it right oh
vast if
only for every moment spent with her

The state an anvil on the tongue

The state a willing walling in and so fuck ‘em

There’s joy to be had

The state was not the problem though and the hate does not burn

Peering through your state (not knowing it as yours yet (missing so many of its dimensions))

I read Genet in readings of Sartre and found a sidekick, approaching from one of his flat angles his being-turned into book between someone’s covers between someone’s lines a mirror

and who Kirby

who wants to be a mirror

I read Genet and I found shock; I ascribed the crime to the designated criminal not to the state

fuck Kirby, you know that already, it’s on the page right there

let’s do a bit of literary analysis about the intoxication of proximity and the insertion of a deep philosophical truth in between beauty and prosternation, contemplation and consummation, what looking up like that will do to the knees let’s beckon the possible yes!


beyond the reach so vast — an embrace, words that come closer and closer to holding

and you

you Kirby

you destroy Western metaphysics in one line

The only life I’m interested in begins and ends with my body.

Thumbing & flapping at decades of theories that only looked at Narcissus and missed the joke missed the wisdom in it

To learn to breathe is to learn to let in just enough of what hangs around me

Or hangs in me

Transperced and transpiring — sweating — a self-regulating, an expulsion and an immersion of self


assume I’m queer (fair enough)

assume I’m queer, and so // I am

living a similar life to this, living the same love, with a surplus? of desire and discipline, of spaces and edgings out, of marks on my body? of history?

Yes I’ll hold. Ok, I know I’m straight I suppose in the way you know you’re queer, but also in that everyone always already agrees that I am, acts as if I were, prepares their interactions and my place around their bodies, we’ve convened before I’ve arrived, my body prepared for me

a pairing

a paring

that slicing sluicing we learn for bodies to be straight, upright, upstanding

selves on a cutting room floor

you speak of spaces where bruises are chosen, calluses embraced, you speak

with a voice that makes virtue out of nothing and unwinds necessity

not embracing but an embrace

a possible figure

the means to figure myself in

as mattering as a matter as matter

you’ve named this poem and you called it forth Kirby an invitation and an invitation again, this book you placed on my pile, handled, fingertips resting on the left page, right pinky a light brush

to step into

matter a distance

celebration a collective purpose of it

s own




But wait. Is there anything entirely straight?
Not when I’m there! (Sorry to ruin your night!)

your pages each a stencil

always a different effect the dose of pain
a n iridescent reaction t
o the squaring of time

in fingers and legs running

to a void a chase

achase with the notion that I, like anybody

achase with the notion that I might like anybody

achase with the notion that I might be like anybody

achase with the notion that I might be, like, any body

a cartogram of encounters:
two bodies moving around one room, its extensions,
a balcony and its flowers, alternating positions between petals
the books a centre, matters of distance
electrons don’t dance so this was something else
no lines on the floorboards an adjustment without
trajectories, a play, the floorboards a st
age but then there’d be authorship
a series of concepts you teased
me with that I didn’t dare to

acco st

two weights
a thread in the plexus, two weights at the extremities
tautening loosing
moving one another, oneself
words and books spinning, a velocity
we gave each other
coming to different rests on the balcony
a thread not a chain

and so writing about not wanting to be always and always the same and the same le même et le même le m et le m the m and the m the m le m the m le m them le m hem lem em em em em — so completely worried with everything I’d been ascribed and ascribed with — so completely wanting to shed to drop some ballast but worried what the heads the sacks may fall onto and more importantly what they would say

a childhood of looking up at hot air

is this a confessional

sometimes it’s nice just to listen


listen to

to let a voice be a basket,



clasped and

abandoned by wrist


warm, covered

a hop, a gait

resting, laid

made to enchant



covered, snuggled

curious lift

and say nothing, with glee

radiant, with circulation

and yes light can change us:

the light on the Saint-Lawrence in Trois-Rivières can, still, change me

the light on Toronto streets whose names I forget can, stilled, change me

we want bodies bathed in light, in colours, vibrant

ours most of all

ours — bodies joined at the extremities
of a hallway, joined around two parallel plates
bearing what the light what the water what the soil —
ours, never only mine, we seek the beach in masses, gather
in parks, cycle along roads, open windows in velocities of proximity,
gather ourselves our skin layers of belief that the sun reflects better

off the skins of others

off the bricks the mirrors the sidewalks the leaves

we test through the disbelief of eyelids, our
lungs holding knowledges we cannot keep

the question
outside the jails
the basements where skin is marked
outside consent

while others die

How then shall we live?

Scars and lesions and fractures I’ve never felt lingering close to my body

Laughters and smiles, not in spite


Aesthetic dignity a concept to be unfurled for miles of scripts, reams of paper with the knowledge that pleasure always carries the

This proximity to life afforded by the distance within the gaze, the deference of service? You speak of heightened proximities and the faraway objects of longing, objects relinquished, offerings worn away, constant deferrals, repetitions and a past sedimented as reputation, on your balcony the jump out into the day / dream

You write sentences into breaths, into paragraph breaks

I can still feel her dress wrapped around my legs in the wind.

and though the wind was unkind the gazes held

You turn “my kind” inside out to experience who else you could be, now, and now your own, and now your own, and now your own, now, Kirby, NOW

unsanctioned […] disobedience

leaves to be taken, curves, voices inside voices, insides, entries, passages through each other, a meal, pleasure making friendship an affair of survival

Kirby I’m straightening

aren’t I


etically being

myself I

don’t k

knowing the cops are the criminals
the crime ,
is not

to exist th
rough t

rough you

I retrace a pathth
could have been

but abs are not the sun for me you
found freedom in the sun and I
‘ve been thinking about freedom & am
paid well for it & to pretend I’m not &
that it’s not an affair
of sunlight, sunshine, blindness, fear
on & display; nourishment and growth
that str e t c h i n g of self toward a
taller, wider, airier; a fog for light to dispel
letting in what will attack and modify ever
y base & point of attachment – could
freedom be external and penetrating
transmitted in waves and seen on others and
on skin that ceases to be mine?
an excess of self so others may exceed us

your words
and mine

a political philosophy in the occasional jump out of the sen ten ce

cherishing (holding), dear, a precondition for the freedom of others

for our suns to bring us our own

My being here alone is an act of defiance.

yet you know others and let them know you
(fuck the bible and
its half-said falsehoods)
know what it is for a body to create gravity and share
not give
osmosis but that’s my current obsession with trees I ought to spare
you it

oh honey

I hear you troubling the waters mixing it in not brushing not waving it away just letting this fixation be they’re my words and you have yours: surrounded / enveloped / engulfed look at us forgoing transcendence in two separate directions

But to be held rather than having to push, to be up-held and to be left to hold up rather than considering all the options once arms no longer endure the tension

The elusive, not the need to organize

not to put in order

not to arrange beliefs into death sentences

beauty is not scrutinized

breath is not a tongue of flame, breath does not descend

The elusive

The love that grows through the cracks of church cement and marble, of police station asphalt,

a whole world of life that can only be covered,

flattening and digging can only stop and rest against what they aim to reach, crushing and excavating cannot destroy the ground only its instances

to which we return keeping what it deposited within us, sediments of love and care eroded from afternoons of quiet noises and late nights of grandiose noise and mornings of anticipatory silence

The elusive and delightful roll of the word between tongue and palate, body radiating with breath and vibration, the becoming-sun of not already knowing how to be, performance a series of gestures between bodies and not an act, nothing being accomplished

What envelops us when worth is questioned by neither of us

A hug that predates the invention of my body’s disciplines; immense moments of friendship

The elusive

The drawing together of words, in the moment and in the years after, a survival and a certainty of having survived once death becomes no more than death, neither left nor leaving

But to live through the loss and the AIDS epidemic and now to

have an unchecked disaster move through our every drawing near

who do I think I am, having a self?

could I have told you all this or known this about myself, not having

read, been so enveloped by, your book?

Jérôme Melançon writes and teaches and lives in oskana kâ-asastêki / Regina, Saskatchewan. His third and most recent chapbook, Bridges under the Water, is with above/ground press, and his third and most recent poetry collection is En d’sous d’la langue (Prise de parole, 2021). He regularly reviews poetry for the online journal of poetry and poetics periodicities, and has translated poetry from contemporary French-speaking poets in Canada. More: Instagram @lethejerome + Twitter @lethejerome

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