The Best Poem I Read This Month: Joshua Jennifer Espinoza’s “Wrapped In My Body I Dream”

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Apogee Journal’s new folio “Queer History, Queer Now,” released on the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, acts as an “altar” to “reject the whitewashing, the profit-making, and political tokenizing that warps queer struggles and tragedies.” Over the past two months, post-Orlando, a number of publications have underlined poetic and artistic responses to violence: Apogee Journal’s collection organizes their relation to include online essays, poems, videos, and interviews, and each of the pieces offered forefront queer and/or undocumented artists of color. None of the pieces accept paraphrase: their entireties should be read, appreciated, and responded to.

For this month, I decided to write regarding Joshua Jennifer Espinoza’s “Wrapped In My Body I Dream,” one of two poems she provides in the folio. I’m grateful to see Espinoza’s work, which is primarily poetic, and comes through the avenues of Twitter, image-macros, Tumblr, and the books “I’m Alive / It Hurts / I Love It” and “There Should Be Flowers” via Boost House and Civil Coping Mechanisms respectively, in this folio, with its gathering together of transwoman identity and experiences to create encompassing artworks. Her Twitter handle – “sadqueer4life” – also operates as a sort of thesis statement for the work of hers I’ve read: there is an underlying sadness, but not a pessimism: the work, in its continuation, is “4 life” and for living.

“Wrapped In My Body I Dream,” related in eight couplets, compiles a mixture of metaphysical metamorphoses, each of its two lines adjusting the previous statement and traveling downward to meet a new middle of liminal spaces. At its beginning, a desiring-dream comes forth:

 

Wrapped in my body I dream

of being something else

 

outside of time, space, energy,

love, death, gender, capitalism,

 

etc.

 

The speaker’s mind, cloaked in a body, secured by it and also unsettled through it, feels for an untempered state, in which a series of abstractions weighing and bordering identity become undone, separated, un-furthered. The desire doesn’t yield to simply being another person, but being another thing that travels beyond the seemingly endless violent “etc.” of similar strategies and systemic structures that wrap and warp the body’s ownership. Even when the body is “my body,” Espinoza relates that the physics of discipline do not stand down, draw up swords in every sense: economic and spatial, through orientation and through normative practices of “love.” To speak plainly: Espinoza opens up the limits, both theoretical and concrete, to existence and “what is allowed,” perhaps without “hell,” “death,” and “blood.” Permissibility plagues all fronts, and culpability is diffuse. The speaker’s “else” wants to bowl away from the “etc.”; the order offered and its obligations are only manageable when one can dream “outside” of them.

The second half of the piece flips the focus from the speaker to the speaker’s dreams and back again. “Not me,” the speaker insists. “I am one thing, after all, / sucking on its own poisons.” The poisons sucked are both the present tragic state and the (im)possibility of a utopic future in the queer now. A world subtracted of money/mouths/manipulations remains, in its present-end-state, “the dream of salvation / without blood.”

Espinoza’s navigations of Future Abstractions and Present-Day and Historical Horrors within a concentrated short span express her abilities to balance and surpass the suppression of binaries. The result is totally queer, the potential energy and purpose of a poet who identifies as the “gayest gay who ever gayed,” one who catches the miracle of living in its most contradictory conflicts.

 

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