If the wound is the place where light enters us, how does our pain leak from us?
Natalie Diaz’s “My Brother My Wound” is an unstitching. The poem reveals increasing losses, through calculations of need and absence, by the way a pair of siblings regard each other. Of sharp and injurious urgency is the poem composed: Diaz lancets the reader open, as the narrator is surgically opened, by wilderness, by the menace of cutlery, by what one body can use to cleave into another for residence.
How moved I’ve always been that the brother of this poem uses a fork to stab a Jesus Wound into the speaker’s side. Forget rapiers and their jewelled scabbards, at least for the purposes of this particular dinner table: I like the grim, domestic assurance of the poem, that almost any object can be used to guarantee entry. It’s the fork, in this case, that lets the light in, lets the brother trample over the speaker’s ribs.
Every corner of this poem startles me. It’s in the cohabitation of words I don’t expect to see together, no matter how many poems I read: mouth as nest; Mars erupting from the stomach; the Ferris wheel that lives inside us, we who allow at least one human passenger aboard. I experience Diaz’s poem breathlessly — not the flush of romantic suspense, but the vertiginous thrill of being unsure when I might topple, when I might be at most risk.
What of the wound, of the path it makes in the human body, in the human capacity to suffer for the sake of being a light unto others? “It wouldn’t stop bleeding. / He reached inside / and turned on the lamp — / I never knew I was also a lamp”, says the speaker, already perforated for love, already leaking light.
This is the first installment of Here for the Unicorn Blood, a Queer POC Poetry Reader which runs from June 1 – June 30. Historically, June commemorates the 1969 Stonewall Riots, heralded as the birth of the modern LGBTQ+ rights movement in the United States. #PrideMonth’s global significance, its unabashed celebration of queerness, its marshalling of non-heteronormative joy, resistance and tenacity, motivates this close reading series, which specifically engages the work of POC Queer Poets, in international space. People of colour have been vital to queerness before queerness had a name: this is one way to witness that, to embed my reading practice in it, and to raise my brown, queer fist in yes.