When young, we reach for everything that wants us, for many things that don’t. In No’u Revilla’s mesmeric “Rope / Tongue”, sexually audacious girlhood is layered between the origin story of a grandmother, ancestress who “jumped into the ocean with her legs spread, landed, and the / water turned to foam.” Coiled in the language of the poem, passing between grandmother and her scions, is rope, thick and stretching across the pier with sexual suggestivity. The rope is a boardwalk, a promenade to erotic self-discovery, a bridge to the worlds of power — and learning how to straddle it.
You might think this poem is a tidy back-and-forth between past and present feminisms, but the rope that stiffens between your legs while you read, that rope carries you in and out of conventional temporality, like the seeking tongue of a lover in dreams and waking life. If Revilla makes the major metaphor of “Rope / Tongue” evident from its title, what follows is not a disappointment; it’s a corded detailing that makes you squirm and nod, yes. I, too, have straddled things not meant for me, marvelling at the rush of blood-excitement between my thighs. I, too, have measured longings for “sex in tents on cliffs in the morning out of wedlock, / of making eyes biting lips saying “I want” “I will” “I do” / and meaning the fuck out of it.”
Meanwhile, the grandmother dives, a lizard shapeshifter, sovereign of the rope with thirteen children issuing from her. Grandmother’s reckoning with the rope is different to the revels of her young: in this way, herstory braids upon itself, the poem tells you: both furtive orgasms and fertile motherings emerge, slick with the water. Submerge, tangle with the tides, a rope-tongue in your mouth, and see how you rise, barnacles blooming over your bare breasts.
This is the tenth 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.