by Camille Guthrie

Camille Guthrie

Judith Butler, I am calling you
here in the kitchen where I’m unloading the dishwasher
performing my gender as I’m wont to do
My son yells from upstairs, How do you spell probably?
My daughter plays a game on my phone
caring for little green monster who needs a bath
I need to buy diamonds so her monster can sing
I need a sack of diamonds so I can work part-time
to take care of my kids and still eat when I’m old
performing my old lady tasks
I hope I’m yarn-bombing an embassy somewhere
Better start learning to knit or whatever
Knitting performs femininity, apparently
We need diamonds to afford my house
now that I’m a single mom
Conflict-free ones for a conflict-free life
To perform a single mom’s gender
is to need a chest of gold coins
and my life is easy I am not hungry
not beaten up working three jobs taking night classes
not ill without insurance I have a good job
I’m already leveled up! Got all my privileges
I’m not floating on a raft to escape war
not having sex with soldiers for food
my children are not digging for diamonds
we’re not being exploited in any way
Could Be Worse, that’s a book we love to read
at bedtime, it’s by James Stevenson
It is, my son & I think, the plot to most movies
It is I think the plot to most lives
I’m lucky, I get to teach you, Judith Butler
to students who eat up your words like candyhearts
who return to the arms of their friends
to dye their hair blue & fuck everyone & not shave
and make manifestos & tweet witty protests
who do drugs & sleep late & dance naked
They seem so unafraid ahistorical dreamfull
They stand outside the library smoking cigarettes
as if we’re not going to die!
As if there aren’t books to read!
I have the greatest job in the world!
Could be a lot worse
But I’m lonely in debt there’s no one to love me
I’m feeling sorry for myself & guilty for all my luck
Mutually-contradictory states of mind
that’s what Shakespeare invented, supposedly
Gender, you say, is a performance
continually created through citational repetition
Daily rituals we put on again & then again
as if we were born into a theatrical family
putting on the same play that’s been going on forever
and there’s no way out, so says Foucault
Michel, my turtle-necked darling, I love you
even though you make me feel imprisoned
And docile and subject to self-surveillance
Judith, Michel, I’m calling on you
I think I’m stuck in Hamlet
in the role of Queen Gertrude
but not at all royal I’m from Pittsburgh
because my son lashes out at me
He says I put my job before my kids
If I mention any man’s name
he says, I hate that guy
I asked him if he thought I was pretty
He said, Eh, you’re okay to good
He says he’d rather die than go to school
For his birthday he’d like a BB gun
My daughter spins in the living room to Rhianna
who has a pile of diamonds, probably
This little Ophelia talks to her Legos
and swims with waterwings
She wants to know if music is air
She says my butt jiggles when I walk
Yes, that’s it, I am a single Gertrude
in a little New England hamlet
Yet there are no louche kings to marry
no murderous uncles available round these parts
Yet in the porches of my ear has poured
the poison of the wish for Reliable Love
Marriage’s a prison
Then is the world one
What I really want is someone not a husband
to perform the male gender around my house
I need help stacking wood putting the garden to bed
for the winter I need a man in my bed
It goes way below zero in the winter round here
The garage door is broken I don’t know how to fix it
Better learn to fix stuff or whatever
Like Gertrude, I am the Interpreter of the men around me
as I put snacks into little plastic bags
and so disciplined plan another playdate
I play the Assuager I’m afraid
of being left with nothing for my future
No castle no bolthole on this dirty planet
No extra-small bag of gems
I have unappreciated skills, it’s true
I know how to do a close reading
I know where commas go
I can spot phallologocentrism miles away
in my cat glasses I’m laying it down
Yet I’m really terribly lonely, Judith
less lonely than Ophelia floating downstream
clutching flowers and singing sad songs
I want someone to perform love on me
Any kind of love any kind of role I don’t care
but I want the real thing Real Love
to be a prisoner of Love, the songs say
and to perform all the sex acts, too
I want a long masterful performance of that
with repeat performances
Who’s there?
I am sitting here folding laundry on the couch
performing the pairing of the socks
In anxiety and pleasure, you say
And in the porches of my other ear
Pours the poison of the wish for diamonds
Could be worse       
My daughter spins her own tornado
My son builds a house of diamond blocks
I want the curtains to part now
I want to be swept away

Last updated December 21, 2022