This week in the PEN Poetry Series, PEN America features two poems by Jameson Fitzpatrick. 


I’ll Never Be Beautiful the Way Certain

I’ll never be beautiful
the way certain men are beautiful:
the tall boy at the protest everyone wants a picture of,
who is the tall boy in all the pictures later.
But I prefer imperfect men: short
like me, or big-toothed, with a belly.
Having sex with too beautiful a man makes me
crazier than I am already
when I make myself ugly willing
otherwise: nails at my skin till
it’s ruined, a field picked of its flowers.
Not the least beautiful thing.
But to say I’m more beautiful than some
would be proving something,
which the beautiful people I speak of never do.
They are their own evidence.  
In college, I used to talk about beauty in therapy
in terms of Occupy Wall Street, as an inequality:
there was the 1 percent and there was the rest of us.
Beauty was easy the way money was:
not, and somehow all the more difficult
for my relative beauty and relative wealth.
I was stupid in college.
What I saw at Zuccotti were people sure
of their own importance, which they were, sure,
but—they were important.
Now I don’t go to the protest
to feel beautiful, I go because putting my body there—
even if I suspect my body there is unimportant—
feels more correct than the alternative.
More right. Not right dancing the other night,
with the mustachioed man
hard in hand already
when he turned me around and I knew
he wanted to fuck me,
which ruined it, the idea alone.
I’ll never be beautiful the way certain
women are: my friends,
and women I see on the train on their way
somewhere, women who might take a man
when they want, women who can.
I could have been a good woman
if I could have been a girl.
But then beauty might have been
a bigger problem, as men make it for women,
unless still I’d have been better at it,
performed better
under that set of expectations.
I’ll never be a good man.
I’ll never be as beautiful
as the Corpse Flower even,
the one in bloom in the Bronx
people flock to take pictures of—
I’m one of them, though I am not one-half
of one of the beautiful straight couples
or one of the beautiful age-appropriate gay couples
or the beautiful young lesbian couple
who are never not holding hands.
I’m not there alone, to be fair.
I’m with a man who loves me
—but not how I want it,
not the never-not-holding-hands way—
a man whose most beautiful years are behind him.
His Most Beautiful was more than mine,
which might also be behind me,
though what is behind me is of no use
to anyone, though men like to touch it
and tell me what a shame it is
not to be able to get in.
If just one thing about me
I will not change
were different—taller, more man,
more woman, a bottom—
my body could be beautiful, I think,
as a painter stands before their work
searching for the source
of their dissatisfaction.
I know better than to believe
fixing my face would fix anything else,
but— Let me return to the analogy of money:
it never belongs to you,
so there’s solace in spending it,
as my sadness might be softened
looking down at my long, long legs.


Fuck the Police

I did once.
One of them,
in his car.
Before I knew
better, so before
I could write
ACAB in snow
on the hood
of a parked
cruiser. OK so
we didn’t fuck,
not really, but
we came. He
shot like a
water cannon.
He looked like
a cop: square
-jawed, soft
-bellied. He
was a state
trooper, some
-body’s husband.
OK it was
his wife’s car.
It was the
year before the
year of all
the shootings, so
a year of
shootings I just
didn’t hear
about. OK so
I should have
known better,
he was married,
that was the
draw, not the
cop thing but
maybe I’m
lying to myself.
Every faggot
adores a fascist
etc. OK so
it was Dana
who wrote ACAB
on the cruiser,
in the snow.
OK so he
still texts me.
Once a week,
more. Haven’t
seen him in
four years, still
the one-way
chain of hey
hi hello yo
—OK so yes
a few times
he’s caught me
cock-handed and
I’ve sent a
pic. He wants
to know when
we can meet
again but the
answer is never
or, after abolition.
And even then.
I know a
woman, a friend
of a friend,
who dates a
cop and she
doms him, puts
her hand in
him and calls
it subversion.
We judge her
for it, for
the dating not
the fisting but
what does he
give up, when
he lets his
hands be the
state’s hands.
What did I
when I let
them touch me
and got off.



Once a week, the PEN Poetry Series publishes work by emerging and established writers from coast to coast. Subscribe to the PEN Poetry Series mailing list and have poems delivered to your e-mail as soon as they are published (no spam, no news, just poems).