Monica McClure on an excerpt from "Tender Data"

from "Tender Data"

Inquiries feel like enemas
What is it called when your fist blooms
inside someone

The civilization I live in has lost its purpose

so I turn to amateur porn

Because I long to believe that people hide
deeper truths in their genitals

reality slicked
down with spit-wet lace

Invisible panty lines and IUDs
Instrumental promises of the soul's efficacy
to carry you past the threshold

of shame
The entrance to the cervix

opening once a month like the doors of Jubilee
We genuflect to use value

Another day bustling around
Mrs. Dalloway's foyer

And the river clearly runs through it
to a crevice in your body
I can't follow

Look away you profane
who would conceal from me
the stable reality within
its gilded domes of meaning

I want cruelty turned inside out
Blood out flesh in
a glass of divinity sending rainbows
shot with plagues

The question of evil
turns raspy in the throat of my ego
gawds gawds gawds of no
pale ankles

gawds of
You don't have the guts for me
Why people do evil is
the only question worth asking

Dear deity of I am standing above a pit where bodies
quit their living like thunder in a pile

and my handsome mark says
"It's really beautiful here. I don't know what to
do with that."

While gathering mushrooms into a small bouquet
a girl from a town of burning pyres is born

I am a composition of absence so heavy
I call it Marlene Dietrich

That a man would not recognize
the limitlessness of my nudity is hard to accept

for the greatest sexual experience of my life
happened in a room pasted with
pictures of my lover's dead fiancé

Because I laid a trap to catch his trauma
with my sad sap

That is my favorite
word for my body
My A plan

Plan B
Put as much in
your head as possible
before the coming wars

I had wanted our grieving to be stickier
I thought it would stay inside
with my Marxism
and our lazy America

I could lead a country one day
for all I know
It's not up to me

All the women I'm not
line up to bring me diamond cuffs
because they don't have the guts for me

I could take a monogrammed gold
pair of scissors to mine
but no one's made weapons from my name yet

I could become the women I am not
but I can't forgive myself

for disappointing a civilization
designed to give me rights
as long as I fulfill simple responsibilities

On an excerpt from "Tender Data"

When I first started thinking of what to write about this poem, attempting to formulate cogent thoughts—usually while jogging in the June heat—that would theorize and illuminate this poem of memory clots and digressions and non-sequiturs that, as the title poem of the book, promises to hold the major themes together, I became really stressed out. Like really stressed. Only jogging temporarily relieved my anxiety. One day, I thought of the opening sentence of this piece, which, like a warm chandelier lighting a marble foyer, would invite you up the spiral stairs to explore sumptuously furnished rooms. As I write this now, I can't for the life of me recall that sentence. Instead, I remember the dreams I started having, again. The old dreams about dead friends returned, having never really been dead, but rather missing, or away some place where they were subject to the same forces of gravity and biological decay as me. I touch their gently aged faces. My dreams fixate on the physicality of dead lovers long after I've trained my conscious mind to resist: the density of curls in my fingers, the look in the eyes when my earring dropped on a forehead, the bow of the upper lip, and so on.

When I wrote this poem, which in early drafts was about 60% copy and pasted one-sided social media missives, I was reading The Parapornographic Manifesto by Carl-Michael Edenborg (Action Books, Salvo Series #1). Among many other things, he discusses the relationship between undressing / nakedness / carnal knowledge and reality (oh, sacred reality), positing that our culture's obsession with secrets and ravenous appetite for access to secrets (pornography being only one interesting manifestation of this) is a symptom of secular purposelessness. We want to believe, especially when the beloved's body is gone, in something solid and real and stable that made their life, and by that virtue, our lives meaningful. That, to me, is a very religious concept. I grew up a devoutly religious young person, and when it came time to disavow a particular type of Christianity, I did so with my body, violating its sacredness. The poem, I hope, calls into question the sanctity of the body, and then folds back on itself, reasserting the holiness of it. I'm still religious, I guess. In the beginning of this poem, the narrator—"I" and sometimes me!—is interrogating her position towards death and the body through experiences, some calculated, in that involuntary way that a grieving person will scheme to get better, like a wound scabbing over, and some random, including a visit to the Panerai Memorial Museum in Lithuania, where Nazis murdered thousands of people, a relationship with a bereaved man, the first Body Worlds exhibit in Chicago, an imaginary journey to a deadly war zone via my own nude photos, bequeathed to a reporter, and perhaps some shades of others.

As you may have noticed, the poem begins with a fist opening inside someone. This image was simultaneously painful and comforting. To have pain blooming inside you is maybe better than being empty. The appropriated material included in the poem ranged in content from those omnipresent anonymous "Hi beautiful, how are you?" lines to "Send a photo of yourself to be published in my lit journal, and you might as well send some poems while you're at it." These messages streamed into various inboxes while I was writing the poem, prompting me to consider how the language of inquiry as a mode of seduction and possession enacted by people (well, men) because your picture is publicly consumable is a great example of the parapornographic. Sometimes I struggle to feel like something other than a receptacle. Is it different for other people, I don't know. This poem explores how to enter rhetorically into what I can no longer enter (or be entered by) physically.




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