2 poems by Oliver Bendorf – The Feminist Wire

2 poems by Oliver Bendorf




To wither a sensation

possibility. The body feels

more vulnerable. A man

carrying a child across

a track. Toes keep random

bleeding. When will I [   ]

again. Speak easy. Forget to

be whole. Trying to be kind.

Killed the chord. Sorry

for everything.



I just have to write words

They don’t have to make sense

They don’t have to make sense



Sometimes in a vacuous way.

Or all the things we tried. To bend

an ear toward darkness. Sorry I am

sorry I am sorry I am

beginning again. Look out

there’s a cloud coming

through and he’s worried

as hell. Pink in every

corner, and gleaming from loose




Other times takes

a monster. Getting by.

Pray for Monday morning.

Chemical smell

and the wren house I built

out of pine when

I still had two hands

hangs empty now on a fence post.



I still take comfort in the fact

that there are many things

I would not do. Studying

hairs on the back of my

hand like springtime buds

pushing up through thaw.

Remember brother I am the frozen

one. Trying to sunstroke the damage.

Looking for the green in

everything. Hanging on til

daybreak. Spending every




Once, I carved me like a

woodbone. Played every flute

in the house. Thick with insulation

I go back to the beginning.

Clear a throat. Simplify.

Look for the scary and never be

startled. Wonder in the paper

aisle if buying bulk is a sign

of perseverance.



Cloud cover for so long we’ve

lost our appetite. First took the edge

off, second took it more. Third

took the window fourth

took the door. Five took the light

and six took the floor.

Feeling glassy. Waiting for that

orange to feel warm again.



Saw the future in a caterpillar,

crawled inside my backpack.

Someone sooner or later will

relate this to testosterone

which is a good enough reason

for nearly anything bad. I am

grinning from paradise with my

bleeding feet and mallet hand.

I am gentle for a boy which is

not the same as gentle.



Just want any scrap of

language beside what runs

through my already head. The best

pets eat the medical bills.

No longer safe to fly but

was it ever? Profile says

“crepuscular” I think I am

doing this wrong.

Hang my constraints

on a white rope to dry

in the basement. Wretched

at the graveside. Navy

blue triangle with white

stars on it. A boyly tear.

Suit pocket full of Skittles

and freshly fallen buds.



To faithfully transcribe a being.

I wanted sunchokes

in the shape of every last

available. Crashing

at the filter. Yellow

in everything but even

I have avoided

too much tragedy. Isn’t

over yet. Waiting

for the laugh track.

Waiting for amazing.






for Meg


So maybe I wanted to be

a candy apple brother.

Wanted to sling straight love

across an artery gullet

in the shape of someone else’s

everything. Anchor my body

broken to whatever I could

find. Maybe you were the first

to come along and ask me

pronouns. We flew green space

in the shakes of one another’s

tailwind. Our bodies broke

together. Brother, you are

one of the only that I let call

me any name, and I always

know it’s me you’re asking

for. Along the edges

of my shadow I feel a tether

and I think, oh, it’s you:

that yellow light, and huckish.

Buttery cowlick and a voice

that hooks me gentle curves.

The kind of brothers we are

could make a brother out of me.

I want to brother you like planets

pass in orbit, saying keep

going, keep going, I need to know

I’ll see you every time, or else

like two fists of hail

hitting the same pavement,

then brother you the whole

slow melt.


oliverOliver Bendorf is an Iowa-born writer and artist, currently living in Madison, Wisconsin, where he is teaching a course on writing about color and a workshop on queer animation. He is the author of The Spectral Wilderness (Kent State University Press 2014), selected for the 2013 Stan & Tom Wick Poetry Prize, and his writing and comics have been published in Alaska Quarterly Review, Autostraddle, Indiana Review, Original Plumbing, The Rumpus, Transgender Studies Quarterly, and elsewhere, and anthologized in Best New Poets and Troubling the Line: Trans and Genderqueer Poetry and Poetics. He believes in kindness and the National Parks.