In 2022, with the support of the Copyright Agency‘s Cultural Fund, and in partnership with Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers’ Centre, Westerly Magazine is proud to publish writing from the Mid-Career Fellowship program. Here, we present three poems from the first of our Fellows for 2022, Scott-Patrick Mitchell. Work from our second fellow for 2022, Caitlin Maling, will be published in Westerly 67.2 later this year.
The following work from Scott-Patrick Mitchell is also available to read in our latest print issue, Westerly 67.1.
On the big screen, the head of The AEC makes a dad joke: the crowd in Northbridge Piazza groans. We are gathered here today to get some basic citizenship rights. You know how this story ends, but what you might not know is how the middle was different for everyone. Narrative anchor points: a rainbow house; Sydney skywriting; conversations; posting a selfie of you posting your postal vote. From the mouths of Queensland crocodiles a thousand blossoms bloom. How, for me, a fracture emerged in my family. Some people only have hate to invest. Elsewhere, citizens of love dream of picket fencing. To be codified by the state. For me, there was a night where a man followed me through the streets of Highgate, shouting abuse. I’d rather see you dead than married! Petrol station attendant locked the doors on the corner of Beaufort and Bulwer, locked me in. Solidarity in an unsliding. When the man was distracted, I called upon Hermes once more: all gay men are gifted with the ability to speed walk. Or run. You know how this story ends. And that I am tired of running. Cops, in pockets, around Piazza’s perimeter. Could they smell the riot in our veins? Had they read up on our history, written on stoned walls? That day, I looked for loose bricks. Just in case. Part of me did not want to see defeat in Maddie’s eyes. I sometimes dream of drinking 4,873,987 cups of tea with all of those who voted No. But I loathe tea. Except as a metaphor. Spill it. Piping hot. Slay, mamma. House down. Boots. When the moment came, I forgot what air felt like: every breath expelled in a shout. Triumph is a throng hugging each other at the same time. Even now, my eyes are salt lakes. You know how this story ends: in all of Marziya’s photographs, smiles 7.8 million votes wide.
what is the etymology / the beginning / perhaps Adam wore seaweed on his head / strands ribboning his eyes as a way to make Eve laugh / or lean in / become sister / was Eve really Steve in drag / how, later, marginalia / dressed as girl / Shakespeare liked his gender roles as round as a globe / as loud as a crowd cheering for the ass head of theatre to explode / as they smashed clay pots on the ground
here / where i grew up / playing in wardrobes / the lineage drew to a point / Chlamydia beget Swish Everready / Swish beget Barbie Q / Barbie beget Cherry Le’Queer / Cherry Le’Queer beget Sugar Brown / Sugar beget Gillette Venus / or at least that’s how I think it happened / sometimes, memory is a broken / line / for example, we do not know where Britney Chinchilla or Dee Luxe came from / but one morning I woke up with two ribs—and my wallet—missing
& me / raised by drag kings / my drag mother a father / Sexy Galexy / how, when my hair fell out / from not understanding love / from not understanding the brutal way men could not hug / without bruising / drag kings used my bare skull as a canvas / would paint worlds & beings into being / how this act of paint stroke and brush lick / helped me find a home inside myself / inside my skin / inside my car, travelling from their place to the club to be fawn, fawned over / on those nights, art without a frame / just context
us / pop stars of our own making / just without the record contracts / all looks looks looks / turning heads & falling out of strangers’ beds / if you never wore underwear, you’d never lose it / how the night was playground / a bass strobe ode / main attraction for those who were tourists / us in love with how you could inhale the world through your nose / dawn a light to kick on / we were party / & partying
oh smudged lipstick / oh stubble chin / oh cracked cake of face / ohbags beneath our eyes emblazoned with fake Louis Vuitton / oh ankles embellished with straps / oh drinks we never paid for / i have always wondered how many miles i have danced in the tight sweat grip claws of a nightclub’s smoke machine & burning wooden floor / oh beautiful / oh, we were back then
when Janet died, the music dulled / each passing closed off parts of that world / until the hurt engulfed us
we became lost
but if you’re reading this, know this / we survived / here, let us build a sanctuary in your mind / let your love become a little club / we have paint to rearrange your face / become anything you wan
blessed be the nightclub with vinyl clad walls that sweat: here the rubber was a room was a temple was your body was the blister of this heat & blessed were the sweaty, the salt, the way your crevices stank as you propelled yourself into dancing beneath a ceiling so low-slung you could see the beads of moisture gather, as if constellations, a wet wicked star chart that stripped bare all the ways to waste, & get wasted, on a Thursday night
blessed be the friend, same age as you back then—21—who gripped your hand with panic & asked do we belong here to which you replied heck yeah before body became river & you delved into throng as song crested into bass, all throb like the wood beside & beneath your legs
blessed was the leather daddy, a gentleman really, well-read on Sappho & Stein, who discussed pop culture’s rhythms with you at the bar, amyl on his breath, the rug a coarse thicket of chest erupting with nipple and silver rod, how every priest wears black so the stain is more evident when they sin yethere the material was made for wiping as he anointed your lips with sacrament
& blessed were the club kids who gave themselves over to the art of neon & jagged line, a symmetry of asymmetry reflection of the divine as if magnified through lucidic diamond eyes, how they made dresses from icy-poles, turned their bodies into human scoreboards, each notch in their breast from the barrel of a hypodermic, how their tongues wrapped the capsule of ecstatic communion between the spit they gave & a prayer from dry mouths, grinding
blessed be the dank & dirty & queer, blessed be the dark alley that led us here, that led us home, how it stank of fume & vomit, urine & cooking fat, how the puddles reflected the yearn of our benediction as we glossolaliad ourselves into messy conduits between underworld & heaven, us the tuning fork by which the Schumann Resonance plucks & look up: the sky is void of starlight because it is running down our bodies & our hair is drenched with asteroids
Scott-Patrick Mitchell is the recipient of the 2022 Red Room Poetry Fellowship. SPM’s first full-length collection, Clean, is out now via Upswell Publishing.