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Words Without Borders “stands as a monument to international collaboration and a shared belief in artistic possibility.”
— 2018 Whiting Literary Magazine Prize Citation
from the March 2019 issue

From “Twenty-Five Thousand Miles of Nerves”

Spoken Word poet Nino Mick skewers the absurdity of bureaucracy in matters of gender and identity. 
 

First visit.

 

I'm here because I want to be left alone

 


Gender Survey:

 

In order to proceed, I need access to
your body i.e. brain
your life i.e. sex life
your medical history
your stories

 

Second visit.

 

 

Have I completed a gender survey so I can cope with being a poet
or am I a poet in order to cope with the gender survey
so used to narrating myself
in exchange for fees and care

The glossy floors and the large window
upon arrival I leave
my name and agency at the reception
I want to talk about my complex and people want to describe me as respectable
to line up the words on the table in front of the psychologist
so we can look at them and pretend we’re equal


A gatekeeper may deny access
a sword can burn against the throat
can still be called angel
fear’s throbbing anatomy
the throat artery's defiant disposition 
highlights a sample of beautiful truths

the same obedience as usual

the same hands folded in my lap

 

 


Third visit.

 

Gender Survey:
Describe your social situation

 

Saw a snake in the woods today
winding across the gravel on its stomach 
as if it didn’t hurt
and every obstacle it met on the way

it slid right around

Imagine if my body could help me like that


Fourth visit

 

I cancel

 

I have reconstructed everything
the boy the girl and the autistic one
documented the fatigue and depression

With the diagnosis as a veil a shield I slid through the corridors.
In the middle of puberty, I escaped sexuality 

got out of girl parties and boyhood problems
got out of punishment and ostracism
stopped learning from the group
how women apply makeup to put on a face


The group of girls I tried to belong to
didn’t work out and lost interest
the punishments ricocheted against the mirrors
newly awakened, I cut myself on the shards
without a clear direction or sender

So the girl was kept intact
floated across the school yard, slid through
high school corridors
rape cultures
mostly without a scratch

Women were formed there
I understand now, as protection and strategy
formed groups there
dancing in a circle around activist tote bags
they became women
I did not become a body


The Publisher

 

It needs a more structured wholeness 

 

I want to reside in the hard and permanent
so I construct a suite of poems and a man to live inside
I want to be pinned down securely
to be normalized and become part of the dictionary
assigned a home
to leave

Scenes flow together
public libraries and pride festivals
small town train stations
press photo and description max 50 words
Twenty-five thousand miles of nerves
I choose the reddest one
pull it out through my throat and set it on stage
my life is three minutes long
they say perfect ten
I'm trying to boil
down to my essence
become a concentrate
of my own existence
then it's called politics

 

Tried to throw out my inner baby Jesus with the bath water
but it held firm inside the lines, screaming and screaming
of course I want nothing more than to fish for Christian Democrats

lure with a little hook of poetry
this body is so useful as bait

People came to me to confess
their heteronormative sins, I said
here, eat my body
I am a worm
and you will be fished up
you will be saved
you will be good
but why do I long for heaven
when I like it best in the flower’s moist soil
 

Tjugofemtusen kilometer nervtrådar © Nino Mick. By arrangement with the author. Translation © 2019 by Christian Gullette. All rights reserved.

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