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"I Meet Expectations Now and Am Lost in the Trees" Read an Excerpt from Nolan Natasha's New Poetry Collection, I Can Hear You, Can You Hear Me?

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Nolan Natasha

Issues of identity and history are tackled in Nolan Natasha's new collection of poetry, I Can Hear You, Can You Hear Me? (Invisible Publishing), which explores gender, visibility and human connection in the modern age. At once humorous and heartbreaking, the interactions in this book happen over the phone, through walkie-talkies, in bathroom stalls and even in the silence that hangs between two bodies.

Confessional and intimate, but never taking itself too seriously, I Can Hear You, Can You Hear Me? asks the question of what being visible truly means. The poems in this collection will stimulate conversation and expand awareness, harshly illuminating the ways in which we deny and accept not only ourselves, but each other.

We're thrilled to share an excerpt from I Can Hear You, Can You Hear Me?, courtesy of Invisible Publishing

An Excerpt from I Can Hear You, Can You Hear Me? by Nolan Natasha:

I Can Hear You Can You Hear Me

Queer

 It’s not just that it means one thing

written in heavy books

from the university press and another in your mouth

as an answer and another on the stall door and another

hurled from a car on that Saturday in the spring,

on posters that grip telephone poles

promising a good party—

 

it's something that argues with its own construction,

restless and glistening and grimy,

takes issue with the sentences of this poem. 

 

In that bar on Queen Street, words and little pictures

etched by greasy fingers in the red plastic coating

on the candles. Drawings, obscene

and tender decorating the dark tables,

flickering into the establishment turned

home. The living room of our twenties and thirties.

We will dance and be sick,

sweat and stumble into each other’s vacancies.

 

The way our bathrooms feel dirty is different

than the bars with the big-screen TVs—soccer piss

and sweat is not the same.

Does this recital filter down to our bodily fluids,

or is there some smoke and mirrors

that causes his hands, but not his, to feel that way on my hips?         

I am asking this sincerely.

Does the air only feel this way

because of some lesson in breathing?

 

Because of some lesson in breathing?

does the air only feel this way

I am asking this sincerely.

That causes his hands, but not his, to feel that way on my hips? 

Or is there some smoke and mirrors,

does this recital filter down to our bodily fluids,

and sweat is not the same.

Than the bars with the big-screen TVs—soccer piss

the way our bathrooms feel dirty is different,

 

sweat and stumble into each other’s vacancies.

We will dance and be sick,

home. The living room of our twenties and thirties.

Flickering into the establishment turned

and tender decorating the dark tables.

On the candles. Drawings, obscene,

etched by greasy fingers in the red plastic coating

in that bar on Queen Street, words and little pictures

 

takes issue with the sentences of this poem. 

Restless and glistening and grimy.

It's something that argues with its own construction.

 

Promising a good party—

on posters that grip telephone poles

hurled from a car on that Saturday in the spring,

as an answer and another on the stall door and another

from the university press and another in your mouth

written in heavy books—

it’s not just that it means one thing.

 

A boat sitting in the forest

 

Over the years, it has come to look more and more like a rock.

There is no way to know what the deer think.

 

I would have never known if you hadn't told me.                                                                

 

I think this is meant to be some kind of reassurance.      

Invisibility.

Deep voice, broad shoulders,

        I've had the mannerisms down for years.

The trick is to look at the eyes. The eyes don't change.

 

I meet expectations now and am lost in the trees.

    If there are words

for what this feels like exactly, I don't know them.

 

You look like you. You sound like you.                                                                     

 

Their relief is as unsettling as their discomfort.

It is the same thing.

 

You must feel so good.                                                                  

 

The little things—

morning face in the mirror, a single thin white T-shirt

             on a hot day,

swimming. I breathe easier—more.

My body is heavy. It knows where to go.

 

Mostly, it is the space

to see outside, that nothing is fixed—only closer, different.

 

Women's studies

 

        Hours pass in the lecture hall of our beds.

    My armpit, your left shoulder. On camera,

all of Quebec between us,

      we’ll talk about how my stitches, and the wounds

they clench, dissolve in your gaze. But first,

                let's get the orgasms out of the way, clear our heads.

 

Later, you'll read my shame and make an offering—

put it just so—like no one has:

         That's not what that feminism is for, Nolan.

                                 And I even believe

       the things you see when you look at me,     

my bare chest backlit by the lamp, your eyes scorched

with wanting.                

                         The man I have become,

the girl I was           long ago         jumping from the swing set

landing with both feet in the gravel      firm.        

                                                                                     I was really there,

       a kind of knowing.

                                                You make it feel like that again,

easy to trust what is plain. We are who we are,

     mountains hold power, and the geese are beautiful. 

 

_____________________________

This excerpt is taken from I Can Hear You, Can You Hear Me?, copyright © 2019 written by Nolan Natasha.

Reproduced with permission from Invisible Publishing, Picton, ON.

 

Nolan Natasha is a queer and trans writer from Toronto who lives and writes in Nova Scotia. His poems have appeared in The PuritanThe Stinging Fly, Event, Grain, Prairie Fire, The Fiddlehead and Plenitude. He has been a finalist for the CBC Poetry Prize, the Ralph Gustafson Poetry Prize, the Geist postcard contest, Room Magazine‘s poetry contest, and was the runner-up for the Thomas Morton fiction prize.

 

 

 

Buy the Book

I Can Hear You, Can You Hear Me?

A funny and sweet—but not saccharine—jaunt through the back alleys of queer love.
Intimate, nostalgic, and surprising, the poems in I Can Hear You, Can You Hear Me? spark connections that alter trajectory and carry lasting resonance. Encounters across phone lines, over drinks, through walkie-talkies, and unspoken recognitions between queer bodies fill this collection with explorations of what it means to be seen. The micro-narratives in I Can Hear You, Can You Hear Me? both celebrate and grieve the connections they illuminate. Nolan Natasha’s poetry is plainspoken but lyrical, sweet but frank, nostalgic but unromanticized, combining the atmosphere of Eileen Myles with the musical insight of Helen Humphreys. These poems bring an unflinching examination and a keen sense of humour to moments of human connection and self-exploration.

Nolan Natasha’s writing is so clear-eyed, funny, tender, and absorbing. I love these poems and this sparkling debut. —Zoe Whittall

The poems in I can hear you, can you hear me? initiate deep and active listening, positing themselves after the call and before the response. This territory thrums with potential, with vitality. We are told that, “nothing is fixed—only closer, different” which is how these poems leave me feeling, alert for response, for the private and public conversations these poems will instigate. Nolan Natasha’s collection maps the large cultural shift we’re all feeling about identity, about vulnerability, about body, about community with insight and acuity. And in this collection’s blood, in its silences, there is indeed “the howling wonder.” How could there not be? —Sue Goyette