Poetry Inspired by Dan Savage’s The Commitment

theCommitment_web_smallMy third show with The Bushwick Book Club Seattle was very close to home for me. The book was Dan Savage’s The Commitment, about his marriage to his husband, Terry. It’s a tad surreal living in Seattle and actually seeing this author and his husband out and about at the farmer’s market, etc. Terry is a popular local DJ, and watching him spin at a club while being reminded of the intimate, published details of his home life breaks that “fourth wall” between performer and audience. Rather than making the celebrity seem more average, it makes the audience feel more special. Curious how that works.

This Bushwick show was especially important because it was dedicated to raising funds and support for Washington’s Referendum 74, which would (and did!) create same-sex marriages in the state by the majority vote. With the recent gutting of DOMA, this means that same-sex couples in Washington now have federally recognized marriages as well. As a queer man myself, this is incredibly important to me. I’m not even sure if I’ll ever get married; I’ve seen so many straight marriages end in divorce, hatred, and financial ruin, and I know that same-sex marriage is not that much different. Certainly, it’s something we’ve had to fight for, which makes most same-sex couples take marriage more seriously than, say, the Kardashians. But to have so many straight people showing up to support equality– that’s about more than a legal, financial contract, and it’s about more than simple love.

It’s about dignity. More than half the country supports queer people being treated with dignity, our relationships being treated as no different than “traditional” ones (whatever “traditional” means, as it seems to change each century). To know that Geoff, Mike, and so many of the Bushwick crew dedicated a show to supporting my right to be treated with dignity–that is deeply moving to me.

At the show, I read the two poems in the video above: “Everything in Our Arsenal” and “As Yet Unused Marriage Proposal.” The first is a call to battle, but an honorable battle. To combat injustice with everything you have — technology, prayer, occultism, humor, self care — everything except more injustice. The occultism, that magic, is a powerful and attractive tool for queer people. Paganism, astrology, tarot — these are spiritual traditions that often accept queers with open arms, especially when we’re recovering from being rejected outright by “traditional” religions (that damn word “traditional” again). Just look what occultism has done for Kenneth Anger (who participated in an exorcism of the Pentagon, f.y.i.).

The second poem is intended to destigmatize same-sex marriage, to point out how quite average it is. Like Dan and Terry’s human/celebrity status, their marriage is rather unremarkable inside of the stigma surrounding it. Sure, there’s that part in my poem about considering a non-monogamous fling and doing coke on New Year’s Eve, but as Heaven is my witness, that’s no different than the straight couples I know. This bizarre and hypocritical notion that same-sex couples can’t (or won’t) be monogamous is utter prejudice and naivete. I know plenty of monogamous same-sex couples, and hella plenty non-monogamous straight ones. How do you think people in Hollywood actually stay married?

Here are the poems in print, so you can see how I structured them, broke the lines and stanzas, etc. You’ll see that occasionally I change something when performing it live; it’s just what feels right on stage at the time. Thank you for reading!

Yours, Evan J. Peterson

Bushwick_logo_v99Everything In Our Arsenal

To win, we will use our wits
posture and eyebrows
subtle teeth and crafty fingers.

We will use money and beauty
tarot and sleight of hand
cars, bicycles, and rollerskates.

We will use corn and cacao
lottery tickets and pinballs
manifestos and manifestation.

We will use poker chips
and pita chips, fiber optics
and woven wool.

We will use power lunches
consultations and sweat lodges
rain dances and sun dances.

We will use candle wax and ice cubes
crosses and spirals
interviews and internet.

We will use telepathy and ESP
prayer and pyrokinesis
hair and nail trimmings submerged

in jars of honey, jars of dirt.
We will use your gods,
our gods, anyone’s.

We will use campaign speeches
and crystals slipped under doors.
We will use technology and bones.

We will wrap our intentions in red.
To win, we will use repetition.
To win, we will use love.

As Yet Unused Marriage Proposal

Let’s make a deal: I’ll cook if you’ll do the dishes.
Or I can cook and clean and you can make gobs
of money. Trust: it won’t always be wine and roses.
Some days it’ll be tap water and thistles.

But mostly it’ll be martinis and orchids
a flock of albino peacocks and copper faucets
electric Kool Aid and sushi.
We’ll chase one another around the apartment,

eventually the house, eventually the Aegean coast.
I’ll teach poetry on the student union green
and you’ll instruct the next crop of savants
in the music building, and we’ll discuss how sexy

this pupil is, the striking nose and chin
on that scruffy grad student.  We’ll lie awake
watching Season 26 of Celebrity Rehab,
perhaps discuss bringing someone else

into our bed occasionally, the ramifications
of it, and my jealous guts will jolt,
thinking how exhilarating it might be,
but more likely how much I’d hate it.

You’ll say, “Nah, why bother?” and then I’ll pounce
and let you know you’ve made the right decision.
We’ll adopt kids, maybe twin deaf orphans,
but more likely a baby girl who we’ll spoil

the shit out of, naming her Irulan after the Princess
of the Known Universe from the Dune novels.
She’ll speak with eloquence, play the keytar
and weed the garden.  You’ll never force me

to stay more than a week at your parents’,
and I’ll return the favor, alternating holidays
of course.  My side of the closet will spill over
with shoes, and yours will have too much yellow.

We’ll run into our exes at Pier 1 and gesture
broadly, flashing white gold wedding bands.
Two greyhounds and a pug, named
after twentieth century screen stars.

will strut our hall. “Garbo!  Brando!  Groucho!
Time for walkies!”
You’ll rub my back when I get parking
tickets, and I’ll wash your hair in the shower.

I’ll feed you when you’re ill and you’ll remind
me not to think like my mom. We’ll buy
Madonna’s last cd, the one she died
recording, and we’ll weep as we listen,

even though it’s crap, and every song is about
her ass cancer. My sister will babysit
when we go out to cabarets and we’ll never,
ever do cocaine—except on New Year’s Eve,

and even then, not every year.
So how about it, darling? Doesn’t that sound
better than staying alone, watching
Game of Thrones and stroking your gerbil?