I wrote this poem three years ago. At first, it was about looking for another place to feel at home, but after a year, I had to admit that my car was my home and that I enjoyed constantly meeting new people and sharing our thoughts about being alive. For the past decade, I have lived nowhere, something that made family and friends nervous because we worry over the ones we love. When people understood that I was a vagabond, they truly opened up to me; I became their glitter-trans confessional. Exchanging secrets is my bounty. So long as I don't have to tell jokes to entertain. I fucking hate how witty we queers are expected be. I'll ruin your party, just invite me and find out.
My boyfriend Tre is a truck driver for an international retailer. We met at the world's largest truck stop on route 80 in Iowa and began a relationship I never imagined possible. Neither of us felt we were simply hooking up and cherished our connection from the start. We agreed to rendezvous whenever crossing the country. Everyone talks about the first time with someone being special, but for us, it was the second time because we knew this was the beginning and that we would enjoy one another in every possible way and in many different places.
We have connected in all the lower 48 states, from one end of Canada to the other, and down into our favorite place on the planet, Mexico. When North Carolina passed their anti-trans HB2 law, we had sex in his truck as close to the state capitol as possible. I had wanted to have sex with him in the capitol bathroom, but sex in his truck was the compromise. When Idaho passed their anti-trans law recently, we had sex outside the capitol building in Boise, Idaho. We have got to get our love back every chance we can. This world does not belong to the violent witch-burning Christians of America, and we need to live like we know it is true! Every fucking chance to be with the one you love to keep the walls from closing around us.
Friends say I should write a memoir, but I wrote two books on the road, three when considering all the new work. While Standing in Line for Death has three different political-action (Soma)tic poetry rituals for confronting heterosexual violence. The joy I experienced with most of the people I met comes through in the poems; no more memoir than that is necessary. After that book, I decided to design a larger (Soma)tic poetry ritual around living on the road, which became AMANDA PARADISE. I am Amanda Paradise and always have been. Though I regret none of my decisions, I would never want to relive my close calls with several guns pointed at me, knives, and being surrounded by half a dozen brutes in Alabama when they caught me sleeping in my car. You always have to put up with something but try like hell to survive whatever that something is.
Tre knows I am writing this. Even this next part, how our relationship is fragile because of his inability to control himself when the occasional anti-queer sentiment gets thrown at us. He had not experienced this until he met me because I made him visible. I am not a code switcher; what you see is what you get: trans, lots of glitter, bright colors, faggy voice, and I don't give a fuck what anyone wants or expects. At the same time, I understand the danger and when to get out of town to keep on living. Does he scream at people when they call me a faggot because he is protecting me, or does the shame he feels fill him with rage when others see our love as anything but the warmth he knows is real? Our fights are always after these incidents, which escalate in terrifying flashes until I'm dragging us out of the diner or bar, wherever it happens. Our fights end with me getting in my car and driving away after yelling that he will get us stabbed in a parking lot because he can't take a few stupid words. Drama on the road has many shitty destinations to choose, and in the end, it is heterosexual violence that comes between us, one way or the other. How would straight people feel if we got our faces between their holy, sanctioned unions? The same people would still want to kill us, maybe more so.
We have watched the sun go down on mountains, beaches, forests, and deserts. Each time I have sex in new surroundings with this same man, the sex constantly changes with the climate, elevation, humidity, salt air, or dry; it's impossible to get bored of our company. We end each night reading a book of poems out loud together, passing it back and forth. The books are a post-fornication ritual tool, and I feel each poem in ways I had never known.
This fall and next spring, I will be teaching poetry full-time. I am excited about my new apartment in Greenfield, Massachusetts. I signed a lease, and it felt good. If I belong to anything in this world, it is poetry. It would be easy to say poetry saved me, and I could make that argument, but I prefer focusing on how I like belonging to its spaces each day and how it delivers a concentration on life in ways nothing else can provide for me. I feel like a bride of poetry. Don't be weird about this, you can be a bride of poetry too. Poetry has as many arms as the goddess pulling the cable cars uphill. I want that wedding—an orange and purple gown with a notebook and pen at the altar along the road. A little barbed wire to rest elbows. Have you seen all the fucking barbed wire in this world? Jesus fucking christ! Fuck all this wire lining the property of the birds, deer, snakes, and toads! Bring your wire cutters; we have work to do!