I had to read Kirby’s wonderful poetry collection twice because there is a lot going on and a second read was necessary to absorb the beauty of it all. The book is so frank, honest, raw and funny.
In the book, Kirby isn’t afraid to talk about sex, combining the joy that one feels in the act, taking us through histories of traumas, suicides, AIDS, familial stories, while bringing laughter in the most awkward times, the poems are skin deep, gut-wrenching.
In the poem “9:30 PM”, Kirby recalls the time when he took his father to see Wertmuller’s The Seduction of Mimi. I laughed hard because of the way Kirby had a foot-note, talking about the experience. Above it : “Smoke, stale cum, disinfectant. Wet.” There is a high level of sincerity in the that resonated with me. Similarly, the poem “Cristofolo,” Kirby recalls the time when he met this hot Italian man and how he used to park in the driveway with him when Kirby’s mother asked if we would use the front living room she didn’t want the neighbours to see (fuck, what could they see, fogged up windows at 3AM?)” I sensed that his relationship with his mother was strained, there seemed to be a barrier between the two.
In the poem, “The Only Reason,” Kirby’s mother “said that’s all they knew of homosexuals, that they were child molesters and that they killed themselves and even though as a child I dreamed of being molested myself.” It brought tears to my eyes because it reminded me of a conversation, I had with a family member about homosexuals, my relative asserting that the gays kill themselves and God punishes them with AIDS. Kirby continuously reminds us of these traumas, such as in the poem “Lament” and other poems like “My Eulogy, “ which had one line that always haunts me: “My biggest disappointment is never hearing I was loved because I’m gay.” How can anyone not tear up to this? In the poem, “What She Lived Through,” each section of the poem were like little chapters in a novel, illustrating the relationship between Kirby and his mother when he came out to her as gay, how he asked to go see a therapist, how she uttered the words, “I should’ve killed you when I had the chance.” What breaks my heart the most is Kirby’s unconditional love to her: “How did she not know she was beautiful?”
The tears fill my eyes as they drop on my cheeks, a half-smile buried underneath. Kirby’s poem had to be read twice and three times and more because it grips you by the throat and doesn’t let go. Even in the end, I am still in a bittersweet aching state. His words are not for the faint of heart. “Cocksuckers know. It’s a calling.”