I believe we all carry places inside us: biomes of identity and imagination central and individual to each of us. Mine happens to be the hilly fields of a Minnesota dairy farm, which are also devastated pieces of the precolonial tallgrass prairie. I believe too, that poetry, perhaps more than any other medium, can locate such a place, can re-create it. But for years, I couldn’t find a poem that embraced my biome’s contradictions; instead, I read lines about bountiful, golden harvests and bouncing baby calves. The hard, messy, and dirty parts were often missing.
A poetry anthology like Queer Nature was long overdue. It may embrace ecstatic praise for the natural world, but it doesn’t shy away from the aspects of nature that lack niceness. Contradiction and paradox are at home in this chorus of varied voices spanning three centuries of American poetry. Here you will find love poems, meditations on queer bodies and landscapes, laments for the world we are destroying, poems of survival, and calls for environmental justice. Here we claim gay bars and bedrooms as habitats as vital as fields, forests, and riverbanks, because culture and nature, like gender, are interpretations meant to be expanded. If nature poetry is a monocrop, no single aesthetic, attitude, or voice defines Queer Nature.
Our world is weirder than ever, and Queer Nature is a guide to help you live here. Please enjoy one of the fierce and hopeful love poems in the book as it takes account of our place in a world equally full of injustice and light and encourages us to keep tipping this balance toward joyful brightness.
Creatures of Hurt and Heal
By Tamiko Beyer
Let go, says the hawk. Let go,
says the dirt; let go, say the vines that wrap
tight to become protective skin.
Become another heart beating counter
rhythm, become an extra spleen
for mysterious functions
of filter. A month ago, light balanced
on the edge of dark in equal
distribution. We lifted our palms up.
Now, we move slowly toward
the solstice. Then, we will move
slowly away. The branches are thin, dark,
newly liberated from their leaves. The flash
in the morning fog might be a cardinal
or a siren in the distance—a marking
of this world where light is something
we calibrate closely. I have come into forty,
softer than at twenty, stronger than at thirty.
The world’s injustice still clashing
with my deepest convictions. Every day
I do the only work I know—small shifts
in the balance of power. Again
and again, hard and joyful, the only
way toward change. Every night
I kiss the woman
I can’t get enough of. We move toward
the sun and away from the sun.
Toward light, away from light,
bound and unbound.
“Creatures of Hurt and Heal” by Tamiko Beyer is published in Queer Nature: A Poetry Anthology (Autumn House Press, 2022). Reprinted with the permission of the author.
Michael Walsh is the editor of Queer Nature: A Poetry Anthology, and author of Creep Love, The Dirt Riddles, and two chapbooks, Adam Walking the Garden and Sleepwalks. His poems and stories have appeared in Alaska Quarterly Review, Chattahoochee Review, Cimarron Review, Crab Orchard Review, Prairie Schooner, and elsewhere.
Tamiko Beyer is the author of the poetry collections Last Days and We Come Elemental. She is a social justice communications writer and strategist who has received awards, fellowships, and residencies from PEN America, Kundiman, Hedgebrook, VONA, and the Astraea Lesbian Writers Fund, among others.
Buy Queer Nature here.
Check out more LBGTQIA+ poetry recommendations from Orion.