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The Inside Outsider

The social death hangs heavy

like a damp cloak on thread -

the living and the dead

echoes with Joycean pang,

But how about a different view?

The notion of two binaries miserably reconciled

in the modern alienation of social bodies:

Alive and dead at the same time.

The social death is that of

the integrated outsider who is

counted as human but not measured as such.

There’s that Dotian axiom of the queer desire

between lovers on an overgrown highway,

by-way of their kind, excluded

from the everyday Broadway of the norm.

Down by the hanging tree the grass

whispers the names of the dead (the victims)

to those alive who hang on to a hope for change.

Hung up on ropes of prejudice, you sway the balance

between progress and stagnation

as the damp cloak drip-drops

with resonant atrocity in present history’s caverns.

There’s something rotten in the state of our nations-

something rank and rancid which leaves

the life-force of humaneness

panting for breath,


Homogenise by dividing, that old coin

cashed by a totalitarian soul but a soul we all share

where nasty cankers seep in the insidious impulse

to assert selfhood

through alienation of the Other.

Fancy an in-n-out burger?

The sexual inuendo is latent -

we laugh but what if the joke turns?

What if your sexual freedom (the in-and-out

of a love confessed, desire, queerness)

becomes the means of your exclusion.

What then to make of laughter

when the joke is made to mock?

The modern question echoes,

who is in and who is out?

It is the perennial question, always asked

but barely uttered and always witnessed

in the playground of our unconscious psyches.

We see it everywhere,

we see it in the narratives that forget history,

those narratives that shy away

like cowards in a desert

where their hunched figures blaze with clarity.

That which we omit, that which we don’t say is sometimes

more telling than what we vocalise as surface.

Artifice: look at us aestheticize

to cleanse ourselves of depth.

Individuals stare inwards, haplessly,

from the outside, the periphery - that place

where we will meet and touch in darkness.

The night is our only friend

in a world that hates the visibility of difference.

Blackness, darkness - foolishly feared

but really blackness manifests its cultural history

emanating the dark injustices of a

‘civilising light’.

Not a light subject, not a bright future -

could be if we tried.

Should be.

It’s a touchy subject but with tact

we can tackle the ‘elephant in the room’:

the offhand slurs, the mockery,

the outright naivety of those too lazy to empathise

for empathy is an art like everything else.

Language can teach the blind to see.

It can teach those who fail

to acknowledge humanity’s sameness

but yet also teach the beauty of difference.

In-n-out drive-through, I’m through with you

and your alienating tactics.

I pull over and stop the car - no more

but I know I would never be pulled over

by police with their assumptions

all preconfigured.

It has to be everyone for it to be no one.

No more inside or outside but rather

coexistence forged from a plethora of selves

meeting in the middle in daylight.

Bright light: a future.

We just might see it.

Based on the social death concept coined by the sociologists Orlando Patterson and Zygmunt Bauman - the status of being integrated within a society, used as capital but then excluded from what counts as socially valuable. This is usually applied in critical race theory but is also applicable to any marginalised individual who is considered a 'citizen' but barely considered human i.e have the political rights of personhood but not the social rights. A number of references here made to Mark Doty who wrote in the AIDS crisis - beautiful poem he writes about queer desire and social exclusion in White Pouring. In and out burger basically just a reference to modern American culture (rough ringing of Baudrillard and the merging of high and low culture in hyperrealist postmodernity) Bit of an experiment really in taking a concept i.e. inside and outside experience and then threading it into a poem. Also noting the use of 'highway' 'bi-way' broadway - all transitory spaces to denote the way in which we marginalise individuals and fail to entrench them within a social whole. In sense the liminal existence of those society choose to alienate.

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