CHAPTER II was thirstyI was a country of queer forcerushing east to see the strangest side of twilightI was a woman in the usual wayI had no language but distress and dutyI have been taught to doubt my mother and fear traditionbut my queer tongue would not could not shut upThe afternoon sun seemed mightyand touched my arm with a delicate painA woman kneeling in self-surrender to the newweeping silver into great masses of greyness the cloudswhich ceaselessly walk and pause as though unmercifully urged onThrough the darkness I could see a stormy seaa strange mixture of movementsSomething slight and flickering seemed to mock my universal yesI asked what this all meantI struck a matchand its flame somewhere far off in the distance plungedSuddenly a faint and endless absencebegan beetling aroundthe howl that sweptthe ruined skyCHAPTER IIILet me begin with observationMy concern is with agencyI was satisfied with my bodyMy desire is my ownmy smile my ownI unsealed the seriousness of soundFreedom melted in the weatherworn abyssSome weird effect of shadowcould allow an opportunity to resistI took pleasure in disobeyingI determined not to compose myselfI suppose I was not unchangedI thought I felt desire kiss me with red lipsNever could I be a girl on her kneesI was a storm of a womantransformed with red lightheaving an imperious voiceforward into the dimness
Copyright © 2018 by Chase Berggrun
All rights reserved.
Reproduced by Poetry Daily with permission
Chase Berggrun is a trans poet. Their work has appeared or is forthcoming in the Lambda Literary Spotlight, Pinwheel, PEN Poetry Series, Sixth Finch, Diagram, The Offing, Beloit Poetry Journal, and elsewhere. They received their MFA from New York University. They are poetry editor at Big Lucks.
R E D excavates from Bram Stoker’s Dracula, through the process of erasure, an original narrative of violence, sexual abuse, power dynamics, vengeance, and feminist rage, and wrestles with the complexities of gender, transition, and monsterhood.
“‘I tried to undress a mystery,’ testifies the speaker of R E D as this haunting literary performance—somewhere between neo-Gothic burlesque and formal experiment in queer auto-theory—begins. Erasing Bram Stoker’s Dracula all the way down to its psychoanalytic minimalia, Chase Berggrun unearths a narrative not only of gender transition, but of the uncanny political and metaphysical transitions entailed by the metamorphosis of individual into chorus as well.”
“Chase Berggrun’s R E D is deathy goddy girly queer erasure supreme. They turn the ‘I,’ that bossy mercurial pronoun, into a transcendent blade beyond confession. They take the broken thing of identity and endow it with the kind of agency that can only arise in the survivor, one who has seen madness only in what madness has already been done to them.”
A Note on Process
R E D consists of twenty-seven erasure poems. They were produced using a system of formal constraints: text was erased while preserving the word order of the original source, with no words altered or added, according to a strict set of self-imposed rules. The poems use as a source the novel Dracula by Bram Stoker.
As the text of Dracula, a classic Victorian-era horror novel soaked with a disdain of femininity and the misogyny of its time, is erased, a new story is told, in which its narrator takes back the agency stolen from her predecessors.
This work was written at the same time as author had begun their own gender transition. As they were discovering and attempting to define their own womanhood, the narrator of these poems traveled alongside them.