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May 2016 · 728
Xander Duncan May 2016
“Hey, I’m third-wheeling! Haven’t done this in a while!”
Wait… No… I’m going to stop you right there
Just because your friend has been texting me daily
Does not mean that we are any sort of duo for you half-heartedly attach to
Because I am a ******* unicycle
Admittedly, I don’t always stand too well on my own
But all it takes is some momentum and a little bit of blind faith
And I’ll be the one-wheeled contraption staggering unsteadily over any terrain imaginable
The only sort of second tire you’ll be hearing about for now
Is the declaration that I’m “two tired” to deal with this *******
Peddle your flirtations all you like, I’m not buying it
I’m the single spokesperson for a single set of spokes
You cannot tread on me just because my tread is wearing thin
Notice the lack of handlebars, you see, I am in control
Although my balance is unpredictable at best
I don’t have any brakes, because I’m getting sick of being broken
Do not mistake clowning around for simplicity, you see, I am easier said than done
The unicycle is not an easily mastered skill
And sure, perhaps I should be grateful that someone even bothers to try
But if you’re trying to shift gears, I should warn you
That doesn’t appear to be an option
I should warn you
All rides are solo
I should warn you
Unicycles might go in circles
But at least it's what they're meant to do
Nov 2015 · 605
A Love Letter
Xander Duncan Nov 2015
More precisely: A letter to Love
There is no place for you here
He forbade you from the beginning
And we agreed that you would not come around
I know I was alone when you showed up at my door but
You must have known you were still unwelcome
When he holds me close at 3am
This is not an invitation
When he pets my hair as I cry
This is not a retraction of our demands
His hand on my hips and under my clothes
Are not extended to you
You must believe me when I say I miss you terribly
But this is not the first time you have betrayed me
I think we need some distance
I truly do look forward to the opportunity where we may meet again
But there is no place for you here
Please go
Xander Duncan Aug 2015
Step right up, step right up
Watch your drink
Watch your purse
Watch the eyes of the guys around you
Watch out on behalf of the other girls, you never know what might happen
When you go to college a ******
Life is a ******* circus and
The elephant in the room has always been ***
But they told you that life would be a circus
And that’s where the elephants are meant to be seen, right?
So even though you were prepared to paint your face a sad clown
You put on a leotard and start walking fine lines like a tightrope
Looking for flashy colors on your skin
You wear hickeys and purity rings with the same amount of pride
And you won’t always know why you care so much about either

You’ll learn to be a ringmaster
who can conduct a proper show
But you get used to staying offstage
So the first time he sets off firecrackers behind your eyes and between your hips
Don’t be so scared of the light that you curl up under the circus tent in shame
And shake until sunrise, spitting out the ashes that remain on a briefly lit fuse
Because even though you’ve tasted sparks before
Breathing fire has never been a partner act
But you know that this boy knows how to feed you flames without cooking you inside out
So you attempt to rationalize that perfect double act

And you’ve seen contortionists always return to the shape they were taught
But you’re sure your muscles would stretch enough to change your build
So when the lion tamer brings his head away from a newly domesticated maw
And you start swallowing swords
Your first reaction should not be to gargle alcohol searching for open wounds
And ponder what shade of virginity you’re still allowed to identify with
Take a bow, darling, or at least take a breath
The heat on your tongue is only an afterthought

When he leaves you
shortly afterward
Do not singe your skin in an attempt to burn away his fingerprints
The tears that catch in your throat are as hot as the cinders he put there
And neither one will do away with the other
You just have to let them react and steam until you can breathe again
And breathe until you can feel again
And feel until the cold no longer numbs you and the heat no longer melts your bones
Spitting out the fire means you risk setting everything else ablaze
But swallowing coals until your stomach rejects anything else isn’t the best course of action either
So you hold the match between your teeth and the sparklers in your veins and deny the passage of time
Certain that they will burn out before you have to worry about them again anyway

When you go to college a ******
You’ve been told that fire is cleansing
But chewing on ashes makes you feel *****
And when the heat of passion sets off smoke alarms
It can be hard to remember which drills to follow
So remember this
Don’t catch fire to entertain
If what you really want is to keep warm
Feb 2015 · 1.6k
Xander Duncan Feb 2015
He is a book that was recommended to me just after I passed the shelf on which he was displayed
When I said I hadn’t been reading much lately
Life gave me a chapter full of pictures to begin with
And told me that one page at a time is still progress
In fact, one page at a time is the only way to make progress
He’s a well-read book with new words for every reader
And instead of leaving paper cuts on my hands he leaves ink stains
There are golden letters on his spine that I’ve taken to tracing absentmindedly every time I re-read a phrase
And dog eared pages that I’m not sure I have the authority unfold
He’s captivating
And quickly becoming my favorite story
He is English as a second language and still teaching me more about my tongue than I ever knew
Translating fears into excitement and confusion into intrigue
I didn’t know my skin was cryptic until he decided to decode me
But now I’m fascinated with hunting for the hieroglyphics in his neurons
Listening to tales spun by our own curiosity
Story time trumps bed time whenever possible
And when we decide that language itself is sometimes a ****** up means of communication
We try for morse code heartbeats and braille necklines and bizarre entanglements of hands
And when we decide that sometimes language itself is the best thing in the world
We talk the hours of the clock down to ticking hands and hourglass sand
Or get distracted and I’ll decide that I could travel the world in one night using the roadmaps in his veins
Where I’ll get lost and ask for directions and go through the same streets again anyway
Because I didn’t see everything the first time around and I really enjoy the journey
He is a pronoun that sounds good between my teeth and tastes like learning how to whisper before you learn how to speak
One of those words that I was never sure I was pronouncing right because I learned it by reading alone and deciphering based on context and roots
But he’s also one of those words where once you learn it you start hearing it all the time
And you swear that the whole world acquired this new term with you at once
He is nostalgia in a new experience
Nostalgia-- roots meaning home, or to return home, and a pain or sickness
He’s a homesickness that draws me to him every night
And he is a wanderlust that draws me away from the home I’ve known
Convincing me that comfort zones need exploring the same way tropical zones do
He is an encyclopedia on staying warm in Michigan winters
An atlas from desert countries
And a topographical map that makes me think
I could learn to like geography
Or cartography because he knows that the best way to record new terrain is to explore it first
And I’m content to be a notebook full of scribbles detailing the peaks and valleys and abandoned alleys
And arrhythmic patterns of wind set to traverse through tracheas, reaching lungs only when necessary
He’s the breath I forgot to take when a cliffhanger was resolved
And I don’t always know if I’m a page-turner or just a bookmark within one
But he’s a genre that’s meant to be read under the covers with a booklight until the sun comes up and reminds you that time isn’t as frozen as you hoped it was
And even when I don’t know if we’re on the same page
He tells me that there’s a reason that books have more than one
And I’ve never been good at guessing how stories are going to end
But I'd like to spend some more time reading
Dec 2014 · 2.2k
Leelah Alcorn
Xander Duncan Dec 2014
Leelah, I don’t usually write poems for people I never knew
I don’t usually write poems on the big issues, the things I haven’t studied, and the things I’m new to learning about
I can’t claim to know anything about you
In the seventeen years you were on this Earth, I had never heard your name
And even if I ever met you, there’s a good chance I still wouldn’t know your real name
That I would be introduced to you as Joshua and I wouldn’t have thought twice
Leelah, I haven’t seen much of you and I’ll never get the chance to
To me, you are one selfie in a cream colored dress captioned with a suicide note that I wish no one had ever had to read
The only words of yours I’ll ever know are the last ones you chose to give to the world
And any other information I could find will only tell me where the world stands on the events that lead to your death
I know that your parents bound you too tightly in blue baby blankets that you wanted to bleach white and toss in with the red laundry until it matched the assignment you wish you had from the beginning
I know that isolation and abuse took its toll on your health until your self-prescribed remedies left you standing on Interstate 71 at 2:20 on a Sunday morning
I know that more journalists misgender you than get it right but people are finding the best links they can to tell the world who you are
And they’re sharing your words on all forms of social media
Leelah, you’ve sparked a movement
You said that you wanted your death to mean something, and darling, it has
Progress shouldn’t have to come exclusively from tragedy
But it often does and you deserve to know that your tragedy is leading an advancement
The words that never should have had to have been written in the first place, at least are being read across the world
”The only way I will rest in peace is if one day transgender people aren’t treated the way I was, they’re treated like humans, with valid feelings and human rights”
Leelah, in a google search bar your name is the first result after just three letters
And even when someone types in Joshua Alcorn the whole first page of results is titles that name and gender you properly
Leelah, they’re getting better
They’re finding the breaking points in their ignorance and instead of supergluing the cracks they’re chipping them apart to find the roots of the weakened foundation
Things aren’t what they should be, but skipping stones are becoming stepping stones and hopefully the waters will hold enough of them to support the feet that are trying for the first time to cross over
And hopefully next time there won’t be blood in the water because
Leelah, you deserved so much better than the life you were given
But you’ve given life to new voices and they’re remembering your name and they’re saying
Leelah, we stand by the same things you believed in and now we’re taking your words to the streets
And you are loved and you are missed, but right now it’s important that you are known
And you are known as
And you will not be forgotten
Dec 2014 · 3.9k
The Letter T
Xander Duncan Dec 2014
Let’s get something straight
I’m not
Or at least, that’s a situation in question
But that’s not what I’m here for, you see
The acronym LGBT has a terrific little tail that everyone tends to trip over
And the conversations that transpire when I attempt to try the closet door
Leave me frequently swept under the rug
Maybe I’m just a little lost in translation
But they should know that identity is not orientation
And it can be tricky to articulate, so I don’t mind the extra explanation
But I’m telling you there’s a tipping point where you can’t expect me to take it
To tally up the talks I’ve had tearing apart the phrase
“So, genderfluid is like another word for bisexual, then, right?”
Because there’s already this his-and-hers internal tug-of-war
So tying in other types of ignorance just gets tiring at times
And trying again and trying again and again to get the point across
Leads me down a tangled train of thought that runs off the tracks in unclear tangents
Because conversations transition without the intended amendments
Because these transcripts would transcend the usual transfer of data
Into transgressions and obsessions with more than I’m able to
Confirm or confer without temperamental reactions
Feeling entirely translucent overlooking their infractions
Wondering why more words aren’t composed in a way that allows them
To be transposed to neutrality or at least farther from
Specific definitions testing how gendered things can get
Wondering why I don’t make any sense yet
Let me be perfectly queer
The acronym LGBT has a tetrad attraction detailing at least part of this
Just a trifle of understanding if you’re looking to comprehend it
And if you don’t care to learn then don’t bother to ask
But take some time from your day and I’ll try to make it fast
Go ahead and interrogate, I don’t mind all that much
Whatever trips your trigger, as long as it’s not pointed at us
I can’t speak on behalf of every transgender teen
But if you don’t know a word, I can tell you what I mean
I can text you a trillion terms to absorb
Or trim down the lesson to the basics if you’re bored
But don’t tell me that pronouns are a hassle to learn
When they catch in the throats of those just waiting their turn
To stop hiding their tears and be treated the same
Teaching one person at a time until the world hears their true name
Don’t expect trophies, but I’ll give you my thanks
Don’t tease us about the clothes that make our spines and souls ache
I want to wear this letter T like a cross from my neck
Saying the prefix trans- means across and I like it like that
Traversing the spectrums and binaries all mixed
Transcontinental, transatlantic, transfixed
By the beauty in boys and the glamour in girls
But mostly the neithers and boths in this world
Don’t tell me it’s a transient, temporary tale
Or that I’m totally enamored with getting off the most followed trail
I’m taking back traumas and tense muscles and taunts
Until tentative trespassers give us what we want
A presence, a voice, and all human rights
It shouldn’t be a privilege to feel safe at night
Don’t tiptoe around troubles, just stand with us here
Add a voice until we trumpet our triumphs and cheers
Take my hand, hear my voice
Listen, learn something new
Because LGBT has a cross and
Cross my heart
I’m with you
Dec 2014 · 645
Xander Duncan Dec 2014
There is a Chinese proverb that says
Kissing is like drinking
Salted water
Because that act of drinking
Only increases the thirst
And with your touch
There are oceans in my lungs
There are waves of brine in my throat
Knocking into sodium crystals
That dissolve themselves
Against the roof of my mouth
But the sweetness of your voice
The syrup of your kiss and the sugar
Of your promises
Turn my tongue into
Atlantic City’s taffy
And the rushes of blood through my veins
Crest and break
With white foam
And I’m wary of the silver fins and ivory teeth
That must be gathering at the call of the red in the tide
But still I swim out farther
To take in all that I can
Quaffing rivers
Rain puddles
And oceans
Until somehow my thirst is quenched
Or until I simply surrender to your arms
Because a parched throat may be maddening
But your embrace calms the waters
That made sailors reach for sirens
And it’s a red sky at night on the ocean
As we lean in for one more kiss
an old poem that i decided to post
Dec 2014 · 353
An Old Flame
Xander Duncan Dec 2014
I tried smoking once
I’ve heard it’s addictive but I knew I could avoid that
I was distressed and looking for a cure
And I had a friend who knew how to get stuff
I never thought I’d betray my intuitions like that
But there was exhilaration at the thought alone
And I really love trying new things
Because life is all about experience
We hiked into the woods to find the perfect place to stop
He held a flame in his hands, and we spent the next few minutes with our lips against a brass pipe
Inhaling the bitter taste we longed to learn
There was a warmth in my chest that felt like the right kind of pain
But we decided we didn’t want it again
Sometimes when I’m sad, I can feel the heat in the back of my throat
With a bitter hint crossing my tongue
And I wonder if it’s a craving
Or just a memory

I tried admitting to myself that I was in love once
I’ve heard it’s addictive but I knew I could avoid that
I was infatuated and looking for a sign
And I had a friend who turned into so much more
I never thought I’d betray my intuitions like that
But there was exhilaration at the thought alone
And I really love trying new things
Because life is all about experience
We hiked into the woods to find the perfect place to stop
He held my hand in his, and we spent the next few minutes with our lips against each other’s
Inhaling the bittersweet promises we longed to find a meaning for
There was a warmth in my chest that felt like the right kind of pain
But he decided he didn’t want me anymore
Sometimes when I’m sad, I can still feel his touch at my sides
With a bittersweet hint crossing my mouth
And I wonder if it’s a craving
Or just a memory
Nov 2014 · 1.2k
An Ode to Hickeys
Xander Duncan Nov 2014
I really have a soft spot for winter weather
It’s sweater time
It’s scarf time
It’s cuddle time…or a-little-more-than-cuddling time
And it’s sweaters and scarves indoors time because people seem determined to hide the aftermath of mouths that have overstayed their welcome
In the corners of shoulders and collarbones
Tracing tracheas to chests and lingering just out of reach of lips
And because I’ve been taught to hide these marks, I do
But if I could, I would accessorize with necklaces of purple and blue
Passionate hues that grow from teeth and tongues
Can you paint with all the colors of the
Winding veins that spindle into spirals around blood and bones and vitals
Can you decorate the blank canvas of my neck
With Rorschach tests that I’ll spend the next few days
Analyzing and decoding
Finding new shapes just for fun
And then we’ll start again with stripes and spots and splotches
Remembering that the fireworks we call cliché are interchangeable with capillaries
Bursting under layers of skin
To later be concealed under layers of cloth
And people will blush when the consistency in their color is questioned
And they’ll tug their collars higher
But I’ll always have a love for the fact that these are bruises that come from beauty
That these bodies end up damaged in the most gentle of ways
And please don’t put a negative spin on damage
Because I know of people that will spend all kinds of money for outfits that look like they’ve been through hell and back
Because distress is a style and the aesthetic is stunning
And even though people joke as they will
I’m secretly proud to wear a badge of black and blue
On the corner of my collar claiming
You Were Here
And I’ll pin one to your neckline
Signed and dated
I Was Here
And the blood that we’ve drawn to the insides of each other’s skin
Only mirrors the blush that appears on my face when I smile and think
I really am lucky to have you
And it’s sweater weather outside so these bruises will stay confined
Under the snowy scarves we’re told to keep
But I’ll admire this art as it fades through the week
Tracing over physical proof of nights that fall into the past
And scrutinizing the speed at which they do
Adoring the marks that no one else seems to
Because aftermaths confirm realities
And I could never disdain the colors that tell the world who we are to each other
And how we stay warm in the winter
Sep 2014 · 899
Xander Duncan Sep 2014
Despite people constantly explainings music theory
I’ve never quite grasped the concept
Of different keys.
Because to me
Something would feel sharp and
Fall flat but
Be all too natural to you

And I had difficulty trying to articulate what I meant to say
Because we had such an interesting dynamic
And dissonance is positive when done correctly,

Constantly, you played chords on my heart strings
Like the threads wound tightly against the pegs on your guitar.
But never gently
Rarely slow
With some fascinating sort of
But not always the kind that I understood

And despite believing that your interest was genuine
I sometimes wondered if you got as much of a rush from
Holding the curves of that wooden body close to you
As you did from thriving on the attention that you got
When people saw that you had the skill
To manipulate something ordinary into something unique.

And I’ll admit
It got into my head
And caused me to fret

Refraining from over-analysis
Has never been my forte.
But somehow we always managed to bridge the gap
That our differences created
And accented the qualities that really made us harmonious.

Hoping you would not hesitate to
Pick me and
Bend me and
Guard me and
Let the notes ring loud and frenzied and
Place your hands
Along my neck
To let me be the fine-tuned
Of your affection.

With lungs andante
And a heartbeat accelerando
I’d leave it up to you to conduct
A tempo.
While the melody lead us
In an entanglement of musical phrases and lyrical nonsense
That all came together.

I suppose.

But don’t ask me why,
I never understood music theory
I just know what I like to hear.
An old poem reworded to be past tense
Xander Duncan Aug 2014
Confessions of a Goody Two Shoes
At least that's what I had always considered myself
But like a pair of sneakers tied together and thrown over a telephone wire
I'm sure it's only the innocent eyes that see the image without subtext
Strung up by knotted laces tied around the tongues
Hanging just above the mist and missing the point
Because these shoes were made for walking
And there's just no way of knowing how far someone is going to go
As muddy soles beat the ground with every stride as we run from our problems
But can't always outrun the bullets
Trying on everyone else's lives to see if we can finally complete the mile
I've been starting to doubt the label assigned
Associating me with footwear and being walked on
I can feel my arches aching with the pressure of walking in time with the crowd
Of walking to a beat I haven't chosen
Of walking heel-toe-heel-toe left-right-left
Down a straight path
Down a narrow path
There's smoke in the sky from the road less traveled
There's gravel in my shoes from stepping off to peer into the distance
I'm not sure why I want to run away but there's just something about the unknown
Chasing butterflies down aisles of pitcher plants and Venus flytraps
There's something alluring about losing my only pair of shoes in the dust and just running
If I'm not making good choices
I'll make bad choices with conviction
I need to learn to stand on my own two feet but for now
I've been learning to walk barefoot
Because goody two shoes just don't quite fit any more
But I can't seem to break in anything new
Aug 2014 · 510
Xander Duncan Aug 2014
There's a poem about you that's waiting to be written
There are words that circle your lips
Falling, slipping, spilling from my fingertips
Into late night confusion and moments of nothingness
You're a page in the center of a book with a prologue that I haven't read
But I'm still imagining the way the ink stained paragraphs would lend themselves to film
Because every story can be told through so many mediums
There's a poem about you that is waiting for the right words
I wouldn't call it attraction
I would call it an admission that having you at my side is oddly comfortable
I would call it a confession that I wanted to reach for your hand a few times
I wouldn't call it more
I haven't been lost in the starlight of your eyes
I haven't scattered butterflies from my chest
I haven't longed for lipstick stains and inside jokes, sharing, and falling apart to rebuild each other, listening, loving, forgetting the past
I don't think you and I are a would be could be should be
But I do think that you deserve something different and that I want to be someone new
Funny how those match
I think that even though you haven't sparked music in my soul
You have poems about you that are waiting to come to light
Because you have ink in your veins to tattoo words on your bones
And you're a table of contents out of context pointing to a chapter left untitled
You're a hardcover book, but not one to bother with the slipcovers
And you've got a spine that's been bent but is not easily broken
You're a story I want to read, not one I'd want to live
But I do want to write poetry about you
Because you're spilled ink that might as well be a Rorschach test
You're paper pages that act like kindling
You're words that shy away from being spoken
Or written
And there's poetry floating through the air that is sure to rest on your shoulders
Because I'm sure that your heart is shelter to thousands of words left unspoken
And your pulse is sewing together the phrases that you never said
But I'll never really know why my hands warmed up at the touch of yours
Because some poems just aren't meant to be written by me
But they're still out there waiting for you
Jul 2014 · 1.4k
Xander Duncan Jul 2014
Hey rock-star boy, shaggy hair, loud mouth, striking chords on your guitar
You might as well have been playing my heartstrings
Hey punk-rock t-shirts, smooth voice, bright eyes, I
Caught your glance once or twice
Shy girl, scared voice, straight A’s, no choice, I
Might as well have been taking down music notes in my books
Because no mathematical equations would ever add up the way I
Divided my boundaries just to talk to you I
Swore your song was perfect
Shy girl, corner dwelling, never speaks up, never acts out, never curses, never cries
There’s a reason guys like you aren’t with girls like me but
Tight hugs, this was different, wide smiles, this was different, soft hands, this was different
And I still somehow believe, you were different
Empty promises, fake tears, harsh lies, secret fears, deliberate deceit
Your song was playing on repeat but
The hard rock metal that once pumped blood through our veins was
More like the metal shredding my ribcage I
Felt everything sharper because I
Changed keys for you
Loud girl, sharp tongue, wider smiles, faker love, I
Glued wings to my soul, but let you call me Icarus, I
Fell into the sea
Fast swimmer, quicker to drown, SCUBA diver, sinking down
Oxygen torn from my lungs I
Breathed in different dreams for you I
Reached for different stars for you I
Can never close my eyes around you
Loud girl, center stage, honest tongue, biting rage, always cursing, always cries
Eating my words when you fed me lies
Rock-star boy
College drop-out, smoke in your lungs, breaking rules just for fun
The only “I love you” I’d ever spoken
The only time my heart was broken
Punk rock boy
Please get your song out of my head I
Can’t stand to hear this chorus again
not sure how well this reads in text since it was written for a slam
Jul 2014 · 1.6k
Xander Duncan Jul 2014
I grew up hearing
Little miss this and
Little miss that
But I think there’s been a little mistake
A little misunderstanding
Like there’s something that they missed
Because certainly sir could replace the title of miss
And mister wouldn’t stir up a fuss
And I could still be me
Ever since I was little I took pride in the word tomboy
Not realizing the other labels that pride could be applied to
Because I spent my life being lied to
About what gender really means
And I’ve been starting to question and I’ve been starting to learn
That expectations aren’t everything
And when it comes to gender roles
I grew up just rolling with it
But recently realized that I don’t have to
And I’ve been coming up with different ways of coming out
But mostly I’ve just spent a lot of time thinking
About spectrums and pronouns and labels and orientation
About binders and binaries and identity versus expression
About the way that I never really minded the onslaught of
Maybe he can fit just as well
Maybe she fits fine
Maybe I can be a daughter by day and a son by night
Maybe I can bypass the binary and angle towards androgyny
Or transcend transgender in term of ambiguity
Maybe I can be
And maybe someday that will be enough
Because boy oh boy there are days that I do love being a girl
But what can you do when it’s a dog eat dog world
And you were born a cat?
Just a little bit more of a ***** than you were hoping for
In this world where facts are misconstrued
And your words are misinterpreted
And you’re feeling a little
Just a little… misgendered
So hi, I'm gender-fluid.
Jul 2014 · 1.5k
Prince Charming
Xander Duncan Jul 2014
Once upon a time there was a girl
Fairy tales, huh? Always the perfect template for a beautiful cliché
Once upon a time there was a girl
And even though she never cared too much about being a princess
Or even sometimes didn’t care too much for being a girl
She still loved the idea of finding a prince
So here comes Charming
With battle scars and soft eyes
A sweet smile and armor that was tarnished just enough to awaken
The little part of her domestic enough to actually want to clean
So they fixed up everything in shades of heroic silver
And she smiled
From a bit of a distance
Thinking how neat it was to have found a prince

It never even occurred to her that Charming was looking for a princess

And bit by bit the fairy tales began to come to life
He gave her apples that she didn’t really want just so he could kiss her back awake
And traded her voice for legs so she could always walk with him and he could always speak for her
Leading wolves into her bedroom and then putting the sheep’s clothing around his own shoulders thinking that the wool would cover her eyes the next time he held her close
And when he realized that she wasn’t locked in a tower he gave her enough bricks
To build her own
And as she hid behind walls and water he found his shining armor
And dove into the moat just to prove how ***** he was willing to get to save the damsel

But spending enough time in the tower
She began to trace back fairy tales to their origins and found out
Those stories are really ****** up

Because Sleeping Beauty was ***** in a forest, The Little Mermaid turned to sea foam, Red Riding Hood never escaped the wolf, and Cinderella was only victorious after her sisters were blinded and her step-mother danced herself to death in shoes of hot iron.

Once upon a time there was a girl
And her prince charming, dressed in heroic shades of silver
Liked to tarnish his armor just enough to have her convinced that he was doing it all for her
And bit by bit
He proved to her that fairy tales are real
Once upon a time there was a girl
And she never really liked the idea of being a princess
And sometimes didn’t even like the idea of being a girl
But since Charming was always so set on being a worthy hero
She’ll let him be the leading role of this poem
So he can have his spotlight
And she’ll find a different Happily Ever After
Jul 2014 · 2.0k
Taking Back the Rainbow
Xander Duncan Jul 2014
(This is a group poetry slam. The bolded lines are said in unison. I was in charge of the "yellow" sections)

A technicolor finish tainting paint on hate drenched signs
Alex: picketing picking away bits of lips, slicing silence into arms and hips
rainbows were not always so black and blue
Brigitte: yanked from the sky by a brood of vipers, dragged through mud and fire, pummeled until we see double.
Nicole: Poison placed on children’s tongues, “******” never tasted as sour as when describing
Audrey: translucent half circles shamed into not showing their true colors
Allie: We hide the private parts of ourselves, but what if our sheer existence clouds some sets of eyes with rage?
Even the speed of light can’t escape lids clenched tight like fists.  

Brigitte: First crush is a hot sweat and perpetual throat lump
Molten shame gurgling beneath the tender flesh of your candy apple cheeks
Stains memory like spilled red wine
She was intoxicating
Red flecked rosacea readily recalls
Her name a cherry aftertaste, berry sweet yet crimson thirsty
red is the color of metamorphosis. of hormones misbehaving. of flushed ******* and a wish dancing on another girl’s lips.
Of bullseyes tattooed on wrists
Red is a warning of children’s taunts and old, wary eyes. It is the hue of thought blind hatred

Allie: The shade of autumn leaves slowly passing on
Grim reminders of slowly approaching school hallways that sneer taunts
Orange the color of names thrown into aching ears
Thrown into breaking hearts
Thrown into minds full of orange flickering bonfires of shame
The color of beautiful things slowly dying

Alex: Like the caution signs on winding roads
Barely illuminated when the sky is too dark
Seen too late before a crash
Twisted metal ringing in our ears like
Twisted thoughts ringing in our ears like
When we recognize a crush that sets us apart
That tells us we're
Not normal, not right
Like fading bruises as we tell ourselves
That we're just yellow bellied cowards
As we tell ourselves
That on straight roads we wouldn't crash
And with straight hearts we wouldn't bleed

Nicole: I feel sick
“A little green around the gills”
as I swim away is that why I’m drowning
in these murky waters of
“What if”s and “i don’t know”s
I have always been certain of the leafy canopies and garden inside of me
but this vine of uncertainty sprouted
and is choking me
I should not feel afraid for what I am because
this life is green and sprouting but there are
forest fires of hate spreading
We see the smoke signals all around us
our magnificent green fading to ashes

Blue and Purple
Audrey: Blue curtains block out the world that lurks just outside
Waiting to hurt me.
8 pm.
Purple dusk is gathering outside my walls
The same way the bruises on my heart threaten to eclipse the sun.
I'm scared.
I don't look at the veins  beneath my skin because they
Remind me too much of the purple-red blood
That spills too often from my arms,
Reminds me of my father's face
Purple with rage
When I told him
9 pm. Navy skies I will not see again
Purple pen writing apologies
Heart pumping blood too fast,
No time,
Can't breathe, face purple,
Can't breathe, face blue
Can't breathe.

They took away our rainbow. Let’s take it back.

Purple and Blue
Audrey: I love the way the sky turns lavender before the sun rises
I love the way your long hair and pale curves look
Against the blue sheets
I love not hiding who we are.
We should get Purple Hearts for all the times
The missiles of queer and butch have landed in
The midst of our embrace,
Launched by an unknown enemy before we were able
To twine our hands and hearts on small-town sidewalks
Laying under the lilac bushes,
Watching the day slip into purple dusk with firefly stars.
I love not hiding who we are.

Nicole: once a cowering seed deep underground
Sprouting up through a crack in the slab of
concrete hate concrete rejection
because fresh life will destroy hate
even if it is slowly, one seed at a time
we are not weeds in your garden
a safe place the sun shining
fresh sprouting buds anticipating something beautiful
the prelude to a symphony of colors
sprouting from the earth
we do not need to prove that we are not unnatural
but grown from the same soil

Alex: Somewhere in the middle of the rainbow like I'm
Somewhere in the middle of the spectrum
Associated with the sun and the stars but
Not with day and night
Because things are never quite as black and white as we make them out to be
Yellow, in the middle of pink and blue on the pansexual flag
Acknowledging that there are people out there
Who could love people like me
And yellow like dandelions
Changing daily into pieces drifting away
To end up regrown in dirt
Just like anything else

Allie: The shade of sunrise
A beautiful dawn of hope and opportunity
Peeking over the horizon
The passage of time and hopefully some ******* laws
Orange the warmth of a new day pouring some happiness into what once was a seemingly endless night
Orange the color of change

Brigitte: sunshine ray burn cozy in your proud heart
blood rush, fire burst, lovesick intensity smoldering in your eyes
Red is a love fusion ignited inward and radiating out like a star
illuminating the night regardless of how dark the nothing is around it
Red is grown up, a rubicund shamelessness sewn with time into the marrow of your bones
Roll out the red carpet, paint roses on the town
Blood is not only death, it’s also life

Audrey: Acceptance!
Nicole: Life!
Alex: Hope!
Allie: Change!
Brigitte: Love!

**Pride comes in ALL colors
Jun 2014 · 1.8k
The One About The Jeep
Xander Duncan Jun 2014
I will readily be the first to admit
I heavily romanticize the **** out of life
It’s not that I don’t separate fact from fiction
But if I can find something that is beautiful in both
Then I know I have found something truly wonderful
Give me a movie moment and, for the time being, I’ll know that I’m doing okay
I’ll know everything is going to be alright
So give me summer nights
Let us run out the doors of a pizza place past midnight and drive
Standing up, top down in a convertible jeep around the back roads of a small town
Sticky stage makeup streaked by sticky wind
Overly gelled hair windswept into Picasso shapes
Let’s notice how the stars spin when you look directly upwards
And feel the swaying balance in your feet, as the air plays louder than the music
Hold out your arms like
The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Hooking my ribcage forward over the top of the windshield so I can let my hands explore the sky
Reaching to touch low-hanging branches that are never quite near enough
Leaning bent back against the railing
And singing mismatched lyrics to whatever song I can’t quite hear
Since I’m holding my head farther above the world than usual
Standing straight and tall and
Let’s appreciate the way the laws of physics keep us from falling but not from tipping
So we’re always just on the edge of cautious
Slightly alert
But mostly lost in the magic of being
Young and free
Past midnight on the empty streets of a small town
With fireflies spinning past like low-hanging stars
And a summer breeze intensified into enveloping all five senses
Let’s forget about responsibilities and forgive the people we’re running away from
Even if just for the moment
Give me the rush of this moonlit escape
And memories that could fit with pretty soundtracks and rolling credits
Let headlights be our guide and the radio be our leader
For one night the tears in our eyes are going to be from the sting of speed
Not the empty hours of another sleepless night
For one night we are going to reach out for a hand
And actually end up holding tight to each other as we race through the darkness
Four heartbeats and a loud engine
All drowned out by a summer night being lived as it’s meant to be lived
Standing up, top down in a convertible jeep around the back roads of a small town
And romanticizing the ever living **** out of the movie moments in life
Jun 2014 · 1.8k
Ten Types of Tired
Xander Duncan Jun 2014
One: Sleepy
When your spine takes cat-like curves into the recesses of blankets
And crickets and thunder and howling wind all sound like peace
And puzzle pieces fitting splendidly against each other
You’re sleepy when your eyelashes are weakly magnetized
And pull gently towards one another in soft but stuttered motions
When white noise and static fill your ears the way that water can sometimes fill a glass a little bit past the top without spilling
And you look forward to the lure of dreams or of dreamless nights
Because you know you’re sleepy when the only reason to be awake in the moment
Is so that you can appreciate the split second of falling
When you finally lose consciousness

Two: Bored
When you switch from counting ceiling tiles to counting the colors that you can find when you close your eyes with varying degrees of tension
And you’ve become so bored with distracting yourself that sleep seems like the only genuine option
Even if you’ve only just woken up
Even if you’re not feeling comforted by darkness and silence yet
Even if distractions are abundant
Because they just aren’t distracting enough
Sometimes boredom summons misery just to occupy your mind
And you’re bored when you remember you were supposed to be in bed an hour before
And you actually listen to yourself and go

Three: Drowsy
When you wish you had longer limbs just so you could properly drape them from the edges of your mattress and stretch at better angles
Suspecting that maybe the odd crooks in your bedframe are the crooks that have been thieving in bits of the night and stealing the ends of dreams and the beginnings of alarms
You’re drowsy when you can feel the burn of smoke sloping against the walls of your lungs
Even when you’ve been breathing clean air all day
And the dizzy spin of the room is more of a waltz that’s moving just a little bit slower than expected
Until you turn the music off

Four: Fed Up
When stress is snapping at your synapses and igniting fizzling fireworks at the back of your throat
But the forward corners of your eyes pull together to shut out the world
Because ignoring is a temporary retreat into forgetting
And permanence isn’t something you’re in the mood to believe in any way
You’re fed up with the world, and with existing
Or maybe just being awake
When you know there are better things that you could and should be doing
But shutting down is all you can manage right now

Five:  Faint
When the world appears not only blurry, but verging on translucent
And there’s a steady hum lacing the edges of reality
With sporadic jolts of memory forcing twitching sensations down your back
You’re feeling faint when you’re hopelessly holding onto consciousness
Because you’re a little bit afraid of falling
But you would never admit it
Because there are too many blank spaces in your vision to allow for any vagueness in your thoughts
But sometimes the body can’t keep up with the mind
And you collapse all the same

Six: Weary
When time seems to thicken and stick to your skin
Weighing down your movements like steel beads of sweat
And pressing palms to your eyes almost seems to drown out sound as well
You’re weary when the grass feels a few inches too long and the ground seems a few inches too close
And the ends of your limbs feel as though they have been reaching for something a little bit too far away
And you have only just given up
So you grab handfuls of the clothes you have on and pull them tighter against yourself
Forming an artificial blanket
And imitation slumber

Seven: Exhausted
When you can feel static buzzing through your veins
Stretching capillaries into threads to keep yourself sewn together
Knowing that consciousness could spill from the cracks in your skin all too easily if given the chance
And your eyelids hold together like the grand doors of a cathedral
Opening only with a struggle that everyone tries to make seem effortless
You’re exhausted when you’ve been writing this poem for days trying to find the words
To properly describe different degrees of fatigue
And you’re sure that you’ve probably recycled a metaphor or two but you don’t bother to double check
So you keep trudging along
Until nothing makes sense anymore
And the seams that encase your consciousness begin to strain
And snap

Eight: Hyperactive
When despite all reason dictating that you should be experiencing the drag of being awake for too long
You see clearly and think in double time
With energy flickering behind your irises
Foreshadowing the dread of sunrise
You’re hyperactive when you’re knitting your voice with your friends’ voices in a collage of laughs
Each indistinguishable from the last
And you start counting the stars with flashlights until
Like sugar and smiles
And fast cars on icy roads
You inevitably

Nine: Emotionally Drained
When you’re worn to the point that mental distress manifests itself physically
And you can feel the chains of your own thoughts around your wrists
Almost wishing they were tighter so there would at least be proof of their damage
You’re emotionally drained when you can scream without making any sound
And you've perfected the syncopated rhythm of a nervous twitch
You realize that you've been grinding your teeth for the last two hours
So you switch to biting your tongue
And you don’t rest
You don’t rest until there are tears mimicking a Jackson ******* on your pillowcase
You don’t rest until the clock is judging you for testing it
You don’t rest until you feel empty
You cannot rest when you feel empty
No matter how desperately you wish you could just fade
And drift away
You do not

Ten: Tired
This is about twice as long as it can be for a poetry slam, so I need to cut out almost half, but at least I can post the full version here
May 2014 · 7.9k
Xander Duncan May 2014
I'd never cared for flowers
Symbols of affection that wilt
And forget memories
And fall apart in kitchens and bedrooms and strew their pieces on the floors
Dried and broken after only days of being lovely
Flowers with their alternating patterns of
Unreliable determinations
Claiming every other petal as an opposite declaration
Of a determination
Of love
And I never liked removing thorns from roses
Because they added something truthful and

But when you gave me flowers
I held them to my heart and let my eyes dance across the kaleidoscope that they created in a glass vase
I let them live for longer than they did
Because they were still pretty even when no one else seemed to think so
And when they hang dried on a wall
Still colorful but slightly brittle
Maybe they'll stay like that if I just don't touch them
When you gave me flowers
I plucked off every other petal
Into a bouquet of He-Loves-Me
Because for once there was no doubt
For once I believed the sentiment in the flowers and the words from your lips as you handed them over
The lack of nots in the petals
Pulling apart the knots in my stomach
He loves me
He loves me
Truer than the dirt that holds
Wilting symbols of affection
Sweeter than the honey
Of their pollinators
He loves me
He loves me
A garden of something new and beautiful
Perennial and built on symbolism after all

Until you let me know that dead flowers were just dead flowers
That they were past their worth
And metaphors aren't worth the dirt they were grown in
That perennials can't return
When you've salted the soil
And brittle flowers on the wall should always be removed
But I always lived in metaphors anyway
And I had a new appreciation for flowers that I didn't want to lose
I was no longer a rose
But a thorn
I always thought smooth stems were so boring
Not to mention dishonest
But I didn't want to make you bleed
So painfully I dug an olive branch from my rib cage
Then realizing that a ****** token may not be so well received
I decorated it with a bouquet of blue Forget-Me-Nots
But you plucked off every other petal
And handed back an array of He-Loves-Me-Nots
He loves me not
And there was no doubt in the sentiment
The sentience of metaphors dying all around me
When all I know is metaphors
And flowers were never just flowers
And words were never just words
But both are found on gravestones and poems and apologies
And parallels have fallen into nice and even spacing
Reducing flowers to clichés
Of alternating promises
Of He loves me and
He loves me not
Of broken promises
He loves me
May 2014 · 4.4k
Sassy Gay Friend
Xander Duncan May 2014
My sassy gay friend
Is not an accessory
When you go rooting through the closet and find him
Lacing straight ties into chains
Do not think that he will complete your outfit
Just because a rainbow holds the hues that you were looking for
Haven’t you seen that bruises also bloom in shades of purple and blue
Fading into green and yellow
With red far too often escaping veins that are supposed to hold it in
Haven’t you seen what marks us
And brings our identity to the surface of our skin
When closet doors are slammed too often against our hands
My sassy gay friend
Is not a decoration
You do not get to wear him at your hip
To flaunt your acceptance
And claim symbiosis
As if he needs you to navigate the streets of heteronormativity
Cutting short his words when communication is the best thing we have
And when speaking fails us we resort to spending an afternoon
Sending smoke signals into the sky
Waiting for security in the focus that it takes just to
My sassy gay friend
Is not a collectible
You do not get to gather us up into a complete set
To line us neatly in an array
Of rarities and charities
And alternative identities
Until you feel sufficiently well rounded
In your attempted diversity
My sassy gay friend
Is not an icon
A token character
Or comic relief
My sassy gay friend
Is not meant to be romanticized
Or fetishized
He is human
I am human
You are human
And if we see each other as sparkles and rhinestones
We're all going to lose all the value
That can't be found on price tags
May 2014 · 5.4k
Reject Demons
Xander Duncan May 2014
My body is the training ground for
All of the reject demons
My inner demons failed to qualify as the right sort of fight
To match with any worthwhile struggles so

My inner demons are over dramatic children
     They do not wage wars
     They throw tantrums
     They stand inside my temples and pound the walls
     When they do not get what they want
     And shriek ringing into my ears until they turn blue
     Then fall asleep when they get tired
     Forgetting that they were supposed to be upset
My inner demons are pretentious
     They call themselves demons
     When they are more like imps
     They tickle at anxiety with the nerve to call it an attack
     And separate velcro and seams with the audacity to say that
     They broke something
     Then press on my heart
     Daring to call it an ache
My inner demons are clumsy
     They walk with their toes curling around my eyelashes
     And slip and spill their handfuls of tears
     At inopportune moments
     As I tremble due to the ones
     That have tripped and tangled themselves
     In my heartstrings and vocal cords
     Causing me to grasp my rib cage in desperate attempts to reach them
     And tear apart the inconveniences
My inner demons are shy
     They sway in my veins to the rhythmic pulse
     With clawed hands outstretched to the blue walled sky
     Cautious to never leave a scratch through my skin
     They dance on nerve endings and muscle tissue
     With footwork just gentle enough to not summon bruises
     And hold themselves still against my capillaries
     As if their presence might distract my blood from
     Its daily circulation
My inner demons are hoarders
     They over-stuff the filing cabinets in my brain
     With reports and analysis of too many situations
     And pick up old emotions and hide them in the recesses
     Of each ventricle and aorta
     Creating pseudo-space for newer, stranger, replicas
     Then pack extra breaths into my lungs
     Storing "just in case" inhalations and overused sighs
     They insulate their homes with extra calories and extra clothes
     Hiding until they can forget themselves
My inner demons are moody
     They like to stitch up new wounds with the thorns of roses
     And pry open old ones with feathers
     They tie my tongue with pages of foreign textbooks
     They tie my tongue in gauze and cotton
     They tie my tongue with other tongues
     And pins and needles and teeth and drawstrings
     They are self depreciating and they know that they
     Are not worthy of their title

My inner demons are pathetic
     I suppose they're right where they belong

— The End —