Elae [Lynne DeSilva-Johnson]: #MeToo Series

Elae [Lynne DeSilva-Johnson]: #MeToo Series
ME TOO.png

market value


in 1988 in the thompson street pool

and  anywhere else downtown nyc gave us cover

i told alice exactly how

and where to touch me,

my skin’s newly sentient landscape, in this streetscape --

out of the thick surveillance of home

and its nonexistent doors ---

quick becoming a refuge, a resistance


it was brooding benjamin

at commie camp

in massachusettes circa 1993.

there: in the boys bunk,

behind a tree,

under the stars looking the other way

skipping swim class, feigning cool

i learned to leverage the only thing that was mine to give

it seemed a fair trade for the stories

i returned to eighth grade with like a golden ticket in my fist
waved high like a bowery news boy


“strawberries” “extra extra” “i told you i was someone”
do you see me now?

the awareness of other on and in my body

not always pleasurable, consenting

or kind, but yet

proving its existence

as electricity and pain

came and went from flesh

the handfuls others wanted

mapping value onto abandonment

an absence made real by what felt like desire

the void where worth should be

so long longed for

as to be entirely mistranslated

readily, as this junkyard equivalent


big tits, i talk a big game, slur myself for them

slick rick lyrics and liz phair
the bitch was strong, the kids was gone

fuck and run, fuck    and     run

on young tongues and walkmen

our dangerous swagger
leaving a scar tissue wake
of necessary forgetting


even as i buried myself

i began to make that dirt into a form

of my own choosing

until the priest tasked with my saving

and the harsh lights of planned parenthood

on second avenue

and the clinical sting of termination

and everything it doesn’t say

were mere bumps on the road

to a salvation written in my blood


flesh house with my own name

on the door

i am not the “daughter”

you built a cage for


i am mine on any stolen time i can find

i am smoking pfunks because the

recessed filter leaves less trace

on your fingers

and i love calculus and philosophy

and i put in my pocket

an equivalence I touch with my eyes closed

a sweaty dollar of knowing someone wants to fuck me

and i am holding on to the horizon like a buoy

shame and fear burnt on the retina like a bleach stain

i compensate with complexely wrought justifications

and spin love stories with everyone

who touches and grabs, making shows of the romance


danny’s housekeeper looks the other way

during all the fucks, all the faked little deaths

that fit between classes

in the spring of 1997


it’s my first time

for totinos pizza rolls and delivery he pays for

in a deluxe apartment with a doorman

and i am elated, conflating this kid and his anxieties that bore me

with knowing i can turn the water i was born into wine

if i play my cards right, and i am learning to grift

to hustle with my body bait, my only chip to ante


i can get out of dodge

i can live like this


i can make myself out of spit and the lint

in my pocket

i close my eyes and grit my teeth

when the script calls for more

than i had planned

i fashion a future i imagine

can only be made by their hands

guided by mine if i’m lucky but

this is about survival and

the line where desire, safety

money, escape, and the body’s preference blurs

has long been indistinguishable

girls didn’t come with deluxe accomodations

so they were the bathroom at woody’s bar

after the rugby game on the dance floor

in her dorm room or mine

sorry, heart, but i’m still here primarily for the golden ticket

and i can’t take a risk on this horse

but you were first and you will be always and maybe someday

i’ll get top surgery and find myself under there

not sure if i want to be or be with the bull dykes i lust after

but my mouth and mind don’t know this language

because it’s 1999 and we just got the internet and

this is the self i know how to sell


i learn to wield facepaint, fabric and a heel like an alchemical reaction

you’re born naked and the rest is drag

feel power like i never thought could be mine and i

am on my way to totino’s and park views

am on my way to frequent casual vacations

mentioned in cool conversation without missing a beat


patagonia and cocktails at lunch

because fuck you i made this


i can taste it

you say salty milk

i say dreams

and when i say love

i believe it


i dont know yet i love everything

and i am scared and lost

and breathing onto the glass

of other people

to make sure i’m here


i cannot see another path

i don’t know how to turn report cards

into apartments and i need a back up plan because

only forward motion

has ever been an option

i’ll sell my body before my soul

i look the other way and

throw myself into the fire


my threatened animal

had a plan

Lynne DeSilva-Johnson (she/her/they/them) is a nonbinary queer interdisciplinary creator, cultural scholar, and educator. Lynne is the founder of The Operating System, a radical open source arts organization and small press, and serves as visiting assistant professor at Pratt Institute. Recent publication credits include Wave Composition, The Conversant, The Philadelphia Supplement, Gorgon Poetics, POSTblank, Vintage Magazine, Live Mag, Coldfront, the Brooklyn Poets Anthology, Resist Much/Obey Little: Poems for The Resistance, and “In Memory of Feasible Grace,” part of the Panthalassa Pamphlet series, among others. Her performances and work have appeared widely, including recent features or projects at Artists Space, Bowery Arts and Science, The NYC Poetry Festival, Parkside Lounge, Carmine Street Metrics, Eyebeam, LaMaMa, Triangle Quarterly, Undercurrent Projects, Mellow Pages, The New York Public Library, Launchpad BK, Dixon Place, Poets Settlement, SOHO20 Gallery and many more. They are always still beginning.