Two of the deepest tropes here are romance and, at times, audacious sexual candor—think of a heart-racing first date at a 5 star restaurant the back door of which opens into a steamy alley, loaded with Allen Ginsberg’s “saintly motorcyclists” and Kirby’s “bevy of bears,” and this is the astonishing new poetry collection, There Is Where I Get Off—double meaning intended and perfectly executed throughout. Other thrilling collisions occur throughout the book: fear and loneliness are assailed by cat-creamy satisfaction and hot thrills; the language itself is raw and cooked; love is prevailed upon like justice, to be not strained but mad about, aroused by the body when it is both bold and shy, as is best explicated in “A Cute Little Ditty on Romance”:
Romance is never tiring of watching the way his cock moves.
Romance is when you cease to apologize for farting and begin to welcome it while rimming
Kirby’s work recalls many legendary figures in art and pop, from Frank O’Hara and David Trinidad to Will Munro to Joe Orton to of course, the deeply musical Rock Hudson.
But they are an original. And This Is Where I Get Off is a Whitmanesque cry of passion and pain that treats both the quotidian and the extraordinary with excitement as if also developing a poetics, and philosophy. That life is a series of exquisitely beautiful moments, sewn together by our dear selves.
And if we cannot sew and end up blowing it? (Lynn Crosbie, “Forward”)
By the time Kirby crossed my attention, they were already omnipresent, and indeed, legendary, whether appearing at events or running readings, publications and other enthusiasms through Toronto’s poetry-only bookshop, knife│fork│book. Kirby’s latest title, after a handful of smaller poetry publications over the years, is the full-length debut poetry title This Is Where I Get Off (Toronto ON: Permanent Sleep Press, 2019), a collection of first-person lyrics bristling with energy, from grief to passion to wild exuberance and graphic enthusiasm. Kirby cribs, cradles and wrestles with their own history, writing passionately of living and loving, doing so openly and defiantly, even against climates that worked equally hard to deny their existence. There is such an openness to this collection, one that works to celebrate as much as acknowledge, working to record the stories of too many individuals lost over too many years. “My mother said that’s all they knew of homosexuals,” Kirby writes, early on in the poem “The Only Reason,” “that they were child / molesters and they killed themselves [...]” And yet, for all the dark corners Kirby writes on, around and through, this is a glowing, glorious, exuberant collection of hope.
They’re closing down the temples.
Disinfected cans, lit, doors
off stalls. Porn theatres boarded
up. Closed. Steel plates cover glory
holes. Sex clubs patrolled, video
surveillance. Arrests. Suicides. Cock-
suckers told they’re addicts.
“You must’ve been one helluva
cocksucker before AIDS.”
[FUCK YOU, STILL AM] this
suit’n tie worries I might drool
stain his fucking trousers lunch
hour. He’s the one wants to jack me
ready to throat his load the minute
he steps back from the urinal.
Hard. Thick. Fuck.
“You really want it.”
lips barely reach head he
backs buckles shoots sprays
quick finger over nozzle repeats
spurts mouth open wide for
“Fuck, that was wild man, oh, shit
did I get it in your eye, Sorry…”
at basin, cold water rinse, look
up. Red. Walk some TP over
to where he shot. Didn’t
bother cleaning up. Swipe a glob
between thumb and forefinger,
place them in my mouth.
There’s always going to be cocksuckers.