1. 19. 2024

“Home Improvements”
“Poem Beginning with a Line from an Interview with Tajik-Russian Pop Star Manizha”

Kit Eginton

Home Improvements

“Here, the sentence will be respected.”
– Layli Long Soldier, “38”


Whether‘s just an extra gust of wind
away from weather, if you say them different,
which, these days, most people don’t. Down by the bend
of the river, off Foster, there’s a development
and a megachurch built on low-lying land
that flooded in ’08, and will again.
So many things seem filled with the intent
to flood, you wonder how the residents
get comfortable with the impending loss
of each remodeled kitchen, each new shower.
Every time you’d put a brand-new powered
garage door in, you’d wonder when the end
of all your home improvements would arrive.
But the marshy land down there is so alive,
so threaded with the calls of frogs and flashes
of fireflies in summer, dots and dashes,
like echoes reaching from the other side,
it’s easy to see why they’d choose not to sell
even if they could manage to find a buyer.
The summer here is really something special. 
The heat and wetness wrap the whole world up,
each lash, each bough, in something soft and dense, 
the way some spiders gently wrap their kills 
and let their juices break down all resistance. 
It’s the kind of heat you never quite forget. 
Up the hill, the trailer park was hit
so badly by the wind storm August 10th
we had to go up there with tarp and tape
and patch their roofs before November’s rains.
I was there a couple hours at most
but I remember how it looked that day.
The blowing trash and broken tree limbs made
the lot seem like a gouged thing, its escape
from total devastation only temporary.
The trouble is the new landlords don’t want
a trailer park, they want a new hotel.
But the tenants’ group got Council to demand
they compensate the residents before
breaking ground, so they’ve fired management,
hoping the people who live there will just leave,
unpaid for what they’ve lost. I guess that’s how
most people leave the place they live, unless
they own the land, and have the luck to sell,
and even then the whether‘s more a when
on if you’ll have to walk away from what
you love, and take the L, with the weather getting
so inhospitable. One moment you’re
an owner, then the land is repossessed,
devaluated, drowned in foreign debt;
the chain of ownership, without redress,
is snapped, and you have to move your shit up north
or west or wherever everyone who’s lost
their home is heading to. All chains can break:
possession’s binding ties no less than lists
of evidence, deductions in neat lines,
the whereas clauses struck before the vote;
even cause and effect, from time to time,
snap under weight. But the pain persists.
Last October, at the trailer park
mutual aid thing, one woman made a stink,
the nerves in her voice audible: What sort
of tape is that? “Whatever we have left.”
But is it waterproof? The other man said not
all kinds are. Gray was on her roof,
trying to pin the tarp against the wind,
his nineteen-year-old body angled, straining,
so I drew her away: “How long is it
since you moved to the park?” Ten years or so.
We got to talking. Sometimes I wish I didn’t
know how to read people’s faces quite so well.
Some man had done her wrong and left her there
stranded while the whole place went to hell.
I guessed she’d been, like me, a hard companion.
I’m planning to be out of here, she said,
this time next year, I’ve got a bit saved up
and I’m not staying put a moment longer
than I have to. The pain was like a drill,
a steel bit in her voice, boring holes in
our conversation, through which the autumn sun
poured down like the rain on Pharaoh’s fields.
I felt just like a fishing lure adrift.
I’ll be out, if COVID doesn’t kill
me first, this time next year. She stopped, as though
she’d realized she’d let a secret spill.
I drove home in the thin October haze,
my big hands looking foreign on the wheel.
Kept missing turn signals. Words for what I’d seen
refused to coalesce inside my head.
I must have been as obvious to her.
I must have looked like her ten years ago.
Hot sky between the bare trees turning red,
winter visible before you feel it,
summer rooting like a fever underground.
Four geese flew past, their harsh, insistent sound
like an unmade covenant, grass seed scattered
in the sky’s blue dust, a message in the discord:
we need your help down here. Won’t you come down?

Poem Beginning with a Line from an Interview with Tajik-Russian Pop Star Manizha

“Нет, я конечно хочу быть Манижой,”¹
instead of Zemfira, the Russian alt-rock
idol, who everyone (including me) seems to love—
it seems rare, to be able to say that you love
being yourself in this world, though I guess
self-hatred’s a stage, there’s a lot of speculation
about whether everyone starts out like that
or whether living in a 5th Avenue penthouse helps…
And I wonder whether it would be eliminated,
whether the end of capitalism could wash
that line dividing what is and what should be
away like the rain washes off sidewalk chalk,
or whether transition is a universal experience,
a rearticulation of your body in terms
less unusable—whether because you’ve remade
them in your own image, or made peace with the facts—
last night I wrote to my friend, who was suffering,
about how I’d suffered, about those mornings
when I would wake up and know I was a boy after all,
like the fact of being male was hung on the walls
all around me, in sharpie on butcher paper,
speckling the winter light from the windows,
how on those days I would cry because I had no future
and my partner would hold me as my tears fell—
it’s not like to be masculine holds no attraction,
to be tough, to know how, to be quiet and steady
and never the object of visual fascination—
it’s not like there’s nothing delicious about failure,
about walking down to the gas station at two
in the morning for some flaming hot Cheetos,
it’s hard to let go of those delicacies—
and on my walk this afternoon I remembered some lines
from “Kayla Puan Interview Transcript”²
(which I’d sent to another friend when she’d asked
for some stories of life after the rev):
“Are you a communist?” the interviewer asks her.
“I don’t even know what that means anymore!”
But Kareem, her dad, did—he might have been born
in the 90’s, like me, but he died fighting fascists
and Kayla says he carried a Fourier book with him
to remind himself that the future was coming,
which is what, if anything, I want to repeat,
though the words drizzle, like trying to catch
the sun in a wineglass on an overcast day:
that a future is coming,
a wonderful, dazzling future of loss,
like we’ve never felt it before, so keen and yawning,
loss that means something, because we make it do so,
because we have time to, and I know that’s not certain,
I know better than most how words tend to turn
back and forth like turbines in the night air,
how images can stop dead in the sudden calm
of the imagination, like once-loved memories
suddenly sounding like foreign news, the way
stories of the old world will, maybe someday, sound to us all:
a Soviet pillbox, a Cardinals cap, the catch in the throat
that made Zemfira seem limitless, the jingle of quarters
on your way down to the laundry, long humid
afternoons by the chain link, awaiting the storm.

¹ “No, I of course want to be Manizha” in response to a question about being “the next Zemfira.”

² First published in Homintern, later collected in Everything for Everyone: An Oral History of the New York Commune, 2052-2072.

Kit Eginton is a trans writer, organizer, and editor living in New York. Her first book, translations of poems by Ekaterina Simonova, came out in 2022 and was promptly banned in Russia. She writes for Strange Horizons and edits for Hypocrite Reader. There is only one solution – intifada revolution!