Welcome to Midland is the new book by Dallas-Fort Worth poet, Logen Cure. A queer coming-of-age thread runs through this collection, alongside dreams of becoming Wile E. Coyote, vehicular violence, and devilish tea parties.
Logen masterfully avoids authorial intrusion and lets language speak for itself. She does not rely on an over-the-head mentality; she uses diction that paints the moments of vulnerability in a way that lands with weight (without resorting to obvious statement-making-soapbox-poetry). “I have such an indoor life, / such tender feet, I cannot / hear the thunder / ‘til it’s above me,” she writes in “Family Dog.” These poems hinge on their beautiful lack of cynicism, the latter being a trait that too often mars the genre. Welcome to the Midland is a sign that the craft is (hopefully) heading towards the unsentimental, never insisting on bitter irony.
This is not to say that Logen’s work avoids hopelessness or darkness. There is certainly an edge to these poems, with a near-constant presence of metal and a running theme of vehicular threat. “Observation” is about off-road romance. “Transmission” is about learning to drive while a parent inspires fear behind the wheel. “Warbirds” features “jagged-edge metal” in the form of pinup girls painted on Air Force machines. In this setting, the speaker is heckled by ninth-grade boys as they witness the site of a masculinity breeding ground:
I squinted up at cartoonish women,
the perfect Os of their mouths,
heart-shaped bottoms, bare breasts.
They were more bizarre than alluring,
accompanied by slogans for sex or death like
Target for Tonight or
Just Once More.
“Rules” investigates “they say” phrasing and the adherence to social norms. Logen uses the repetition of “they say” to mimic the gender reinforcements that thrive in Texas:
bless her heart
like prayer requests like
she doesn’t know
what’s good. Say
sin; say sorry;
say you were
wrong. They say
no means no; they tell
so many lines. They
say be a good
say a word.
Welcome to Midland contains a handful of illustrations by artist Ashley Shea Henderson (Logen’s spouse) to complement the poems. Many of these present portraits of insects and animals, as well as specific locations that echo the poems themselves. Mixed media poetry books are an interesting thing, and it is often difficult to discern what the motivation behind the images is. Here, each illustration feels highly personal to the author, working as a secret of sorts that we will never be privy to.
Logen’s work carries a quiet sadness behind every thought, a space that many of us queer folk tend to occupy. But make no mistake, this is not submissive poetry. Poems like the titular “Welcome to Midland” hold a ferociousness just under the surface, rallying against the selective freedoms that only benefit you if you are straight, white, and Christian. “Laws” hearkens back to the title poem when a random pickup truck attempts to assault the speaker (both physically and verbally).
“Rumors” presents the struggle of fitting in: “I quit changing in the track locker room / the third time half the girls walked out / when I walked in.” Logen lets a bit of light in when the speaker, face to face with an ousted, pregnant cheerleader, comes to an understanding. Both are outcasts, one gay, one no longer a virgin, both of which are reasons for exile in some circles, especially in Texas. The two shake hands, a narrative that takes its place beside a slowly-growing movement of queer stories that don’t end with trauma. This is a subversive ending among a tradition of doomed queerness, a closing that leaves the reader with a window of light to celebrate.
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