Alain Ginsberg

Alain Ginsberg Portfolio

Ode to Lor Scoota, Beginning with the First Earthquake Baltimore Feels Since My Birth

You came from this right? This city that doesn’t know a floor unstained
by something so broken and unholy, and still knows how to make church,
knows how to break bread and also break down a gram into so much it can feed
a whole city block / to bless us with this bounty, this lazy Saturday morning scramble
and know we are still thankful despite our sickness / nobody loves the doctor more
than Nobody loves the drugs and aren’t we all still dying? / aren’t we all still
cooing into the night sky looking to be held, hoping not also to be let go of / to shatter
onto the floor of our bedrooms,
to be forgotten until someone trusts themselves to dance, barefoot, overtop of our homes
only to bleed on the glass / only to give this blood donation
to a body that can only reject it.

When Lor Scoota is shot I’m at the venue where most
the white folk know not to say things that are not ours to say
but will still sing the songs anyways. I’m here to not
feel so I tell everyone I know how he has been shot and I do not
know how to deal with the pain I did not know I would feel
so viscerally / when sliced open, it is best to apply pressure to a wound
restrict blood flow, deny a body oxygen. The death of Lor Scoota splits open
my city and the blood flows into the vacants and less than a year prior
he performed at the Crown and now has been immortalized in one
and all the white folks there know not to say the words
but their hands, my hands, are so sharp sometimes and twist
into the wounded beast of Baltimore and I know better
than to turn the knife but can’t don’t do anything
except learn more
of his art and ain’t it great how the city won’t pave over
the names we give ourselves before we die? How we can cover ourselves
in fog, emerge a corpse covered in one million weeping articles
and know it ain’t that we are not looking at the dying artists
without empathy, but no one was held above water
with a newspaper and a Vice article.

I come from a city that never promises more
than it can provide, and we ain’t hungry for more,
but we can all still eat more, just never felt
what full is
except for of grief.


The Opposite of What I Am is a Mirror

The opposite of what I am is what is around me
meaning I am not oxygen or birds or seltzer
the opposite of seltzer is the same as hydration
and I am so dearly the opposite of that
the opposite of my company is my enemy
the opposite of dogs is the absence of dogs
the opposite of a friend to cook with is the same
as not eating again because it’s better to save resources but
the opposite of saving resources is healthy and I am
the opposite of someone who lives healthily
the opposite of my gender is the birds or oxygen or non-tangible
space that passes by without touch and when
the opposite of acknowledging my gender happens
I feel I become everything in that moment, even the dogs and their absence
The opposite of that moment is me feeling good about myself
The opposite of me feeling good about myself is today, or yesterday, or tomorrow
The opposite of tomorrow is a day when someone will gender me
like oxygen, something so everywhere I stop refracting who I am
the opposite of a reflection is a mirror, usually
the opposite of a mirror is a thing, or person, usually
but two mirrors facing each other open a hallway I live in
my gender is the thing that exists based upon the mirrors
around it, but without the context of the mirrors
I am the opposite of what you refer to me as
The opposite of a good time is time spent on something you don’t want
The opposite of gender is oxygen, or dirt, or water, or something
that can hold you without crushing you and I want to be
The opposite of gender, something dangerous and held
The opposite of myself is not not-myself, but everyone
The opposite of everyone is no one, get it
The opposite of what isn’t myself is my gender, is oxygen,
crushes as it holds like asphyxiate, like drowning, like burial
The opposite of a burial is a celebration of all possibility
possibilities that entail worlds where I stand in front of a mirror
and the only thing that refracts is myself.

Gray Jacobik, “The Four Doors,” Gouache on cradled panel, 20″ x 20″ x 1″

from Greyhound

Marta talks to me about the “possibility” of the big happiness
that comes with travel but also the innumerable smaller
possibilities that come with it as well.

Like, yes, it would be the ideal possibility to get mountains
and tall trees, but there is the possibility of joblessness
or of no pets allowed or of allergies that comes with it.

I am a series of possibilities is what I think to say,
but so far I am not a possibility that also gets a dog,
just a kind of mid-tier femme who can’t do eyeliner very well.

I am the possibility of good eyeliner but like, not.

The possible outcome of taking a bus is sitting alone
but usually you aren’t actually alone, just the possibility
of varying levels of discomfort.

Once on a bus from Baton Rouge to New Orleans
some man kept grunting and huffing and I truly thought
about how easy it would be for them to end me.

Not in a “end me please” kind of melancholy,
but in the sense that I would die in a state where no one
knows me by names I have long since thrown out the window.

The possible outcome of starting HRT is to be alone,
but the possibility of being alone by not starting it,
or by starting it and later ending it, is also present.

I do not think people who were close to me left
because of hormones, but because they realized I’d still be a bitch
after I got where I was trying to go. Where I’m trying to go.

Me being a bitch is not a possibility,
but a definitive fixed point in the cosmos.


Oscar Wilde Teaches Me How to Write a Poem

after Linette Reeman

On November 30th, 1900
Oscar Wilde dies due to an injury
sustained while in prison.
People attribute two final phrases
to him in the wake of his passing:
“I’m dying beyond my means. I can’t
even afford to die.” and “My wallpaper
and I are fighting a duel to the death.
One or the other of us has got to go.”

On May 16th, 1993
I am born and move into a home
without wallpaper.
No one is surprised
at how resilient I am.
When I wake the world stacks
itself against me and I grow
limbs as my pregnant mother paints
what would become my first room
and when I am old enough to crave
my first friend / the embrace of life-
lessness held against me / we return
to the walls of my grandparents and
Oscar Wilde dies again as the paper
pastes itself over the walls
of his mouth and nose.

If my body works in the same fashion
as Oscar’s, then when I am hit
in the side of my face with a bat, I have
begun a long way into death too, and Oscar
held on for three years before life
beat itself out of his ear drum
and is it a wonder to be
so resilient you no longer hear
the creak of floorboards as death comes
and I wonder how loud the echo
of his friends had to scream
“I love you” into the night / wonder
if the muzzle in his head heard
“I loathe you” / wonder if he could
hear them, say it took
so long for him to die
because he wanted someone
to speak love back into him.

Did you know there is no record
of Oscar Wilde finding a job after prison
but another trans woman I know
just got fired from her job and
how unsurprising to see how similar
our lives are when
Oscar Wilde could not afford to die
and I still struggle to live.

Oscar Wilde exits prison three days
after I am born and
cannot hear me crying.

Oscar Wilde slips out
of confinement
after becoming half-deaf.

Oscar Wilde teaches me to write
a poem on being
born half-death.

Oscar Wilde enters my apartment
and asks me why we have to live
in such squalor, like the world
never promised to provide us
with any means to begin with.
He opens the door to my closet
and takes my hand and these sinuses
are so bad I cannot / smell /
the burning and in 2017
I wake and see everyone’s
mouth moving but I can’t
make out if they are
saying “I love you” or
“I loathe you” as
the wallpaper dries.


A Barbed Hook

the sun is already out we go
onto the creek, the three of us,
and there is never blood at first,
just this slow rot, these worms
in the stomach and we take them,
hooked against the metal and cast off
into the water,
silent and hoping
for a bite, all of us,
but the timing is never right,
the worms swim off
and the sun starts to yell
louder than the lie of us living in this boat
like we care, and you sit there so silent,
like a barbed hook waiting to release
another dead thing back to the water,
and push us in, aching, and there still isn’t blood
but this is catch and release
and we were gutted anyways,
another attempt to cull
the memories of we from you,
a choir of crickets at sundown
on the creek, a drowning
of this big lie of us alive
on this boat a family without the rot,
no worms,
just a stomach of barbed hooks,
holding on to an idea,
or a prayer.

it is bright and loud and my father takes me
and my brother onto the creek
and I realize this was never about fishing
and there’s all this metal in my gut
and there’s still no blood,
just these worms with no mouths
they are the loudest things here,
skewered onto the hook,
without saying anything the barbs
in my guy quiver,
none of us reel in a fish
but my father, who has two on board
that he loves to watch squirm
until they stop entirely, and we
learn the meaning of catch
and release fishing, shoved into the water,
discarded for no reason but the sport,
so I swallow all of it that I can, and there’s finally blood,
or just the screaming of crickets, and nothing
can stop me from swimming away
but I don’t,
just get back on board
like a bad dream,
breaking and released, realized, scary
because a damaged thing can only get number,
and you cannot cull the population of that
which does not die.

I am fourteen and alive and my grandma
is taking me to school and she tells me
how to fish, and how much my father
loved the sport of it all, how my brother
was mounted on the wall a trophy,
how he reacted to me, his progeny
by hanging up the idea on a wire hanger,
tried to cull me before I learned to swim,
how the coat hanger, the barbed hook
is still in my stomach,
throbbing a cricket wing chorus,
all of the worms coming
out of my mouth after the rain,
their voices so loud.

“Greyhound” reprinted from  Baltimore Beat, and “A Barbed Hook” reprinted from Baltimore City Paper, with permission of the author.


Alain Ginsberg is an agender performance poet from Baltimore, and author of the chapbooks Loathe/Love/Lathe (Nostrovia! Press, 2017), and Until the Cows Come Home (Elation Press, 2016). They've participated in the Individual World Poetry Slam, Capturing Fire, Louder Than A Bomb, Word War, and the inaugural Rouge Roulette. Ginsberg's work has been published in Fanzine, Witch Craft Magazine, Shabby Dollhouse, Great Weather for Media, and Persephone's Daughters.