“The children we won’t birth
line up on the shelf like shoes,
the men we won’t love
on their hangers
in the back.
Still, our closets are filled
of sleeves empty with possibility,
extended toward us.”
— from “Lesbian Fashion Struggles”
Lesbian Fashion Struggles (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2020) is a collection of relationships in all forms: with family, students, friends, lovers, and – mostly importantly – one’s self. Starting with “Where I Come from” and “Granddaddy’s Closet”, this collection begins as a reflection on coming out, the vulnerability the act creates, and the reciprocity that may follow.
So much had built up to this –
my 93-year-old grandfather across from me
and between us, this secret.
His first response was a question:
Do you think it runs in families?
— from “Granddaddy’s Closet”
The collection then turns to an exploration of visibility and a navigation of trauma. What does it mean to live within a body that has been projected upon and harmed? What does it mean to want to be seen anyway? Earleywine’s poems do not shy away from these questions, nor do they promise to have all the answers, but they do something powerful: they create a space for the poet, the speakers of her poems, and the readers to delve into these questions together as a communal experience.
With “GSA”, Earleywine provides a brief reprieve from the powerful darkness of the previous poems. As I reflect upon this collection, I keep coming back to the joy of “GSA”. I can’t help but smile at the celebration in these pages and the hopeful messages the poem provides:
to prepare me, to teach me how to live life outside
of a closet than the same kids who clap every time I say
my wife? Who gather around her picture on my desk
like it’s a holy grail, who are so desperate for heroes,
they wear pride flags tied around their necks
as capes, become the heroes themselves.
— from “GSA”
The rest of the collection follows a similar pattern, a well-executed blend of raw experiences and moments of unadulterated joy. It is built on balance: a celebration of the little struggles and mournful acknowledgment of the larger ones. In this way, Lesbian Fashion Struggles emulates the ebbs and flows of life and love with Earleywine affirming that none of us have to experience it alone.