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solidarity work :: imperfection

By Oliver Baez Bendorf


The new perfection is imperfection.
I’m striving for it in all things great and small.
Stray from the recipe. Hit send. Risk it.
Leave the art a little crooked on the wall.
All day long I’m rubbing “Good Enough”
into my absorbent skin. Squeezing
out a dollop to share with friends.
The art is still good. The meal, still good.
Trying to go soft on myself. Leave
the mess. Celebrate.


Who gets to risk imperfection
safely in this country, this life?
My black friends don’t get to mess
up in public like I do. I know this.
I’m over here practicing imperfection
while black Americans get killed
for imagined imperfections,
and so many others, afraid
to say the wrong thing,
stay quiet. It’s okay
to make mistakes.
Start somewhere.
Just start.

Added: Friday, August 12, 2016  /  Used with permission.
Oliver Baez Bendorf
Photo by Caitlin Barry.

Oliver Baez Bendorf is the author of The Spectral Wilderness (Kent State U., 2015), selected by Mark Doty for the 2013 Stan & Tom Wick Poetry Prize, and Advantages of Being Evergreen (CSU Poetry Center, September 2019), winner of the 2018 Open Book Competition. His work has been published in American Poetry Review, BOMB, Buzzfeed, Poetry, and elsewhere, and translated into Russian. His poetry has been anthologized in Best New Poets and Troubling the Line: Trans and Genderqueer Poetry and Poetics. He is the recipient of fellowships from the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing and the Vermont Studio Center, and is a CantoMundo fellow. Born and raised in Iowa, he is an assistant professor of creative writing at Kalamazoo College in Michigan.

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