second empire by richard hoffman
All the animals in the city: blood
in a butcher's window. Beneath a butcher's
stoop. A white parrot in an opera lover's bedroom:
keep watch, telling. I hear them all.
Even a family crest above an entrance studded with bees.
Even a lion with a ring in his mouth. Even the lips troubled with knocking.
When looking through a Queer Lens, we can first notice that the author chose to visually have their poem condensed and single spaced. With the concept of heterosexual role-playing, the norm is to have a poem or (hidden sexual action) be "straight" if it has indications of sex. This poem however, nods toward indicating that we as people are animals. As animals consummate, the truth is told. Their inner feelings are revealed. I interpret this by the first animal mentioned, the "white parrot" which is an animal symbolically known for truth telling. The butcher can be seen as the unwilling and nonparticipating part of society that accepts any branch of the LGBT community. The imagery for "blood in a butcher's window" can be a direct symbol for the murder of any non hetero member of that community. The title, the opera piece of this intricate puzzle ties the loose ends of the poem. The song, a heavenly entrance to the afterlife. The protectors, the bees, guide us as they are symbols for resurrection and immortality. I believe this poem is for any gay, lesbian, queer, trans, etc member who has been discriminated against and/or even murdered, and this scene we are taken to is the dark part of society that doesn't accept this. We watch, we "hear them all" all the stories repeated again and again throughout history. And like a beautiful song, or a person's life, it always ends much too soon.
Questions the traditional construction of sexuality. If Identities are the effect of repetition, then heterosexuality, which sees itself as the only authentic form of sexuality, must also be nothing but a string of performances. Heterosexuality is a "repetition" that can only produce the effect of its own originality. Heterosexuality is a copy because it repeats earlier performances for which there is no original (Qtd. in Ogden).