Judith Butler Is an Alien

Judith Butler Is an Alien
by Justin Holliday

When professors introduce her
to their students, they invariably ask,
What the fuck?
And don’t get an answer
unless they ever read on their own.
We can’t figure it out:
she does not have antennae
or a tail or even a mundane trail of slime
dangling from her nose
like misplaced participles
though her 90s work refutes clarity
when her theories come
into contact with gay and lesbian activists. 

That night I go home and read Gender Trouble 
cover to cover, without sleep
or so I tell everyone;
I am the self-appointed Judith Butler inspector,
ready to perform my duty to psychoanalyze,
deconstruct, and insist that bodies, covered
in invisible ink, the arcane symbols we try
to call boy and girl, do not matter.
When I place a magnifying glass
inches above the text of her body,
I observe trouble spots and wonder
if being gay makes me always already melancholic. 

Still, I hope to see crystallized pockets
that unbend her interpretations
of lesbians who embody the phallus.
I cannot hold it in me anymore:
my words jumble and her breath hitches
when the glass accidentally touches her.
I apologize for my error, and
her words rise like the epiphany
of the lone survivor who brushes off
rubble and has soldiered through
the Gender War.

It is the sound of a vagina shattering on the floor.
When Madonna sang Human Nature,
she wanted to break down a barrier,
which had dismissed sex in public.
She wanted something she could grab onto,
not the construct: a slippery profusion
of bodies, devoid of man and woman.
The inspection was not up to code:
A dick was no longer a dick
but a sign; the physical pull
of legs intertwining, not caring
about the frangible spaces in between. 

It’s only once I’ve stayed up all night playing
90s Madonna and binge watching
American Horror Story: Asylum that I really
see the alien, a queer figure often in shadows,
unreadable. When Anne Frank reappears
in a 1960s insane asylum with a Nazi doctor,
I imagine how director Ryan Murphy might have said,
And we need an alien there, too, suggesting
that nothing is impossible when TV can resurrect
heroes or Satan could possess a nun.
It’s not impossible that Judith is there,
the alien who takes Evan Peters away
to another world so that
we understand we are beside ourselves;
we are the ones left after dust
coats our grey skin.


Justin Holliday is a teacher and poet. His work has appeared in Queen Mob's Teahouse, Glitterwolf, Phantom Kangaroo, Sanitarium, and elsewhere. Judith Butler is one of his primary philosophical inspirations.