I spent the first seven years of my life in a trailer park. As kids, we moved in feral packs, and things that shouldn’t have happened happened behind shabby mobile homes and right out in the daylight. Once, in our northern Indiana park, alligators were found, but that’s a story for another time. It was both a weird, harmful, heroic, and, in certain ways, wonderful way to grow up. Trailer parks are about as close to the experience of being in a foreign country as a you can get in the Midwest.
Last summer, when I saw Sibling Rivalry Press was publishing a collection titled Tonight We Fuck the Trailer Park Out of Each Other, I wrote down the forthcoming publication date and bought the book as soon as it was available, knowing very little about it. When you’re from a place that isn’t really anywhere, you listen when you hear someone else who grew up from the same kind of movable nowhere.
That someone in this case is C. Russell Price, a genderqueer poet originally from Virginia who now lives in Chicago. Price writes here about love, lust, harm, depression, gender, and the rusty knife tip every trailer park child is born with between their ribs. Price describes and circumscribes these lowly origins perfectly in “The Poem in Which I Picture Our Handfasting Ordained by a Man Who Makes Potions in a Traveling Show”:
…this fixed-rent Babylon where you wrap my emerald heart
in snakeskins and clover, where above our anastomosing
my neighbors are dressing for church, their hymn-hums
shake what bones of mine are left deeper into yours.
In the opening poem, the cheekily-titled “I Lose My Virginity to Your Straight Best Friend After You Stand Us Up,” Price writes of the titular deflowering:
I wanted to lose
it to someone
for a family funeral
There are bright points in the collection, as when Price writes with obvious affection and love toward their lover, or when they express strong words regarding some of the weak poetry being written today. On the whole, though, Tonight We Fuck is pretty dark. Price writes about family members who have given them shit over their gender-nonconformity, including their dad hitting them in the mouth once in childhood because they didn’t want to play baseball. There are points when dark and light intermingle, and hope–or at least relief–peeks through the clouds, as in “Postcard: Paul”:
how five years ago, I downed
a whole bottle of pills after
my aunt screamed faggot
in front of everyone and the honeysuckle.
That once I dreamed
of a successful South American
sex-reassignment and running
from there to you took
eleven hours and forty-two minutes,
and you opened the door
and without my Adam’s apple
looking back, you let me in.
Tonight We Fucked the Trailer Park Out of Each Other reads harsh and grim, and no shit it does, because so does life sometimes. But this poet is still here, writing through it. This slim collection won’t be for everyone, but I’m guessing you’ve recognized already if it’s for you or not.