“Chelate” by Jay Besemer— A Journey


Besemer, Jay. “Chelate”, Brooklyn Arts Press, 2016.

A Journey

Amos Lassen

Jay Besemer’s “Chelate” is a collection of poems that were written during the period that he was undergoing hormone therapy and gender transition. These are written about his journey to a new self. That transition, however is complicated because of a debilitating illness. The poems are powerful as the poet writes of being in a toxic body and what happens when great biological change takes place and how this affects consciousness and language. When one faces a difficult imperative and chooses to fight to live, many changes occur.

We immediately sense the shifts from exile and alienation to hope and anticipation and there are shown to us in short verses that show desire facing reality. What started out in uncertainty and commitment ultimately ends in self-recognition, and more uncertainty. A safe and necessary space where will, love, action, process, and documentation is created and inhabited.

We see that with trans people (like everyone else) are often forced into certain situations for which they are not prepared. Besemer has to create himself as a man. He has divided this collection into five sections— “Xenophila:, “Making & Unmaking”, “Adjustment Disorder”, “My Inheritance” and “Ordinary Wear and Tear” and each of these is a step in his transition as well as in his poetry. Below is a wonderful sample of what you will read here.

“i’m not interested in bombs or babiesor smart ways to interpret other people’s behavior : i’m a little kinescope or maybe a tortoise with long incongruous whiskers : at any rate i find my perspective to be unusual in most discussions : so trust me when i say that sometimes i want to bury myself in a pile of leaves until the wee families depart & the park gates close : sometimes i want to stand in a field of cows & sneeze for an hour : sometimes i want to drive down a deserted road to find the hidden ruin at the end & move in : these things feel reassuring : like bees, you know : how bees can find their homes even when their homes don’t exist : or like a star, following in the rearview : pushing the motor in the heart to click & hum in hope”.

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