Meat on the Mind
If it isn’t immediately clear from the title, Kevin Simmonds’ debut collection, Mad for Meat, is as delightfully messy as it is archly profane. The meat Simmonds is mad for isn’t the sort certain pop stars drape their bodies in; rather, the meat Simmonds is mad for is likely the same meat that gets Dr. Tobias Funke excited.
Despite the title, Mad for Meat isn’t populated by poems with cheeky double entendres (though I hasten to add that you will find many such poems here); the collection deftly explores the relationship between sex, race, place, and the body. One of the traits I most admire about Simmonds is that he isn’t shy or elusive when discussing the bodies his speakers desire, and what those bodies desire in him. The contrast between his unbridled bravado and careful meditation generate productive insight into the way the poet envisions connections across bodies very different from his own. Simmonds’ book isn’t all about desire, but the complicated relationship his poems have with desire is what interests me most.
“Color Me” describes Simmonds’ hookup with an Asian man who tells him “Your black body is so beautiful / God I want you,” which Simmonds allows its own stanza—his speaker is turned on and revels in this man’s slight objectification of his body as a black body. Along those lines, the title of the poem could be read as the speaker’s willingness to be seen as colored, to be desired precisely as an “other.” What follows, though, pushes the poem into more interesting, ambivalent territory:
God knows there’s a Have mercy
just below my Adam’s apple
when I’ve gotten an Asian man
into my hands
but I don’t say
Your tiny waist
hooded bite-size purple-vaulted dick
Your willingness to let me beat
the drum of you
I don’t say that
I just beat the drum
Simmonds’ speaker is clearly uncomfortable with being verbally labeled, with being told that his own blackness contributes to his sexual desirability. He’s not refuting fetishized attraction exactly; he’s refuting the acknowledging of it, even as he acknowledges his own fetishized attraction to the reader. Simmonds’ speaker acknowledges how problematic it is for him to sexually objectify someone because of his race since the same thing is happening to the speaker. The consciousness is splitting on objectifying and being objected, and desire is doing the cleaving.
Kevin Simmonds:: Mad for Meat:: Salmon Poetry