Excerpts from Sexuality and Confinement
By Carter Piagentini ’25
ENGL 216: LGBTQ+ Literature and Culture
Carter wrote this powerful collection of poems for his final project, which also included an extensive paper engaging several course texts as well as research in sociology, psychology, and literary study. In this collection, Carter experiments widely with form and imagery in order to explore broad questions about how sexuality
operates as a confining force for queer individuals. Here, he provides his poems along with an author’s note
summarizing his aims.
-Dr. Valerie Billing
As a gay man, I started realizing the many ways sexuality affects my life when I noticed that others tended to use the word “gay” to describe me as if my identity and personhood are predicated on my sexuality. Not only did I find this word in others’ descriptions of me, but also in my descriptions of myself—after all, I even started this author’s note with “as a gay man.” Ultimately, whatever I’m described as, it will always be subsequent to the label “gay.”
This unspoken obligation to use “gay” as a prefix engenders in me and in many other queer individuals a feeling of being confined by sexuality. However, upon researching why sexuality has this intrinsically confining feeling, I found that a lot of contemporary discourses draw from the concept of internalized homophobia, defined by social sciences as a queer individual’s redirection of societal disdain inwards toward themselves. And although I agree that internalized homophobia in part explains why sexuality can feel confining, I contend that it fails to capture the full range of aspects that contribute to these feelings of sexual confinement.
In this poetry collection, I endeavor to expand the language available to talk about this feeling beyond just the discourse of internalized homophobia. To accomplish this expansion, this collection meditates on social, physical, cultural, metaphysical, political, and religious factors that together contribute to these feelings of entrapment, suppression, and confinement. I hope to capture and reaffirm these feelings for a queer audience while also depicting them for a nonqueer audience to understand. While reading this collection, I invite you to consider the many ways sexuality interacts with every aspect of life and to embrace and sit with some of the discomforts that might arise when reading this collection. It is, after all, through discomfort that we best come to know ourselves and others.
**Note: The poems that follow are excerpted from a longer original collection.
Plunge that dagger deep in your heart
Because the moment you stop feeling its burden,
You will fall apart;
And plunge that dagger deep in your brain
Because the moment that thought returns,
You can no longer feign;
And plunge that dagger deep in your eyes
Because the moment they wander,
You tear your guise;
And plunge that dagger through your lips
Because the moment they become unpierced,
A sin you will commit;
And plunge that dagger between your legs
Because the moment it yearns–
You will never be the same.
Languish: that’s the dagger’s toll;
it is plunged,
I wear a crown of madness,
Endowed to me by the prophets,
As they impel me towards a flawed rapture;
I will never feel their solace.
And when they dunk my head in the water,
Its sanctuary seeks to scorch and ravage
And rupture and puncture holes in my eyes,
For the barricade of murky ink to slowly drain out.
Then I can make the right decision:
The decision to break my petrification,
And join the choir of decadent halos
That illuminate elite, pure robes,
Embellished with beguiling gold.
It is opulence; it is grandiosity; it is deliverance—
It is ruin.
My body is an Opal.
It is more than the crimson color that is my veins,
And its deep cobalt surpasses beyond its internal,
Unequivocally, it is beautiful.
It is the mixture of the flashy gold that a topaz displays,
With the depth of an amethyst in a pensive, internal dismay,
That defies the lustrous scarlet of pink Rubies and garnet,
And outshines the oppressive, sulky Sapphires;
For as it is padparadscha in its colorful play.
My body is an Opal.
And even though the Sapphires and Rubies
May reduce my shine to a shimmer,
My body will still glimmer through the potch.
Because my body is an Opal;
And unequivocally, it is beautiful.
They can hear the chains
dragging… clanking… rustling…
It tolls them.
They’re already dead.
bleeding… hemorrhaging… exsanguinating…
A graveyard of
1981-the end? A Specter stays,
shackled… chained… bound…
Haunting this forlorn hospital:
We will never know
Only a reverberation
Of their bleeding trauma.
We can hear the Specter’s chains.
And it still tolls.