Dueling Compass

by Beth May

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This album is the summation of a 5 year long poetry habit, a habit I’ve still been calling a hobby despite my growing passion for the art, and these 11 tracks represent a sample of my head-space throughout those five years up until now. As you can tell then, I haven’t really thought about a lot.


released March 8, 2014

Thank you kindly to Aaron Johnson, who let me record this in his laundry room.



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Beth May Phoenix, Arizona

I'm a writer/actor living in Phoenix, AZ with an additional poetry habit...Sorry that my voice creaks.

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Track Name: The First Time I Watched Pornography
The first time I watched pornography
12 years old with floppy socks and insomnia
flipping through channels at Grandma’s house with the TV lit up like tropical fish in tanks
I came across a movie called Spiderbabe
That had nothing to do with spiders

And I stared at that first panoramic penis like it was a car wreck, complete with flames licking the asphalt crispy while he moaned awkward explicatives into my ear, referring to his genatalia with words I once used to describe roosters

I watched with the volume turned down, flinching at every creak from upstairs, my half ass half clad in Scooby Doo boxers, a training bra on lower case A cups
Staring at a pair of man-made double Ds
And wondering why anyone would rather pinch silicon than flesh, lick lipstick instead of lips, fuck Barbie instead of Raggedy Ann
Because Raggedy Ann may have mosquito bite tits, but she can have a good time while discussing politics and literature. She recites to be or not to be while Barbie pants and screams, and maybe she doesn’t wear a size two and have a beach ready Brazilian wax, but that means there’s more body to kiss and with a panty line that itches for love and that’s what she really wants, is love.

But who needs love when you can make love
was my finding on this,
The second time I watched pornography
Reserving moral standings for my evolving personality
Watching a revolving good time on a perfectly standing erection
My laptop collecting viruses like the CDC
My body neatly curled over something I was sure was my clitoris
As my computer screen gave me a falsehood of manhood I would carry into highschool, while I tried to pleasure myself like one might ring a hotel service bell.
Comelessly rocking out of motion to a man whose member didn’t fit in the frame.

So it’s a Ken doll or Raggedy Andy
And Ken’s convincing now, when those hot girls all scream for it
Bigger dicks, bigger dicks –that’s the wet dream isn’t it?
But if Andy buys me dinner first
I’m thinking 5 inches gives you more bang for your fuck
Because in the end it doesn’t matter if you’re tucking in an anaconda or a silkworm if you like Nickelback.

The third time I watched pornography
16 years old, jaw aching, view obstructed by penis
And he asked me if I’d take it to the face
I said yes because porn made me mix up politeness and expectation

I said yes because that’s what Barbie would do
How do you dutifully shake hands mouth to dick?
We don’t make love. We manufacture it.

And afterward I sold my Barbies in a yard sale, where anxious six year olds picked them up because they were lonely, and I was afraid to warn them it gets worse, but I wasn’t afraid to warn them about Spiderbabe.
Track Name: So Much Better
You could have it so much worse
They told her
With blood rushing down her thighs at an emergency room in Cleveland, Ohio
Didn’t know the name of the man who did this
Three drinks and a kiss too fast she said no no no
But he kept going, beat her ears like eggs and flour till she forgot the way home
Moaned compliments as he finished like it was a team effort to get him
The doctor wrote a prescription for Plan B,
Said she was lucky she wasn’t hurt more severely
Great thing you aren’t single raising some bastard’s blue-eyed baby
Some people have it so much worse

You could have it so much worse
They told him
As he scattered his wife’s ashes off the coast of Blue Hill, Maine
Where a westward sea wind caught them, pitched them back into the sand
Like a football spike
She went nowhere, even in the afterlife
And he thought a little that she deserved that
Leaving nothing for him and his two sons but a sorry note and self-slit throat
But the gatherers at the wake said he was lucky
Hell man she coulda been murdered, mowed down by a motorcycle
This was her choice; live on
Some people have so much worse

You could have it so much worse
They told her
While she was scooping up a plate of peas at Walter Reed
Diagnosed with PTSD
Because she lived when others did not
Afghanistan is not only hot during the daytime
She tells her therapists how fire lit up the night sky like malignant lightning bugs
Tearing through limbs like expensive breadknives
She talks of how the pop of artillery embraces her brain like thoughts
What 10 pints of human blood looks like soaked into the desert’s crust
And they respond with how lucky she is
With all her organs, all her limbs
She coulda been one of 3,532, but congrats soldier, you made it home
Some people have it so much worse

Some people have it so much worse
But you can have it so much better
Than people who are telling you
That you could have it so much worse
Because there’s no difference between a first world and a third world problem
When you’re brain’s telling you to point the barrel this way
When you’ve fallen into an endless pit of dismay
Whether you are straight, bisexual, transgender, or gay
You deserve for tomorrow to be a better day

So you can have it so much better
If that pimple’s still red for your date
All puffy and puckered off the corner of your mouth
Where you want him to kiss you goodnight
You can have it better, because you’re still beautiful, I promise

And you can have so much it better
If you miss her
Whether she’s from middle school or your last marriage
Whether she’s dead or dating somebody else
If the contours of your bodies have stopped fitting into each other like romantic puzzle pieces
It’s okay to be lonely
You can have it better, because you can love yourself, I promise

You can have it so much better
If you’re not happy
If the days seem longer and longer
If the mirror seems angry at you
If your heart stings in your ribcage like a pulled muscle and your bed is your paradise and your prison
If the world doesn’t understand
Tries to tell you, you could have it so much worse
You can have it better, because you deserve it better, I promise

You deserve it better in Cleveland, Blue Hill, Walter Reed, Afghanistan, and Phoenix. No matter how much worse it gets.
Remember, you deserve better.
Track Name: Pants Aflame
I wish the worst lie I ever told was that I love giving blow jobs.
Like, slam that atomic meatball down my throat boys, it ain’t gonna clean itself.
I wish my words sounded like well-masked faux fur against your ear as I purred,
Oh, I definitely swallow.
And I hope you’re as generous as 7-11 with your big gulps.
I wish that my breasts protruded from my bra instead of cowering against my barren chest for warmth when you touch them, two cylindrical bottlecaps of “Victoria’s Secret can’t even help you.”
I wish that, for all our trying, we could agree that a good name for that sexual position wasn’t “The Gravitron,” like, flip me upside and let me wave to mom
Because surely she knew what went on
When I invited you upstairs for “Gym Practice.”
I wish I could write a church-worthy poem, the kind where the crowd cheers my virtue as I refrain from letting the fucks and cunts roll off my tongue like bodies into a mass grave and I preach the noble things like, “We shouldn’t have mass graves.”
I wish there weren’t mass graves. I wish that, while you were showing me that holocaust video after math class I wasn’t marveling at the naked flesh, at knowing, really knowing, how evil could make a dick limp.
I wish your dick wasn’t limp on the night you told me you loved me, bleary-eyed and whiskey-weathered like a grandfather, whispering it quickly into my naked tongue, a serpent, repent, “I love you,” you said.
I wish your love were a weapon of mass destruction, angry and uncertain like me, cowardly and hard to control like me. I wish your love was my love.
I wish the best lie I ever told was not my answer, the way it came so much faster than you, the way it spewed from my mouth like an angel hair pasta ejaculation.
I wish it was harder to say, “I love you, too.”
I wish it was easier to mean it.
Track Name: 1/08/11
It never rains when it’s supposed to
Saturday morning groceries turn into Thursday morning funerals,
And “Clean Up on aisle four” doesn’t cut it this time.
We watch the news with a midday glare, while chunks of cholla coat the desert like campaign signs, and white linoleum fades to red
And here the saguaros look like people and the people look like saguaros,
Speed limit signs carry jail time
This is Tucson
And Tucson weeps because Tucson packed heat instead of warmth
And Tucson caught a glimpse of the end of war
And Tucson is nine years old again
Saying two “Our Fathers” before bed,
Praying to the lord for strength and a tetherball pole
Too young to understand what she died for
Too young to find out what we stand for
And sometimes Tucson rain runs down mountains like whiskey over bread pudding,
But January 8th was sunny. It never rains when its supposed to.

On Wednesday we traded prayers for palaver
Building barricades with free speech and forgetting who we voted for
Doing battle with bullets shot out of ball point pens
Writing eulogies on Facebook walls
Flagstaff buries snowmen in snow graves
Phoenix listens as its homeless preach
And 6.5 million pledge allegiance
Here the coyotes howl until morning
This is Arizona

And Arizona weeps because Arizona heat went to the head of a boy with a gun
And Arizona caught a glimpse of the end of war
And Arizona is nine years old again
Digging for buried treasure in a sandbox
Praying for rain.

On Thursday we wrote the Bible on bumper stickers
And we transfuse blood and hugs to strangers,
Amputating our shadows so we could hold their hands
Down sidewalks, tunnels, and grocery store aisles
We brought a flag sown together by tattered patriotism to her funeral
This is America
And America weeps because American heat put crosshairs on people instead of ideas
But I’ve caught a glimpse of the end of war
In the eyes of police officers in a Safeway parking lot
In trauma surgeons calling for cautious optimism
In the students of Mesa Verde Elementary School
In radio broadcasts and chalked up sidewalks
In John Roll, Gabe Zimmerman, Phyllis Schneck, Dorwan Stoddard, Dorothy Morris, and Christina Taylor Green
In American Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords
And I am 9 years old today
And I’m playing in puddles.
Track Name: Bathroom Stall Novelist
When I grow up, I want to be a bathroom stall novelist.
I want my left-handed scrawl to smear Sharpie-thick hatred on the wall
Until my poetry punctuates prose while you poo.
I will write 10 tearjerkers while you tinkle
And a ballad I will save for that awkward unwrapping of the tampon
Because that stranger in the stall next to you is mysterious silent.
Women will flock from miles away to read my work, bladders bulging, kidneys protesting my art, throwing stones but they will not leave
They’ll turn pages by changing stalls, reading the autobiography of
A girl who drank blue slushies in Norfolk winters as it snakes around the walls
Like loose yo-yo string
I will turn bitchy Facebook statuses into hauntingly evocative bestsellers,
And when they ask for my autograph, I will whip out my pen and reply, “bend over.”
Men will get sex changes to view my work, scribbling down rave reviews with Ecoli laden pens
They will divorce their wives in favor of a toilet that can take all of their crap and swallow,
But I will remind them that life is just a series of bathroom stall walls, and the people they separate, and the venereal diseases they bring together.
And they’ll discover that love can be official without professing it on walls
Sans your swatsitkas
The service in this restaurant isn’t really that bad, and yes, Wolverine would beat Superman in a fight
I’ll sign my epilogue with memories of fecal matter.
And in the end they’ll think I’m pulling this out of my ass, but my end is their end, is the end.
Track Name: Psych Ward Sunflower
You don’t get flowers in the psych ward
Just narrowed eyes asking how you did it
Like there’s a point system for wrist slits
While they’re stripping your dental floss
And slipping off your shoelaces
Because in the end everyone here really sucks at offing themselves.
Yeah, the gun slipped, pills were spit, and I went across the street instead of down the road
And it hurt, slicing through tendons like t-bones
But it hurt a little less than everything else.
That’s what they say.

What can I say?
The rugs are made of fruit punch stains and fingernail clippings.
Flipping out in group therapy is cooler than the Radiohead lyrics that compose them and television is less censored in catholic school.
My fault my fault my fault my partner in my 48th consecutive game of Scrabble asks me why.

Why die?
Like suicide is earned and not committed,
When patients tell me of their abusers, their break-ups, their family dysfunction
Like 42 Aspirin was a battle cry
Not a way to die
And they ask me why

I don’t have an answer
But I didn’t have an answer the other times either because why live
When at the sunniest part of the day
I can still see my shadow.

My mom doesn’t get flowers when I’m in the psych ward.
I won’t be everything I promised her back when I was 6.
And you can’t send out flowers from psych wards.

And I don’t know if people jumping through fog off the Golden Gate Bridge have a better reason than people pressing their temples against train tracks
But if they’re ignoring help thinking they’ll at least get flowers on their graves, more power to them.

I sign out. They ask me what I learn.
Like hospitals are schools
And cutting off you medical bracelet is a diploma
And drawing rainbows in arts and crafts is a masterpiece
And dissecting lunch trays is science
And surviving means you pass, you pass, you’re passing

Learn to look at walls like oceans
Learn that everyone’s story is your own, spit out with different prose and thus own your story
Learn your dosages. Take your dosages.
Go back to the hazmat sans your wide Disney eyes.
Because it’s harder to live than to die
And it’s harder to swallow criticism than pills
And it’s harder to hang in there than hang,
But as long as I’m hanging in there
I’m writing that I’m alive

Yeah write it on me in permanent pen
It’s not the only mark that mars this skin because
Getting out doesn’t mean you’re cured
Getting out doesn’t mean you’re cured
Getting out doesn’t mean I’m sure
That I won’t just end up back in again
But next time please send me flowers.
Track Name: Like Like
I have read enough poetry to know that I do not yet want to be in love with you
Because I love being in like with you
Liking you makes me love our secret 15 minute lunch breaks
Lapping up deli meat like one last good hit
Before these two like junkies part ways for more scores because what’s more
I love that you like what you do, that you are driven by it and you don’t need to ask for directions
As if a man ever would
But I love that if we were ever genuinely lost, along a bitter slithery road in the middle of fuck knows,
you would probably stop and ask mapquest, even though you wouldn’t like it

Liking you makes me love knowledge more, turns up my taste for trivia
Tearing through QuizUp topics like popped-off ammunition
But I’ve got too much ambition to let you keep the lead for the long haul in Chess or Jazz. I’m coming after your ass.
But before I do, you should know, I like the way you love old movies and are okay with the fact that I only like them
Liking you reminded me how hiking can be a team sport, leaving my phone in the charger, chasing bruises with $5 dares
Liking you makes me love laughing. It’s easier with you. It’s cheesier with you.

I like that you hug the people you love whether or not they like hugs,
Strongholding them into a mutual understanding of affection upon each of your exits And at first I wasn’t sold. I don’t love hugs.
But I like what a hugs does to my jumpy brain,
Forcing my body’s frame to be still against yours like I could love the present moment.
Liking you makes me love the present moments

I love how our conversations are variable, how you like different things than I like which certainly makes liking the things that I like less boring, among those things, you
I like that you are never boring, I don’t like that it is sometimes to the detriment of your safety or the safety of the cars and houses around you
Liking you makes me love the sort of poetry I used to think did not apply to me.

I like how you understand that there is love I will never be able to give to my shadows or my mirrors and love I’m trying to insert into text messages and eye contact with the people I am closest to. I am trying to put trust in the empty spaces of conversations with people I love and I’m telling you that in the end, whether or not I like or don’t like you, I will always include you with the people I love and I will always remember that there was a time I was unabashedly microphonicly in love with liking you.
Track Name: F***
Fuck. I learned that word in the first grade reading a bumper sticker in front of my mom, receiving the threat of an open palm as she said “That is a bad word. Never say that word again.” And I never said that word again.

Which was a fucking lie.

But we teach children that bad words are ugly, to mask up a bitch under the misfitting title of “Mean Girl” and that men’s personalities can’t sometimes be described by the dicks that hang from them. And I guess that is a little fucked. If you explain the word ass to a four year old who wants you to kiss theirs every you time you want them to clean their room, then fuck me I believe in censorship all around but flash-forward 12 fucking years, mom.

I can grammaticalize fuck into any part of speech, fuckedly scribbling any fucking thing into a fucked up notebook once reserved for recording pity-fucks, he fucks, me fucks, we fucks, excited half-drunk fucks way before this fuck poem fucked its way into my head, back when fuck was such a state of mind, a way to describe fucking despair pain frustration apathy oh fuck it oh fuck it elation humor sarcasm oh fuck yes oh fuck yes

They say fuck is such a one drive word, a grunty word, an R-rated word. Mom still calls it that unseemly f word but I think fucks can be a little beautiful sometimes.

Like when the emphasis is on the second syllable like God me and my man were fuckING last night. Because it ain’t called making love when you’re watching smut and a little too drunk. No sir, that’s a fuck, fast with falling bass lines, the lining of your stomach in knots and this is not a word that only describes acts.

A fuck is a reaction, a gasp, a choppy multisyllabic laugh following a trip down the stairs and a cut that breaks the skin in little white fuck wifts of pain. Fuck escalates my idioms because I fucked with the bull and got a fuck for my thoughts once in a blue fuck.

My mom told me that fuck was a word without imagination but a fuck is a poem
An angry child with a quick draw fuck you out of air
fuck you Mom I am not an echo of your fucking manicured civility
My imagifuckingnation can have hangmen and flowers and fucks and jets
if I want more out of life than I am ever going to get.
And every fuck you is a trench to a mountain of I love yous but give me the vocabulary to speak from my valleys and my peaks.
Because love and hate are both fucking four letter words
Slap that on some fucking bumper sticker and see if I give a fuck.
Track Name: Boston Strong
April 17th, 2013. Fans in TD Garden stand up to take over the singing of the national anthem like a chorus of connective tissue.
Chants of Let’s Go Bruins for three hours straight.
They never sit back down.
This hum of brotherhood reignites scatter fires within the city like the pressure cookers that brought them there.
The ribbon on the back of Tuukka Rask’s helmet reads Boston Strong

Boston Strong because two days earlier Boston went Boom
Boylston street emptied out like a collapsed lung
Watertown got the ricochet
Youtube got the hits
Don’t tell me, I’ve seen this movie before
Calamity doesn’t run in threes, it just runs
From bloody chaos in Aurora cinema isles
From an armed madman on an island in Oslo, Norway
From plumes of fallen steel during the collapse of American pride one day in September

We serve out posthumous blame on Twitter hashtags like we all had the doomsday fortune cookie but this uh-oh in my stomach when I wonder what is next makes me feel weak in the knees.

But I was watching when the Bruins played the Maple Leafs.
Game 7 in the playoffs, down 2-4 in the third, Horton gets that home ice hot,
Bergy slams it in twice, the voices rise, blasting through my TV screen
Boston strong, Boston strong

Like weak hand hugs, lovers kissing each others half-burned scalps
Martyrs ducking debris on live TV
Racers crossing the finish line, declaring victory
Victims swearing a return in 2014, that they’d carry on
Boston Strong

A two word movement now
Carrying a nation asking how
This happened. Why we weren’t prepared. Why it took 10 ten days to reopen Copley Square.

Meanwhile home ice is getting slicker
Bruins over Rangers in 5,
Got the Penguins quicker
And Chicago’s sweating, because of the rareness of the thing,
This beaten team coming off a stream of regular season losses tossed off everyone’s fantasy list until their city got blown up and now they’re playing in the Stanley Cup Finals against one of their original six rivals

And you ask me how the fuck it matters
Watching a sliding puck
When there’s brain matter on the asphalt
How Boston Strong is a left wing
When firefighters run into burning buildings
When Jeff Bauman held his composure while holding slivers of his arteries

Of course the games don’t matter
And the cup is just for fun
But the reason we have parades is to see the band march on
And in hockey it’s called a face off
You don’t look back
And it’s not always about the perfectly planned attack
It’s about getting it to the net
Overcoming defeat
Me in my living room rooting
For the B’s

And when the Bruins lost in game 7
17 seconds, there she goes,
There were worse things to lose,
lord knows, Boston knows
Because they didn’t get the cup
But man they picked a city up
When the cameras were aimed at the
Villains and the detonation dust

And rallying points can’t make it alright, and nothing really does
But this country is new, born out of bullets and blood
And we play on fields forgetting they’re graveyards
Praising yardage like a dodged tackle is patriotic

And maybe it is if we make remembering our business
Show the back of Rask’s helmet to our kids and tell them
What it means
How a flag is more than just seams and coloring and
What happened in Boston in April 2013
And I’m not talking about two boys who set off a couple of pressure cooker bombs I’m talking about
How an entire city got on its feet to sing a song.
Boston strong.
Track Name: UPdown
I didn’t ask for a second date
But it’s hard to stay strangers after seeing someone’s genitalia

And you said you liked the way my body looked in the moonlight, which is poetic I guess
But I don’t want poetry
I want non-committal yoga-mat mountain sex

Like, let’s shake away our histories like an etch-a-sketch
Let’s cut our knees on rocks I got needs to quench
You have abs that clench with the cold air, that’s hot

But I’m going to leave you

You said you liked my battlescars
The lines where I explored my arteries like catacombs
As I explored the lines of your body as casually as the Sunday paper
You know you know the violent boring one you will forget

And oh, the places you’ll go when it’s three am and the bedsheets are cold.
Dr Seuss built some neon signs screaming girls girls girls,
Watched their hair swirl swirl swirl onto shoulders that once held up the world,
As he thought, “Oh they once had places to go, too.”

So you say stay
But I’m going to going to run away
Because that’s that what I did on the day I didn’t use the paint scraper for paint scraping

You said you liked my sense of humor because it was dark
I like your eyes. They’re dark.
And you kissed my neck under a dark sky where nobody could see what we were doing
And nobody could see the look of terror on my face.
Because self-destruction is a compound word.

The anxiety builds like an orgasm
Doctor give me some uppers
Because I’m going down on every boy I see
Staring up at stars with my head on your chest, screaming
These motherfuckers are dead already

And Doctor, give me some downers
Because I’m up on mountains with strangers
This isn’t the rapture Jesus spoke of
He doesn’t forgive trespasses on private property
Calls to Mom and Dad
Pick me up pick me up
I fucked up I fucked up
Couldn’t see how high that mountain was
Until I was down.

They call this an invisible disease. But sometimes it’s the only thing I see.
Climbing onto the backs of expensive motorcycles
Drunk off the hum
Bring me one more preemptive ex
I need the ghosts
I need the sex

Let’s do lines of coke off the constellations
Because they’re all dying too
If you look in my eyes you can see them
But don’t. Don’t look in my eyes
We can’t make love out of Lamictal and Lithium
But we can fuck when I forget ‘em. When they’re on my kitchen counter lined up with seven others. I used to be younger, remember?

You said you like the way I lose control.
I said you ain’t seen nothing yet.