by Eileen Myles


It’s not like sitting on a train and seeing a reflection of the person you’re sitting across from and thinking there are two of you or seeing a tree reflected in the pond or taking a picture of what you see out a window and what you get are the lights in the room. No I guess it was sort of like me, some version. And before me there was something vaguely like me in the writing room of Transparent, this is what I heard. Some lesbian poet then probably someone said they actually sounded like Eileen Myles and then I met Jill on the panel in San Francisco and later on I was engaged in some emails with the wardrobe people about what such a character might wear and of course there are these ideas about lesbian academics or poets that they dress in sort of baggy masculine clothes so I suggested that such a character might wear tighter shirts and not such loose jeans. A vest they asked. Well maybe. Then Cherry Jones who was playing the character of Leslie Mackinaw loosely based on the character of Eileen Myles (me) strolled into Jill’s house in Los Angeles where a bunch of us were having dinner and she had already had her hair cut like mine, well like some version of me but now my hair was shorter so did she look more like me than I did. A little. Maybe. I’m not sure. We simply grinned. I am in awe of the absolute presence of actors. They probably tremble like writers do or like I do but Cherry does not in person or onstage seem to tremble at all. She just is. Slowly I’m thinking at least for now she might be a better copy of me than myself. I wanted to see more. So instead of going to Australia last summer which was my plan I agreed to be on the set of several episodes of Transparent including one which was channeling the Michigan Women’s Music festival in which I would “play” Rae, Leslie Mackinaw’s friend so I was now sidekick to Leslie, the Eileen character. I had never been to the women’s music festival in Michigan a real mainstay of lesbian culture since about 1975 and uncannily it was ending this year so now the future copy being made by Jill and Transparent would be released in December after the Michigan women’s music festival had ended for all time so what would be left was the experience in which I was participating. There’s a lot of nudity at the women’s music festival, or I had always heard that about it and today lots of women I knew and didn’t know, mostly white but also some black women were standing around naked and in various stages of undress so I threw my own two cents in, my tits. I wore a cowboy hat and no shirt sitting in the audience ready for the shoot. There were rows of benches in front of the stage. I kept trying to get myself in the right position. Where would I sit. I mean being me, watching what I was about to watch which was Cherry reading, being a version of myself. I was thinking they would of course be needing to shoot that. We rehearsed a bunch. This crowd of dyke extras of which I was one. We were there to hear Cherry Jones do her scene again and again. She was reading my poem. As hers. I had thought about this a lot. Just as Cherry Jones can play a poet Leslie Mackinaw based somewhat on an actual poet, Eileen Myles, so can a poem, this one called “School of Fish” be pawned off as a poem written someone else, the fictional poet Leslie Mackinaw. Like the poem like the actor can also have a job, go to work. The poem, made up, now just like something else made up like a teevee show can even earn a living. I felt parental. It was like the poem was my kid. I was pushing her out. No she was already at a party. She was invited. She was honored. The poem was working a lot more than I was sitting there in my tits in a cowboy hat in the afternoon. The poem was on stage in Cherry’s mouth (kind of weird) cause now she had my poem and my clothes and of course only part of the poem got read since it was too long, the scene mainly being this moment during a fictional women’s music festival when one woman, Ali, was falling in love with another, Leslie, which was actually the point of the scene and to my part of the world real evidence that poetry can do that. Without poetry, for sure, I wouldn’t be here at all. It was my love. It could have been a song but it was a poem instead. Handsomely Jill comes up and asks Cherry to read the entire poem even though you knew it wasn’t all going to get used. I mean maybe Jill just wanted a little extra to play with but I felt she was ritually being kind to the poem even though it was going to get chopped. And I did become momentarily visible in the scene when Ali paused right next to me listening to the poem being read. Probably I was more conscious in that moment than any other. We did take after take. It was hot. Everyone had a bottle of water, some woman with very large breasts had a motorized fan. It went on so damn long I became bored. Enough of my sweet secret. I began to spread the rumor among the extras that that was my poem up there getting read and I got a little spin. Really? That’s so great. Do you have a book. I do, yes it’s coming out in the fall. I could see that Cherry had been listening to recordings of me. It didn’t sound like me but she performed it like me. It was true.