Tyler Gillespie’s Florida Man: Poems is out this month from Red Flag Press. Gillespie has written about Florida for national publications like Vice and The Guardian. In his poetry, he utilizes journalistic techniques in an innovative nonfiction hybrid that merges poetic sound and form in pieces that range from alligator anatomy to Southern heritage to growing up gay in a Christian school. Like all good literature about Florida, the strange is familiar and the familiar is strange. The following three poems are excerpted from the book.
Bag of sugar sized musclepumps blood. Most reptiles:
3-chambered heart but gator 4-chambers like mammals
& birdswhich gators used to be millions of years ago
when they were dinosaurs. Over time wings went
missing: can’t fly no more. Alligator males grow
over 12 feet.Florida record 14 foot 3-1/2 inches
found in Brevard County.His heart must keep strong.
Animals depend on gator to stay alive. In dry season
he uses mouth & claws to clear out roots & marsh. Beats
tail & creates mud burrow:a gator hole.Cold-blooded
depression helps himstay warm.Hole fills with rain
& freshwater drunk by snakes insects turtles & birds (long
lost gator cousins). Heart makes him dangerous of course
but maybe under scales – thick set of armor – he still feels
wings: remembers a time he flewso free next to clouds
A Second-Generation Alligator Wrestler
tells me: stand directly in front of the gatortaphis snoot
he’ll open his jawhe got 80 to 88 teethincisors no molars
don’t chew his foodbut he closes with about 3,500 pounds
of pressure if he gets somethingin his mouth … don’t
let that happen cause he’d go into death roll consecutive
360s until he could rip off a mouthful he can swallow
but a gator’s eyes – on outside of his skull – see peripherally
he don’t see in front or behind him as long as you don’t stick
your thumb out you can grab him safe and tap his mouth
reach underneathtuckthumb and go under his jawbone
press straight backhe’ll closehis jawthen put a hand
over his eyes he’ll calm down put tape or rope around his
mouthsecure itoh boyyou better make sure it’s secure.
On a Dancefloor in FL
for Drew Leinonen
On a dancefloor in FL
we wrap arms around
chosen family. DJ plays
Robyn’s “Dancing on My
Own.” Yell: This is our song.
Years before we’d seen Robyn
live in a downtown Orlando club
when she toured Body Talk
(thank gay god for that album).
You always took pop so serious.
A Spice Girls scholar who
introduced me to Eurovision.
Some people call pop songs
cheesy but you understood
them as type of survival – like tonight
in stilettos and broken bottles.