I Do Everything I’m Told
A Rumpus Most Anticipated Book of 2023
“In the absence of love, ritual. / Understand that ritual is a kind of patience, an awaiting and waiting. Keep / waiting, kitten. You will be surprised what you can come back from.”
Restless, contradictory, and witty, Megan Fernandes’ I Do Everything I’m Told explores disobedience and worship, longing and possessiveness, and nights of wandering cities. Its poems span thousands of miles, as a masterful crown of sonnets starts in Shanghai, then moves through Brooklyn, Los Angeles, Lisbon, Palermo, Paris, and Philadelphia—with a speaker who travels solo, adventures with strangers, struggles with the parameters of sexuality, and speculates on desire.
Across four divs, poems navigate the terrain of queer, normative, and ambiguous intimacies with a frank intelligence: “It’s better to be illegible, sometimes. Then they can’t govern you.” Strangers, ancestors, priests, ghosts, the inner child, sisters, misfit raccoons, Rimbaud, and Rilke populate the pages. Beloveds are unnamed, and unrealized desires are grieved as actual losses. The poems are grounded in real cities, but also in a surrealist past or an impossible future, in cliché love stories made weird, in ordinary routines made divine, and in the cosmos itself, sitting on Saturn’s rings looking back at Earth. When things go wrong, Fernandes treats loss with a sacred irreverence: “Contradictions are a sign we are from god. We fall. We don’t always get to ask why.”