Body & Kentucky Bourbon

The poem “Body & Kentucky Bourbon” describes an unhealthy relationship, with Saeed Jones looking back on the relationship with new understanding. The poem reflects on the deterioration of a relationship that was broken from the start, liquor filling in the cracks of the foundation. The lines “How to name you:/farmhand, Kentucky boy, lover” and “…do I wince at the jokes:/white trash, farmer’s tan, good ole boy” highlights the two tones of the poem (42, 43). In the first line, the names are pleasant and affectionate, conveying a time filled with happiness and love. On the other hand, the second line has a much darker tone, insults that mirror the love in the pet names from earlier in the relationship. The theme of internalized homophobia runs through all of Jones’s poems, and “Body & Kentucky Bourbon” is no different. The line “To realize you drank/so you could face me the morning after” illustrates the internalized homophobia in the narrator’s partner quite clearly (42). With the revelation of the narrator’s partner’s homophobia, the unhealthy relationship becomes clear, as seen in the shift in names. The pet names transitioned to insults, a joke in bed became broken glasses laying on a counter. As the narrator reflects on the memories left behind, traces of the relationship come to light in the bottom of the shot glass, especially similarities between the ex-couple. The narrator and his partner came from similar backgrounds filled with hate, but only the narrator was able to overcome the internalized homophobia and heal from some of the trauma in his past.

3 thoughts on “Body & Kentucky Bourbon”

  1. I agree, I think both the narrator and the partner had to endure hate in their lives, and the internalized homophobia of the partner led to the end of the relationship. However, in the last stanza of the poem I think Jones could also be referring to how he lost his identity in this relationship. He was laser-focused on keeping his partner’s attention and trying to make them stay, but in the end, the partner’s trauma spilt into the present.
    Additionally, it could be implied that in the last stanza the narrator begins to cope with his trauma by turning to alcoholism, which demonstrates how similar him and his ex-partner are.

  2. In addition to the second set of nicknames showing the change of tone as the relationship shifted into toxicity, I think they also show somewhat of a revelation on Jones’ part on what his partner was truly feeling. As you point out, this poem is a reflection on the toxic relationship he experienced due to internalized homophobia. On top of that, however, I think it also shows Jones considering he was not the only victim in the relationship. He realizes he did not consider his partner’s “father’s backhand or the pine casket he threatened to put [him] in”. He winces at the memory of the derogatory jokes and sees his partner’s face in the bottom of his shot glass, showing his regrets both for the toxic relationship, as you pointed out, and for the way he handled it.

  3. I think another connection that can be made from this poem is how it could also tie in to Cruel Body, where alcohol is being consumed as a way for the speakers partner to be able to still love the speaker. It seems that Jones work has a lot to do with alcohol consumption and how it can create toxic and unsafe environments, despite how common alcohol is in adult queer spaces.

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