Authors / What Matters Most

On K Iver’s Short Film Starring My Beloved's Red Bronco—an elegy, an ode, an opening

Milkweed Staff — 06/16/2023

“In the beginning, yes, a garden. As lush as you’re imagining.” So begins K. Iver’s tender and heart-wrenching debut; what follows is a coming of age story of creation and demise, a love story upended by suicide. The collection’s fleeting first images of doting parents (a fantasy), dogwoods in bloom, a boy—later referred to by the poems’ speaker as Missy—who “looks at you the way someone must have when you were born” quickly give way to images of a paternal pattern of abuse, the cold interior of a psychiatric hospital, a mental-health-crisis-turned-exorcism, and in a poem called “god,” a closed-casket burial for Missy, who has taken his life at the tender age of 27. The beginning, then, is an unraveling, and the beginning of the end. But through elegy, reclamation, and poems of defiant joy, this ending is also a beginning.

Though many of this collection’s most powerful moments rest in words that address the silence of Missy’s absence, its most memorable moments rest in triumph, in “anti-elegy,” in letters making a lost love newly alive, and in places where Iver dares to witness a present—and imagine a future—in which not all trans stories end in tragedy.


Missy Asks Me What the Next Century’s Like

Most of us are on TV. I have met the trans people who own a

bar and bookstore in Madison, Wisconsin. I have shaken their

hands. An eleven-year-old from my queer youth club says her

hobby is trans liberation activism. Some of us still die. More

of us want to. Undergrads are performing 90s nostalgia. I saw

a freshman carrying a boom box playing “Bombastic.” For half

a second, I thought it was your red Bronco. I saw the stoplight

where we danced from our bellies like Shaggy. This is a trauma

response. Ford reissued the Bronco last year. The drivers are

exactly our age, still flannelled and anxious. Strangers have

read poems about you and published them in national journals.

Strangers have read poems about you and offered me a fellow-

ship to live in Madison, where I’ve never felt so comfortable

around strangers. Climbing fake boulders indoors is scarier

than memories. I’m told the past won’t leave parts of my body.

An androgynous climber with many muscles coaches my past

up the wall. Trust your big toe. Reach. At a public reading, some-

one with frosted hair says thank you for bringing Missy to life.

When you were alive, I would have gendered them. You would

love the lakes here. When I look up from my campus desk, I see

sailboats. I hold many people I don’t know responsible for your

death. They love us here, now. Right now, they love us here.