Book Review: Jan Steckel’s “Like Flesh Covers Bone”

About the Book

Synopsis: A hundred pages of direct, uncompromising, and lyrical poetry filled with moving moments of intimacy, humor, love & loss.

Genre: Poetry

Date: December 2018

Publisher: Zeitgeist Press

ISBN: 978-1-940572-21-5

Purchase Link



I have been following Jan Steckel on social media for some time, so I was familiar with her poetry before reading Like Flesh Covers Bone. I’ve been delighted by many of her sharp observations of the world, sometimes optimistic and other times cynical. This new collection is one I am sure to read over and over, particularly a few of my favorites.

My top two are the titular poem, “Like Flesh Covers Bone,” and one called “Intersection.” In both cases, it is the way they reach into my soul and my personal experiences. The first knocked me emotionally flat the first time I read it. I gasped for breath, recalling my own first disillusionment as a newly graduated hospital nurse. The second had me nodding along with every line, feeling as though Steckel reached right into my heart and plucked out what was written there.

Every poem hits a high note, which is an accomplishment. Admittedly, I love poetry of all kinds, so I went into it with an already open mind. Even so, it’s rare that I am so drawn into the words that I don’t want to do anything except sit at the poet’s feet and bask in the beautiful lines. I couldn’t put it down.

I had the privilege of speaking with Steckel on the BiCast. I highly recommend listening and absorbing what she has to say about writing, life, and bisexuality. She reads a few of her poems, and it is a treasure to be able to hear them right from her lips.

There’s a little of everything in here: some relatable moments and feelings, political cynicism and activism, history lessons, heart-wrenching memories, and humor. What I always say with poetry is that not every verse is for every person, but in a collection everyone can find something. Reading through is worth it for every aha! moment, every instance of feeling seen and heard and understood.

And that, for me, is the heart of this book. As a writer, what I strive for is to create something that tells others, “You are not alone.” This is what Steckel has accomplished here, a work which reminds us that someone out there gets us, that what we feel is not wrong. These pages are like seeking a comforting hand in the dark and, once found, holding on for dear life. I challenge everyone reading to find themselves in at least one of the poems and meditate on the words.

Like Flesh Covers Bone is a book for any of the following people to enjoy: lovers of poetry; bisexual people; genderqueer and gender non-conforming people; readers who enjoy swearing in their poetry; anyone who would like to understand queerness better; humans.

For relatable moments, flashes of keen insight, and poetry at its finest, this gets 5/5 bi fives.

About the Author

Jan Steckel was a Harvard- and Yale-trained pediatrician who took care of Spanish-speaking children until chronic pain persuaded her to change professions to writer, poet and medical editor. She is an activist for bisexual and disability rights who lives in Oakland, California.

Her poetry book The Horizontal Poet (Zeitgeist Press, 2011) won a 2012 Lambda Literary Award. Her fiction chapbook Mixing Tracks (Gertrude Press, 2009) and poetry chapbook The Underwater Hospital (Zeitgeist Press, 2006) also won awards. Her creative writing has appeared in Scholastic Magazine, Yale Medicine, Bellevue Literary Review, and elsewhere. Her work won the Goodreads Newsletter Poetry Contest, a Zeiser Grant for Women Artists, the Jewel by the Bay Poetry Competition, Triplopia’s Best of the Best competition, and three Pushcart nominations.

Social Media

Like Flesh Covers Bone FB page | Jan’s Facebook Author page | Website | Twitter | InstagramTumblr | Pinterest | Goodreads | BiCast Interview



Poet Jan Steckel


Elizabeth and Amy host Jan Steckel about her new book  of poetry, Like Flesh Covers Bone. 




Music provided by Honeybird & Rorie Kelly


Transcription Services Provided By
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In and Out by Colleen Elizabeth McTigue

colleen01In and Out
I once wanted to fit In.
Now I want to fit Out.
Transsexual, bisexual, polyamorous, lesbian, queer, female…
All these identities and more I claim for my self.
Layer upon layer of self, to be
embraced or rejected,
denigrateded or respected,
celebrated or tolerated.
Longing for community
With those alike, yet
Longing to be Out, to be Free…
I am told to fit In, or get Out.

August Heat by Walter Beck

August Heat
(By Walter Beck)

For Michael Brown

Lady Justice weeps from clouds of tear gas
As Ferguson, Missouri burns.

She weeps tears of blood,
Like a vengeful saint
Praying for another teenage kid
Shot down in cold blood.
Continue reading

Still Exiles/Freedom (Burn down the Last Door) By Walter Beck

Our Bi Laureate at Rally Against HJR-6 Terre Haute, Indiana October 11, 2013

Our Bi Laureate at Rally Against HJR-6 Terre Haute, Indiana October 11, 2013


For Ben Snipes

All the years
And all the seasons that have passed,
I still heard it in your voice today.
We’re still exiles,
Remembering the salted soil
Of the place we once called home.

We still have our scars
From dirty knives,
And fragments from political bullets
Buried in our souls.

Do our lovers know about those scars
From all those years ago?
Would they understand?

Would they know the feeling
Of losing faith
In an oath and law
We once dedicated our lives to?

We’re still exiles
After all these years have passed,
With scars that still trickle
When the moon draws high.

We’re still exiles,
Knowing nothing beautiful can grow again
In the salted soil
Of the place we once called home.

Continue reading

Start the Revolution Without Me (by Walter Beck)

Many of us feel frustrated and sad because we cannot participate as much as we would like in our community. Pride Month intensifies those feelings. Be assured just by sharing and learning you are an activist too. There many ways to be a part of making this world a better place for our orientations and genders. Chin up.

So much love to you all, Lynnette and The BiCast Crew

Rally Against HJR-6 Terre Haute, Indiana October 11, 2013

Rally Against HJR-6 Terre Haute, Indiana October 11, 2013

Start the Revolution Without Me
(By Walter Beck)
Start the Revolution without me;
Unfurl the Colors
And march
Without me by your side.

Start the Revolution without me;
Begin the chants
And start to dance,
Fire up those burning songs.

Start the Revolution without me;
I’m stuck in the worldly grind,
Improving product
Instead of improving lives,
I’m learning how to live part-time.

Start the Revolution without me;
Blaze your name in the headlines,
Burn your image in the front page spread,
I’ll read about your exploits
When I get home too tired to move,

Remembering what it was like
When I first heard that marching, burning song.

Bi Pride Forever!!!!

Bi Pride Forever!!!!

Cross Love Blues by Walter Beck

Rally Against HJR-6 Terre Haute, Indiana October 11, 2013

Rally Against HJR-6 Terre Haute, Indiana October 11, 2013


(By Walter Beck)

When they call you less than human,
When they try to force you into therapy,
When they say they vomit at the sight of you,
They do it with love in their eyes.

When they punch you,
When they kick you,
When they spit on your bloody carcass,
They do it with praying hands.

When they kill your little brother,
When they drag him to his grave,
When they crash his night light vigil,
They do it with the law on their side.

When you fight back against their brutality,
When you stand against their holy war,
When you scrape your dignity off the floor,
They’ll put on their bargain-basement martyr face
And say you’re the one to blame.

As the bodies of your brothers pile high above the floor,
As your own scars deepen,
As the hope drains from your eyes,

They’ll claim they meant no harm.
They’ll claim they’re innocent,
They’ll say they did it all
Because they loved you.

Coattail Rider Blues (By Walter Beck)

Rally Against HJR-6 Terre Haute, Indiana October 11, 2013

Rally Against HJR-6 Terre Haute, Indiana October 11, 2013

 Coattail Rider Blues

(by Walter Beck)
Dancing on a tightrope
Strung across two worlds,
Time warping on a high wire
Over a sea split by colors.

Yeah, I’m a fence rider,
With a hand in each camp.
Leaning one way or another,
With the person holding on
Absolutely terrified
I’m gonna jump ship
And swim in the other side.

Boots boogieing on a thin rail,
No pan tapping to hold my rhythm.
I’m a coin toss
Betting on heads and tails,
Fizzling out and plummeting down
Into the melding middle stripe
Strung between two worlds.

Walter wrote this for a couple of us.

Done in the rhythm of Roadhouse Blues by THE DOORS