passing through

the front door gasps open
with the exhale of tragedy
in our little house city. shutterless
eyes empty of eyes.



your finger
counts my pulse.
your eyes are palindromes
incising monopoly and
i am a stopped sink


new house

i will lift the sheet
if you promise
to gaze without flinching,
to look while touching
deeply, to count scars
with your eyes,
to walk in as far as i am able
to understand, to absorb
the gust of exposure
& the geists that follow
that words cannot cage,
to fold my face
in a gentle dogear,
to return again, heavy with
rain, to carry in
your boots--
an offering: an arm
around your ghosts,
all smiling, in
my wet uncharted
newness beyond
ending and ending.


i am standing in the footholds of my
history, looking up at a river sky from
a new york street like a boston street
like a san francisco street like a
maine street but here is where
explosions happened first, where
a queer kid took the heavy baton into
his skinned knuckles and said, "no," breathed
it out like it was life itself, like
it would erase the blood paintdrying
beneath his nose, like it would
reattach the spike broken from
the heel in the gutter broken
from the heel of the queen not
moving nearby on the pavement.
what can i do forty years later? play
my guitar like it's my heart breaking,
songs are sobs 'cause the curve
of a rainbow's edge can't contain
the sadness i feel here, surrounded
by straight women in purple dresses
and straight men wearing leather
shoes and queer men wearing little
white shorts who turn their
eyes from me, the too-queer queer.
i'm invisible in a place that
made me visible, and i'm scrambling
to collect pieces of queerness
as my colors -- red for blood, black
for leather, purple for the greyness
of who we are -- are taken
from their origins with us and painted new,
painted without pain, painted
by unskinned knuckles. what i can give
is not enough: sobs don't cure
assimilation, broken heels
don't glue themselves back together,
and i don't know if i have
the strength to take
the black baton in my hands
and hit back again
and again and again.
imagining how i might die everytime i use the bathroom

at the registrar of
the college that i'm leaving
the turquoise-turtlenecked woman
is acting like it's a major upheaval
to change my first name so it's
an "A" with a period beside it.
"i'll have to talk to my supervisor,"
she says, smiling.
she's Nice in the way that people
who have had diversity training are,
Nice like maybe she's got
kids who carry old ladies' groceries.
but i think she's one of those people
who when i say "trans" she'd rather
that i hide it, that i protect her from
doing calistentics with her brain
by wrapping my body and its boundaries
in a turtleneck of shame but
who at the same time might
say if i slept with her son
without splaying myself open
that i have no right to deception,
like  not ripping off my clothes
in the center square of town
yelling, "look! look! look!"
means her son can turn me
into another name in
the book of lives that have been
extinguished at the hands
of the phobic.
later, at a party, liquor
wrenches my mouth open wide
and i tell everyone listening
about the invisible identities
that make my unchanged
body mutant
and a girl swilling forties
asks about surgeries and
a boy
in a leather jacket
asks about the difference
between sex and gender
but doesn't want to listen
when i talk about intersex
ion, when i talk about
what matters, when i talk
beyond pop-culture men
in dresses & vaginas with
big clits.
earlier the thing
that gets the turquoise woman
moving is not respect
for what i say i need
not a penchant for
satisfying the customer
but it's that i say
the girlhood that hides
inside the "A" period makes
me feel unsafe if i'm not in
control of it; it's that her
eyes get wide and worried.
it's not the fear i carry
of people
like the son i imagine she has,
like her, like boys in leather
jackets, like businessmen in
suits, like my mother,
like the girl swilling forties
who knew me before and
says my old name casually
being too able to see me. these people, able
to decide that what i say i am
is deception, that i break glass
to get to the extinguisher
when there's no fire,
that this trans
is punishable by fines,
by hanging,
by ending it
in the living room
of my apartment,
in the kitchen of
a party,
in the bathroom next
to the stall that is
the only shield i have.
why is it that our
culture fears calling
what is what it is --
why is it that fearing
being accused of
continuing systems
of oppression
when that's exactly what
you do moves our feet quicker?
that yes,
at your little old corner-crumbling
desk in a public university
in maine, you
are part of the problem?
in your leather jacket
wanting to know
only about folds of
skin and your eyes
glazing over at
everything else, your
privileged disinterest--you're part
of the damn problem--
why can't i abbreviate
my name without cisgender
supervision? why
is this anger that
i feel something
i ought to tone
down, stop wearing
on the surface? why
do i have to explain
only the things
people want to hear
and not
every single
of my
goddamn(ed) self?
ecology of man

the pope says i am responsible
for the destruction of the rainforest,
little butterflies with bright wings dying;
others say the war in iraq is my fault
soldiers expiring, the heaving of a thousand mothers wet on my neck

there's fraud folded into my skin
i'm an illegal immigrant from the land of girl
and i think i might have caused
the disintegration of the ecology of man
'cause i believe in blurry borders, and
my strange chest exhaling freezes civilizations

nomadic, i collect geography on my skin
like the dew of an aftershower:
ridges of maine and flecks of new england spittle, colorado sun;
the mist on the mirror hiding
the bermuda triangle between my legs

on the freeway there's jesus on the back of a car
and the driver is deflating with age,
wrinkled woman who doesn't have to swallow tears whole
when people call her she.
i think of the rainbow i wear with fear, swaddled
in dark clouds whispering knives trailing down my throat,
my queer shoulders1, my sex --

and the old laughlined pastor in midwestern mountains,
excommunicated for the sin of accepting my people,
writes that my mismatched body is a blessing, not a disguise
and still holds his wife's hand and thinks of his two children before he sleeps
i hold my own fraudulent hands steady
and face Judgment every day

1 reference to dallas marie spitzer's "my queer shoulders"

An eagle’s view of my nose
is my father’s nose, a golf-
club of pinky flesh. In clapboard
classrooms I twist my brain around
Langston Hughes, Adrienne Rich,
Yusef Komunyakaa – this is my father,
I’m certain. My mother sighs yes,
knits her eyebrows together when I ask
her to read my poetry. When I see black
people on a backalley street and my heart
beats faster this is my father, too,
I’m certain, who changes the channel
on the tv at home when Whoopi
Goldberg’s face fills up the screen,
my father who cancelled the Spanish
language channels because he can’t stand
the sound of foreign tongues in his American
home – like Latin, like masses he knows
the same as the gradation of grey
in his long unkempt beard – and sleeping
with the sheets half off my bed,
that’s my father, too, who arthritises his
60-80-year-old body brittled by
cancers fluid in the white marrow
into a dark green sleeping bag
he’s had since he was 22, that slept
around him on mountaintops in California
and Iowa and Maine, in snow and pooling
ice and aching sun, and shepards his
body from my mother’s like they
are strangers next to each other on a
park bench. This is mine and my father’s too,
how we can love so deeply but separate
ourselves so fully from others:
when I close the door to my bedroom
and try to silence the dullness inside
my body that says reach out, this hurts
and listen to the chattering of my friends
in the other room; when I sit on the bed
next to lovers who are looking
into my eyes with concern that says
please tell me what you need
and I say I’m fine; when my
father sobbed into his knuckles,
heaving up grey chunks of phlegm
after he ran over our dog in the
driveway when I was not quite 18
and I blazed through the living room upset
but praying he wouldn't see, wouldn't see.

1 He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse. (Malachi 4:6)
Here are the first eight sections (subject, very much, to change, re-ordering, etc.) of a work-in-progress that I'm basing off of Adrienne Rich's "21 Love Poems" (which, if you've never read, you must -- it's phenomenal).

Late on a Sunday night, lightbulbs, window squares
flicker across the city. Lighters percuss the discordant
harmony of two burly voices in tight jeans
on the corner under the ring of the streetlamp
before they drift further down the road, hands linked.
They do not walk the same way we do: they lilt, glide;
we stumble, step. i hesitate to say we because you disconnect
my graceful curve from yours, claiming all that is soft and blushing
and feminine in your arms, leaving me with grey stones like
me that you don’t understand. i dream of trees raising
their arms as the earth inhales my heels; You are sitting
at the mahogany kitchen table, home in your concrete jungle,
weaving tomorrow's lunchtime conversation out of the front page
of the Corvallis Gazette Times. i detach myself from your stories,
releasing breaths like finches from my hands.


Sun yawns, stretching )



February 2012

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