—for Creativity and Crisis at the National Mall

queer me
shift me
transgress me
tell my students i’m gay
tell chick fil a i’m queer
tell the new york times i’m straight
tell the mail man i’m a lesbian
tell american airlines
i don’t know what my gender is
like me
liking you
like summer blockbuster armrest dates
armrest cinematic love
elbow to forearm in the dark
humor me queerly
fill me with laughter
make me high with queer gas
decompress me from centuries of spanish inquisition
& self-righteous judgment
like the blood my blood
that has mixed w/ the colonizer
& the colonized
in the extinct & instinct to love
bust memories of water & heat
& hot & breath
beating skin on skin fluttering
bruise me into vapors
bleed me into air
fly me over sub-saharan africa & asia & antarctica
explode me from the closet of my fears
graffiti me out of doubt
bend me like bamboo
propose to me
divorce me
divide me into your spirit 2 spirit half spirit
& shadow me w/ fluttering tongues
& caresses beyond head
heart chakras
fist smashing djembes
between my hesitations
haiku me into 17 bursts of blossoms & cold saki
de-ethnicize me
de-clothe me
de-gender me in brassieres
& prosthetic genitalias
burn me on a brazier
wearing a brassiere
in bitch braggadocio soprano bass
magnificat me in vespers
of hallelujah & amen
libate me in halos
heal me in halls of femmy troubadors
announcing my hiv status
or your status
i am not afraid to love you
implant dialects as if they were lilacs
in my ear
medicate me with a lick & a like
i am not afraid to love you
so demand me
reclaim me
queerify me

Copyright © 2014 by Regie Cabico. Reprinted from Split This Rock’s The Quarry: A Social Justice Poetry Database.

Batter my heart, transgender’d god, for yours
is the only ear that hears: place fear in my heart
where faith has grown my senses dull & reassures
my blood that it will never spill. Show every part
to every stranger’s anger, surprise them with my drawers
full up of maps that lead to vacancies & chart
the distance from my pride, my core. Terror, do not depart
but nest in the hollows of my loins & keep me on all fours.
My knees, bring me to them; force my head to bow again.
Replay the murders of my kin until my mind’s made new;
let Adam’s bite obstruct my breath ’til I respire men
& press his rib against my throat until my lips turn blue.
You, O duo, O twin, whose likeness is kind: unwind my confidence
& noose it round your fist so I might know you in vivid impermanence.

From Last Psalm at Sea Level (Barrow Street, 2014). Copyright © 2014 by Meg Day. Used with the permission of the author.

Haven’t they moved like rivers—
like Glory, like light—
over the seven days of your body?

And wasn’t that good?
Them at your hips—

isn’t this what God felt when he pressed together
the first Beloved: Everything.
Fever. Vapor. Atman. Pulsus. Finally,
a sin worth hurting for. Finally, a sweet, a
You are mine.

It is hard not to have faith in this:
from the blue-brown clay of night
these two potters crushed and smoothed you
into being—grind, then curve—built your form up—

atlas of bone, fields of muscle,
one breast a fig tree, the other a nightingale,
both Morning and Evening.

O, the beautiful making they do—
of trigger and carve, suffering and stars—

Aren’t they, too, the dark carpenters
of your small church? Have they not burned
on the altar of your belly, eaten the bread
of your thighs, broke you to wine, to ichor,
to nectareous feast?

Haven’t they riveted your wrists, haven’t they
had you at your knees?

And when these hands touched your throat,
showed you how to take the apple and the rib,
how to slip a thumb into your mouth and taste it all,
didn’t you sing out their ninety-nine names—

Zahir, Aleph, Hands-time-seven,
Sphinx, Leonids, locomotura,
Rubidium, August, and September—
And when you cried out, O, Prometheans,
didn’t they bring fire?

These hands, if not gods, then why
when you have come to me, and I have returned you
to that from which you came—bright mud, mineral-salt—
why then do you whisper O, my Hecatonchire. My Centimani.
My hundred-handed one?

Copyright © 2013 by Natalie Diaz. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on August 9, 2013. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

Lie to yourself about this and you will
forever lie about everything.

Everybody already knows everything

so you can
lie to them. That's what they want.

But lie to yourself, what you will

lose is yourself. Then you
turn into them.

                 *

For each gay kid whose adolescence

was America in the forties or fifties
the primary, the crucial

scenario

forever is coming out—
or not. Or not. Or not. Or not. Or not.

                 *

Involuted velleities of self-erasure.

                 *

Quickly after my parents
died, I came out. Foundational narrative

designed to confer existence.

If I had managed to come out to my
mother, she would have blamed not

me, but herself.

The door through which you were shoved out
into the light

was self-loathing and terror.

                 *

Thank you, terror!

You learned early that adults' genteel
fantasies about human life

were not, for you, life. You think sex

is a knife
driven into you to teach you that.

Copyright © 2012 by Frank Bidart. Used with permission of the author.

No matter how old you are,
it helps to be young
when you’re coming to life,

to be unfinished, a mysterious statement,
a journey from star to star.
So break out a box of Crayolas

and draw your family
looking uncomfortably away
from the you you’ve exchanged

for the mannequin
they named. You should
help clean up, but you’re so busy being afraid

to love or not
you're missing the fun of clothing yourself
in the embarrassment of life.

Frost your lids with midnight;
lid your heart with frost;
rub them all over, the hormones that regulate

the production of love
from karmic garbage dumps.
Turn yourself into

the real you
you can only discover
by being other.

Voila! You’re free.
Learn to love the awkward silence
you are going to be.

From The Future Is Trying to Tell Us Something: New and Selected Poems (Sheep Meadow Press, 2017). Copyright © 2017 by Joy Ladin. Used with the permission of the author.

Roses are red / violets are transsexual / welcome to womanhood / now get to work honey

Roses are performative / violets are biological / I have very sensitive breasts / and so do your breasts

Roses are biological / you have the nicest skin / I can’t stop kissing you / let's read more nondualistic queer theory

Roses are fed up / with our binary fetishes / I tricked my doctors / and stole all the medication to hide it in a cave and share it with other trans people

Roses have got me / up against the wall / kissing my neck / which is socially constructed to be a super hot strong feminist neck

Roses are violet / violets are roses / I really like you / I like you tube

Roses are born this way / violets have a lesbian streak / something about your dry sense of humor and our soft intertwined limbs / feels transcendently female

Roses are blue / violets are violet / roses are nonviolet / blue is bluenormative

Roses are from mars / violets had the whole surgery / setting up camp / exclusively on Venus

Roses have gone too far / not to be what girls are made of / I’m coming out / to my academic colleagues as a poet and I bet they will run away screaming

Roses are roses / violets are born this way / someone’s got a hoard / of heteronormative transaffirmation porn you say?

Roses are cheeky / I want you to fuck me / drown violets like an accused witch / in your arms which feel like mine

Violets got a name change / roses changed a pronoun / we ate at a restaurant / and forgot to put the leftovers in the fridge

Roses are trochaic / violets have their original plumbing / let’s march in a protest / then go home and we'll cook something delicious and eat it with a spork

Violets are permanent / roses are impermanent / thank you for becoming me / offering to embrace your form your fate

Flowerbeds are umbrellas / umbrellas are rubrics / I support your identification / and your disidentification

Men are from women / roses are from Jupiter / women are from men / I can’t tell which is softer, your lips or this pillow or the snow descending gracefully outside

Originally appeared in The Brooklyn Rail. Copyright © 2016 Trace Peterson. Used with permission of the author.

//

When my partner asks me for a self-
portrait, I tell them:

            Just out of high school
            I worked as a statue

           of liberty. I wore blue velvet
           and danced along an off-

           shoot of route 6. Mascot
           for freedom—I advertised

           a tax agency. I had come
           out that year.

           Passersby rolled
           down their windows,

           threw lit cigarettes, trash, pennies.
           I have always been one for retaliation.

           So I threw the torch.

\\

 

//

My partner and I research the back-
yard tree with purple droppings

until we discover
she’s a true princess.

Royal green blood with roots
the size of bodies.

This princess is invasive.
She garden-snakes under

our home and upheaves
what we thought we knew

of ourselves. And god,
isn’t it terrible to gender

even a tree. Isn’t it terrible
that she reminds us of what

we’ve named our bodies’
shortcomings. A flower

concaved as cunt
seems, right now, like a betrayal

we will never forgive.

But soon

\\

 

//

I dream that my partner leaves me
for eight years in the Coast Guard,

a kraken stings the surface
of this dark blue nightmare.

Split this dream in half and it becomes
four years and I still don’t know

how to swim. None of this is real.
But god, my partner loves the water,

enough even, for me to get in. 

\\ 

 

//

When my partner turns their hands
into window blinds, they smooth

my aging forehead with this new
type of shade, they call my skin

into perfect order with their skin.

I tell my partner I will be polite
to windows

only when I like what I see
through them. They understand

that this world is hell
bent beyond repair.

But inside
              one another
              there is a peace.

Inside one another
neither of us remembers gender—the meaning
of her or hers. She is lost

                                      to space. He was never
                                      that great to begin with.

We even misplaced the meaning of girl.

If we knew where it had been left,
we still wouldn’t go get it.

\\

 

//

Today I am the age
of an arsenal
                   of letters. 

Between my partner’s legs
I speak the whole

alphabet. They stop me

when I’m close
to what feels right.

At the end of the day
all we have is this ritual

of love, and that, I think,
will be enough

to live forever. 

\\ 

 

Copyright © 2018 Kayleb Rae Candrilli. This poem originally appeared in Hayden’s Ferry Review. Used with permission of the author.

 

I have not been having an easy HRT experience for a trans gal, especially when it comes to blocking testosterone so my body can develop properly in response to estrogen.

*

Spironolactone gave me brain fog, so to block T, I switched to Finasteride.

*

The blocker dose of Finasteride made me too sleepy to function, so I switched to Progesterone.

*

Progesterone had some nice effects but it made me loopy and had a kind of thought-freezing effect, so I switched to Dutasteride.

*

Dutasteride made me too sleepy to function and caused me to phase shift into a fourth dimension at unexpected moments, so I switched to Walzanone.

*

Walzanone helped ease off my body hair, but it gave me unanticipated telekenetic powers which would cause a table to fly crashing acrosss the room when I got upset with someone, so I switched to Benefiontin.

*

Benefiontin seemed to be working for a while and I could genuinely concentrate, until I slowly became aware that it was making my skin fluorescent green and stretchable over any nearby hardwood surfaces. Punk rock anamorphosis had ended long ago, so I switched to Penalzombion.

*

While I enjoyed the ultra-feminine high that Penalzombion enfaulked from my kinesthetic being, it had the unfortunate side effect of causing me to hate most poetry I hear, or maybe that was just poetry. In any case, the constant sore throat or what they call the "Penalzombion engorgement" became highly inconvenient when I needed to sing impromptu arias for job talks on composition theory. So I switched to Rubicon.

*

Though not technically a blocker, Rubicon had several advantages in terms of how it personified and mirrored my t-levels internally. A short-range tactical missile flew by in search of its drone-targeted recipient. Testosterone self-reflectiveness on Rubicon invaded my being on a coding level of intensity to the point where rows of shark teeth swallowed every time management skill I ever learned. There was no going back. I decided that Rubicon was too much of a simultaneously alienated and intimately ski mask experience. So I switched to Novascotia.

*

The best side effect of Novascotia was its remoteness. Though it made me feel slightly alienated around other poets, I did manage to get a lot of writing done. However, in the process I lost all sense of reality and missed my grant deadlines for the fourth time. A mouse ear grew out of my hand. Peach cobbler. So I switched to Nepotismapolitan.

*

With Nepotismapolitan I definitely engrotted some anti-testosterone connections in the entertainment world, which had me at an advantage when passing as entertainmentally female, but my pores became enormous. When I think back I wonder if Nepotismapolitan was taunting me the whole time. Gam tumescent wing growth polited out of the sinking vessel. Due to interaction warnings I couldn't eat too much processed food anymore and my T levels were still too high, so I switched to Wellmasteride.

*

I liked the feeling of cosmic omnipotence corresponding with complete and utter abjection that Wellmasteride gave me, being at once a unique delicate flower/snowflake and a humanistic reproconfection seeking air time like every other platelet in the bloodstream, but it made me inconveniently leery of discussions about trigger warnings and delaying puberty in children. Pang of detained weekend fixture turned permanent yawp. I stopped thugging around in my endocrine blotter with Wellmasteride, and instead turned to Jaimeleecuritsol.

*

Jaimeleecurtisol made me witty and urbane. Being around me was like an episode of female Frasier slightly sped up. But soon the crash happened and we were in a recession. Jaimeleecurtisol caused me to scream and scream at the horrible truth coming at me about how people really perceived my gender suddenly rushing at me around street corners. So I switched to Smallpondilaxone.

*

Smallpondilaxone made me feel big.
For a minute I contemplated calling an agent
to discuss my enormous very specialized coupon stash, but I
couldn't get out of bed. So next I tried Crepusculane.

*

Now the great thing about Crepusculane was that on this one I really felt like myself on five cups of coffee for a few minutes lugging a trampoline up the capital steps past the stone lions that guarded the secret to what's inside increasingly smaller panties I never held any responsibility for, a good place to do research. I made all kinds of appointments to publish poet things and attend everybody's readings in a stacker, almost steroid-like configuration demented with charm. But the hyper-concentration that Crepusculane offers caused me instead to stare at a Grecian Urn for days on end, transfixed by thoughts of lighting up and smoking the latest poet laureate or at least getting a medical prescription for him/her to become culturally all over me. Crepusculane rendered my t-levels nearly invisible as I lay swooning across a Chatterton velvet couch in my garret, but there was no one around but me to serenade, so I switched to Lesbiamine.

*

Lesbiamine caused .......................................... in peace talks ...........
...............................................................................................................
.............................. rankled tall girl spat juicer ............................ but
...............................................................................................................
......... looks at your spork ................... like a gorgon, tufts of ..........
...............................................................................................................
kissing us in the museum ....................................................................
....................... making me ................. attachment weekend blocker 
...............................................................................................................
my leg around your ..............................................................................
.................................. wetter, a death ................... bank holiday itch 
...............................................................................................................
clasped ……………………………………… in a restaurant booth ........
...... or vamp stamped .................. something chocolate ..................
...............................................................................................................
..............................anxiety being unsexy………………………..............
..................and you need lateness ……………….…………...................
destorying me .....................................................................................
.................................................................too intense...........................

like the crushed flower. I couldn't take all the ellipses anymore and they were intruding into my dissertation writing time, so I switched to Pastoralwenchtrin.

*

I think I am going to stick with Pastoralwenchtrin for awhile and see where this goes. It's quiet here and there are sheep and no wolves masquerading as bears climbing the hillside of an apple danish I bought from my student loan debt ceiling. As long as I pay the credit card bills by end of the month and get my name changed in time for the church basement sale, maybe I can find a way to live. As my body reaches a kind of equilibrium, I am trying to have as small a percentage of me as possible be fabricated as method acting and as great a possibility as a pink skull half-shaven skyline be real. The valleys are so lush and steep. How to end not wanting to be myself being not quite myself.

Originally appeared in EK * PRHAS * SIS, the Home School gallery. Copyright © 2016 Trace Peterson. Used with permission of the author.