I know this
into store fronts
taste buds voguing
alight from the way
when I imagine
pressing its opulence
into your hand
I want to buy you
a cobalt velvet couch
all your haters’ teeth
strung up like pearls
a cannabis vineyard
and plane tickets
to every island
but my pockets
are filled with
lint and love alone
touch these inanimate gods
to my eyelids
when you kiss me
gator skin silk
satin lace onyx
marble gold ferns
matte nails and plush
in my 90s baby saliva
pour the glitter
over my bare skin
I want a lavish life
us in the crook
of a hammock
incensed by romance
the bowerbird will
forgo rest and meals
so he may prim
and anticipate amenity
for his singing lover
call me a gaunt bird
a keeper of altars
shrines to the tactile
how they shine for you
fold your wings
around my shoulders
promise me that
should I drown
in want-made waste
the dress I sink in
will be exquisite
From Hull (Nightboat Books, 2019). Copyright © 2019 Xan Phillips. Used with permission of Nightboat Books, nightboat.org.
Yet I was, in peculiar truth, a very lucky boy.
In any case, the story begins
with darkness. A classroom.
A broom closet. A bowl of bruised
light held over a city. Or, the story
begins with a child playing
the role of an ashy plum—
how it rises to meet the man's teeth
or doesn't. How the skin is broken
or breaks because the body just wants
what it wants: to be a hallway
where men hang their photos
on the wall. Does that make sense?
To want to own the image of the man
but not the man? To bask in that memory
of what first nailed you to the dark?
From Sympathetic Little Monster (Ricochet Editions, 2016). Copyright © 2016 by Cameron Awkward-Rich. Used with permission of the author.
One of the four Royal Stars is watching over me. Yeah, I’m blessed in these times of nervous weather. The leaves chill in a bundle then scatter like police, off to the next doorstep. They don’t step, they don’t faze me. These jeans could hold three men. But it’s just one of me, girl. Only Son. Only Sound. Only Seer. All this green to gold to red to orange is just theater. I’m the Real. Keep your eyes on the Navigator of Snow and Infinite Gray. I rock these boots all year. What a storm got to do with me? Who knows the number of strolls to heaven? Not that I’m thinking on it. The Heavens know my real name. But you can call me Q. Quicker than Q. But, anyway. Certain things a man keeps to himself. Jesus wept. So I don’t. The past is for people who like to play things over and over. Me, I’m on to the next song. Listen to my own Head Symphony, to the Royal Stars. The colors, they thrill me, they fuel these legs.
from You Don't Have to Go to Mars for Love © 2020 by Yona Harvey. Appears with permission of Four Way Books. All rights reserved.
California is a desert and I am a woman inside it.
The road ahead bends sideways and I lurch within myself.
I’m full of ugly feelings, awful thoughts, bad dreams
of doom, and so much love left unspoken.
Is mercury in retrograde? someone asks.
Someone answers, No, it’s something else
like that though. Something else like that.
That should be my name.
When you ask me am I really a woman, a human being,
a coherent identity, I’ll say No, I’m something else
like that though.
A true citizen of planet earth closes their eyes
and says what they are before the mirror.
A good person gives and asks for nothing in return.
I give and I ask for only one thing—
Hear me. Hear me. Hear me. Hear me. Hear me.
Hear me. Bear the weight of my voice and don’t forget—
things haunt. Things exist long after they are killed.
Copyright © 2018 by Joshua Jennifer Espinoza. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 11, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
It’s true that I’m im-
patient under affliction. So?
Most of what the dead can
do is difficult to carry. As for
gender I can’t explain it
any more than a poem: there
was an instinct, I followed
it. A song. A bell. I saw
deer tracks in the snow. Little
split hearts beckoned me
across the lawn. My body
bucked me, fond of me.
Here is how you bear this flourish.
Bud, I’m buckling to blossoms now.
Copyright © 2020 by Oliver Baez Bendorf. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 8, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.
You arrive on a Friday, with hail & vast
moving grey above small window
of white light, as a wound
which might be a passing through
of particulate ultra violet waiting
to arrive in sight, our adjectival
see. will it be violent, our photographic
ring around the light?
we inviolate what we can’t see,
revelate its arrival with our question:
boy or girl?
please, let the unseen speak in me.
there are stellar nurseries we cannot grimace.
i am a certificate of a bright somewhere.
you are a poem passing through
the membranes i have moved, mountainous you,
head up-of the interrogative blue
Copyright © 2020 by Jasmine Reid. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 9, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.
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.
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.
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
only when I like what I see
through them. They understand
that this world is hell
bent beyond repair.
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
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.
After Ocean Vuong’s “Prayer for the Newly Damned” Dearest Mother, what becomes of the girl no longer a girl? The stretch marks from my once breasts have migrated to their new tectonic flats. But you can always find hints of what used to be. Trust me, it is more beautiful this way, to look closely at my body and name it things like: Pangea & history & so, so warm. Look at me now and you’ll see how blood faithfully takes the shape of its body, never asking too many questions. Dearest Mother, how many rivers did I run across your belly? Do you love that they will never dry up? Dearest Mother, I’ll make all this water worth it.
Copyright © 2018 by Kayleb Rae Candrilli. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 18, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.