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TC Tolbert

TC Tolbert is a nationally certified EMT, and often identifies as a trans and genderqueer feminist, collaborator, dancer, and poet. S/he holds an MFA from the University of Arizona, and is the author of Gephyromania (Ahsahta Press, 2014), four chapbooks of poetry, and is coeditor with Trace Peterson of Troubling the Line: Trans and Genderqueer Poetry and Poetics (Nightboat Books, 2013). Tolbert is the recipient of an Academy of American Poets Laureate Fellowship and an Arizona Commission on the Arts Individual Artist Award. In January 2019, s/he was the guest editor for Poem-a-Day. In 2019, s/he was named an Academy of American Poets Laureate Fellow. Tolbert is currently the poet laureate of Tucson, Arizona, where s/he lives.

By This Poet


Dear Melissa: [I wish you]

I wish you (my mother once told me—mother of my child-
hood—even though water is water-weary—what is prayer if not quiet
who has made me—what hands you become when you touch—
who laid down on whose body—whose face and whose shoulders

worth shaking—what will I not hear when I look back
at you—who is not the mother of a daughter—who is not
the mother of a man—we are right to be afraid of our bodies—wind
is carried by what is upright and still moves what has) had

(been buried deep enough in the ground to be called roots—
when will this be the world where you stop—whatever broke 
into you was torn by the contact—a face wears a face it can see—
what is alive is unrecognizable—need it be—who is my mother,

mother—no one—who hasn’t killed herself by
growing into someone—I’m sorry you have) never been born

Dear Melissa: [a curve billed thrasher]

a curve billed thrasher
is cleaning its beak on the ground—
we are closer now than ever—sitting
in shadow—I never want to scare
anyone—not really—I have a friend
who loves people who come out
suddenly—in the dark—
is the same distance as pain from here—
that’s my skin on your sweater—both hands
stripped now—I know I am someone
to you I am entirely—practicing
Spanish on the computer—gesturing to
the neighbor instead of speaking—
                                    to sharpen
the body is never an accident—someone
I know I am not—letters are inseparable
from loss—moving what can be still
moved—one is sweeping the mouth—
what ever isn’t skin—take it off—