ON TELLING MY PARTNER TO CALL ME A GIRL IN BED
[after Anne Carson]
the man’s naked back pools against the bedsheets
in between dawns a gaggle of noises are born shy
each slow succession of bone arched into a dark dream
love, run both hands down the neck
love, hook the thumbs into the swelling smile
love, cause a shiver of rain
a low sound moves on the pillow, slowly
his throat muscles itself around-- an instrument tuning itself
tries each phrase on and they all almost-fit
tries a new name for each tooth dug into the clavicle
and his eyes coax the body’s sets apart
and with one hand, he
fucks the light back into the morning
love, muffle the name the body was called
into its soft ebb again until another sun climbs
into the blushing sky
love, time kicked off its shoes and here we are
FILL IN THE BLANK:
my hometown best friend’s mother is drunk and arguing with me about my gender on the internet (again). she asks me to pity the breast-cancer survivors, who did not want to have the surgery i gleefully broken-record about. i consider the fact of my body: middle-aged men will think me a boy, and when they assume my voice proves them wrong, they attempt to flirt a girl out of me. a customer calls me a “he-she” and i am visible. an ex-partner calls them-self a lesbian when we hold hands in public and i am visible. prior to top surgery, my mother and my surgeon get into an argument and both misgender me one after another / it turns out that a gun is still a gun no matter who is holding it. i move to put my shirt back on and they see me from their peripherals and my mother mistakes this movement for hesitation and i am visible.
i am not quiet or clean or smart enough to cup conversation; instead, it waterfall-stutters out of me, my hands all clumsy and wet now. i do this around every person my cis-man partner introduces me to for three months straight and he still thinks i’m funny. sometimes, trauma choke-holds me and i forget all my escape-training. sometimes i am trying to tell a story he will thank me for sharing with him and my tongue rots behind my teeth at what my body perceives as a lie. sometimes all the words i practiced carefully in the rest-stop mirror drain out of me as though blood out of a fresh wound and i am left only with a basket of snakes where once i had a stomach. sometimes, i am worried people i love kiss me and feel something in-human flick out between my lips. sometimes i am worried people / love / me and feel something in-human--
at the rally, i start the trans-chant, and the callback is thunderous. there is a YouTube video where i am called a bitch for flipping off the camera. close-up on my eye-roll. close-up on the mass of black fabric i move into and the only recognizable part of me i leave behind is my voice / strained and sharp and bright / hanging like mist in the space now eaten up by new bodies / clamouring out of the shallow grave they dug for us / before realizing how many we are.
my friends and i puddle on whoever’s bed / or, someone i love parts my legs and slides a hand up the inside of my left thigh and i melt into this first of many bodily casualties / or, i am grabbed into a head-lock and i still feel safe enough to laugh / and none of these are defeats. when death is as expected of your body as breath, any movement is resistance. i smack a sigh out of my girlfriend’s mouth / or, my roommate wrestles me out of our front door / or, my best friend and i make eye-contact over the swarming party and each drink our drinks i mean lock my car doors i mean take turns watching which bathroom we each go into so we know what kind of fight to prepare for. in the summer of 2015, the Supreme Court declared a victory for gay marriage and i was still fired for “coming out” and also not killing myself / so i don’t tell people i’m “queer” anymore. i know that they will hear “pride-flag” and not “brick-throw” / so maybe i identify as both “alive” and “transgender” and all the L/G/B people i know keep telling me to pick one. and is it not a war-splattered sneer, to prove them wrong? to name each new day its own triumph?
E. none and/or all of the above.
Linette Reeman (they/them) exists on the internet at linettereeman.net.