needled with blue damselflies1
-ed nipples the areola3 red-brown as the foothills
backshadowed4 with blue rain5
falsing6 the peaks
heartbeat7 under muscled fat
thunder honeying8 into estrogen9 horizon
each swaying tit and gland10
a stretchmarked11 chapel swelled with tongues
gravity’s12 gelatinous bells milkless and godless13
pair of red eyes unveiled14 blinkless
unsuckled teats undone15 at the ghost
twinned17 hives sagging into blood honey
nudging the sky’s mouth open18
to beg19 such a brutal thirst20
1I can’t write about breasts without thinking of damselflies stinging the surface of water.
2When I came out to my mother as ace and aro, never wanting to marry or have children, she had already looked up the definitions. That summer the cicadas in the single aspen ended their humming all at once.
3Scan the rhythm of blood.
4Once I overheard my mother say she wasn’t sure at times I was really a girl. I felt like a drowned witch, hurt and confirmed.
5I made myself forget. My first period: punctuation closing a sentence. Each time a cishet man misgendered me or described the way my body failed to perform as woman, I wanted to latch my jaws into his throat. Each time someone spent a whole conversation treating me as genderblurred I felt annoyed but also—pleased? By what? Truth? Accuracy? Possibility? I—
6Perhaps this is an exegesis of all the ways I keep trying to hack into my body. Like if I just keep trying, I’ll have a way articulate gender instead of an owl pellet taken apart in my palm.
7Tender, the mouth’s bruise I circle again and again in the mirror.
8More than once I burst into sudden, inexplicable, uncontrollable sobs in front of dressing room mirrors when I sutured myself into something lacy, when my friends waited for me to step out fully girl. Sometimes I locked myself in for fifteen minutes, pretending I was trying on dress after dress while I actually hunched in my underwear waiting for the tears to stop, the AC to cool back down the tender pink of my eyes.
9I fantasize about cutting my breasts off. A sharp, painless blade severing me closer to what I really am.
10Every failure to arrive: as girl, as desiring others, as mouth, as tongue.
11Someone accidentally sent me a text meant for someone else, asking them to talk to me about how to be prettier, more feminine. Before the family party: You don’t need to mention you’re queer.
12The girls I loved with such the deepest hatred were the ones who ignored me. Or told me to close my eyes and trailed a knife blade over my palm without breaking the skin.
13They tried to teach me girl like they tried to teach me desire for. Like fitting language to a pair of scissors: say hot. Say want. Show your cleavage a bit. Baby teeth rewriting into screws.
14Sometimes, just for comfort, I lie back and cup each breast. Each one soft and heavy as a small sleepy hen, something both comforting to squeeze in the hand and to be touched this way. The nurse who examined my breasts one finger tap at a time, a massage with no desire but to make sure there was no cancer.
15Somedays I try to live with these breasts I mean poems. Other days I want to set them on fire.
16Maybe that makes my chest an ars poetica.
17I turn this way and that in front of the mirror in a pair of black and white rattlesnake boots with my writer sister-friends watching, my breasts stretching my black shirt taut. I lift my chest a little higher, feel hiss and fang over ankle, every scale a vibrating comma.
18I wish I had a satisfactory label, after each one I tried out. For how I wanted to keep my pronouns and also kept spilling over the edges of the word girl. In fear I kept rewinding my terms. I thought, because I had arrived at no easy articulation, this was a failure to be queer enough, a failure to be body. Now perhaps I think there is always a poem in the gap between leap and arrival, exhale.
19My mother paints steer skulls on canvas over and over again. I try to say queer more easily in each conversation with her, fitting it to my tongue and body. Every attempt a compromise of precision in favor of honesty.
20No. Of blood.