Hour twenty: Ode: gender neutral bathrooms

I have spent my life tapping the bricks

between the two bathrooms, waiting

for some magical world to reveal itself.  

I have avoided eye contact in the mirror

with myself & others, taken off my pronoun

buttons before going into the bathroom.  

Bless this room of requirement turned

mainstream, this place where I am no

different than anyone else, just a person

at a coffeeshop not being asked to choose

between two doors that will never describe me.

Hour nineteen: Apology: masculinity


my masculinity hits my giggle with a shovel & churns it
into mud and gravel. it runs a thick hand down
my stomach & turns the mirror away, cracks open
my bones & sucks out the please and thank you.
when a man grabs me in the club, it is both my ready fists
& my silence after. my masculinity crushes my tear ducts
in its fists & lets them drip onto the floor when I’m alone,
crushed like beer bottle caps. it says that I am always
the shoulder & never the one made small by grief
& collapsed into an embrace. it replaces my spine
with a steel rod, yanks back my hairline & burns
the skirts in the back of my closet. it scrapes
the deadname from my tongue with a sawblade, leaves me
to choke on the blood. it sniffs my cologne for any hint of                                                                            flowers & insists I must smell like tobacco and burnt                                                                                    pinewood, that all growth begins with destruction.

Hour eighteen: Portrait of the Tinman in love

I know that our drunk slowdancing
to the rent soundtrack does not mean
that you will leave your boyfriend,

but the wizard said it would stop the echo.

You are a parcel of sawdust I keep
inside the tin can of my chest, an empty
weight to remind me that I know how

to fall in love. maybe the only story we get

is the way your forehead leaned
against the flat place on my collarbone,
the way we almost kissed, but you

pulled back at the last moment. I could have

burst into tears right then, but didn’t want
you to know that I’m a little less than human
these days. I’ve been cleaved in half & left

to rebuild from the scraps I could find, but I know

you are just a placeholder, the one
who really could have loved me if timing
had been better, if your sawdust heart

weren’t lodged in somebody else’s chest.

Hour seventeen: What the dead would say if they cared about us

When I die, paint wings
across my skull & lipstick on
my smile. Death is awful,

but I do not want to be
a reminder of the inevitable,
the unknown, the void

that calls from busy
intersections, high places.
Imagine me as an angel

in whatever religion brings
you the most joy. Believe
that I watch over you,

that I am the reason for
your last-minute parking spot
on the day you’re running late,

the butterfly that lands
on your shoulder. See me
wherever you need

& think of me only
as much as brings you
comfort. Let memory

press me into whatever
shape you need me to occupy
in your mind, because you

are the one who has to
keep living. Whatever you wish
you could have said, I already

heard it. Know that you
were right. You did
the right thing.

Hour sixteen: Ode: My god spelled backwards

If we loved things in the moment the way
we do in retrospect, no poems would ever
be written. No love letters would be found

by grandchildren, no stories of spectacular

losses and unlikely saves would be told
by parents anxious to relive their glory days.
There would be no glory days, just an endless

blue sky, which, if unchanging, might as well be

grey, or no sky at all. Without darkness,
there is no way to conceptualize light.
Regardless, I know that I have loved

every moment with you to its fullest. No overlay

of memory could color you sweeter.
No poem can explain the way it feels
to lay my head against your ribcage

and fall asleep to the symphony of your breath.

I believe that every other light only reflects
your glow, that you are the sun in a world
of moons, a brightness from which I can find

no shadow. You do not make a good story,

but you are the reason I keep writing,
keep breathing, keep believing that love
is more than a plot device, more than a star

that falters and dies, waiting to fall over the horizon.

Hour fifteen: Ode: the light in the window

Driving up, your glow swells & opens,
like the air is a curtain you can part

to engulf me. There is no better sight
than my own messy table, my laptop

the intermingling of our everyday
clutter. Some days, I come home

to roasted vegetables & the beginning
of a TV series I will accidentally fall

into, the easy laughter of people
who will listen if I’ve had a bad day

or a good one. Other days, the kitchen
is hollow & I am a burning candle

in my own smile, standing with my back
to the darkness, grateful that someone

cared enough to leave the light waiting
for my arrival. When I know I’ll be alone,

I leave the light on for my damn self–
proof that I am my own arrival,

my own happy ending, the only
glow I need to find my way home.

Hour fourteen: Can you see?

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
that the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion,
a home and a country should leave us no more!

Dread silence reposes what the battle was for,
but dawn’s early light undoes the illusion–
a blood-spattered flag, an uncivil war.

The free and the brave safeguard their shore
from the tired and hungry who ask for inclusion–
a home and a country should leave us no more!

Still, we fight to protect our American lore
against those who notice its long desolation–
a blood-spattered flag, an uncivil war–

and our own huddled masses, our own aching poor,
are left on the street like human pollution–
a home and a country should leave us no more!

This land is damaged, right down to the corps
of freemen who stand and salute our delusion,
our blood-spattered flag, our uncivil wars–
a home and a country should leave us no more!

Hour thirteen: Portrait of my gender as a subway

I am still a traveler in an unfamiliar land,
Everyone knows where they’re going,
how to hold on without falling, which

set of doors will open next. Everyone
arrives at a place that is warm
and welcoming, but all I know

is the sound of wheels on tracks.
It’s safer to remain in transit
than to get off at the wrong stop

or to build a home in a new place,
praying that some light in the window
will one day belong to me.

Hour Twelve: Ode: My father’s absence

You are a shadow cast by nothing,
a lost god to a crumbling shrine,
a forgotten law no one abides,
the dying breath of a senile king.
You are there in each poem I write,
a ticking metronome no one hears,
a constant reminder of the passing years,
a distant melody I still can’t find.
Your absence, father, is oft’ passed through
by men who have children of their own.
They hold me and say I’m not alone
and then leave me again, just like you.
But other men are easier to miss
than remembering you, writing this.

Hour eleven: Apology: the Trump mug in my grandparents’ kitchen

It floats in the dishwater
like the eyeball of some

great beast, watching me
through grease & soap suds.

my grandmother is saying
something about the rain,

worrying about the nearby
farmers & the price of corn

in the coming months,
but all I can think about

is the children living behind
chickenwire, sleeping on

concrete floors. When I used
to stay the night, my grandmother

would bring in extra pillows
& lay down beside me until

I fell asleep, though my mother
was only thirty miles away,

though I had never gone
a night without a goodnight

kiss, my favorite stuffed
animal. What would she say

to a Syrian child crying for
their mother? Could she look

that child in the eye and call them
vermin, say that it doesn’t matter

if their home is in the belly
of a bombshell, that they
will find no safety here?
Or would she hold that crying

child & hum until they fell
asleep, put them to bed

in the guest room, line
the mattress with pillows

to protect them even as
they slept? the mug turns

in the grimy water & I wonder
how many grandparents had mugs

with swastikas that spun
quietly in the sink while they

talked about the price of corn
& if it looked like rain again,

never about what makes one child
more human than another.

1 2 3 5