Hour ten: Elegy: The labels I’ve left behind

Maybe I’m just some asshole Gen-Z
PacMan swallowing words and avoiding

my own ghosts, or maybe my identity
is not something repressed but grown

like hair or fingernails, trimmed into
shapes that make sense, repainted

and groomed, changed with the times.
My genders stack like dead skin cells,

growing into something long and beautiful.
My room is littered with flannels, the most

non-commital brand of masculinity
I could find– #dyke, #butch,

#transmasc– but maybe I have it
right this time. Maybe my girlhood

was nothing more than bad fashion
sense, a childhood costume I’ve long

outgrown, but I cannot imagine
my voice being deeper than it is,

if it would sound more or less
like myself. Maybe I would wear

skirts again if I could pair them
with a beard. Maybe there is still

time to figure out what kind
of man I want to become.

Hour nine: Get the name right on my gravestone

If I get killed for reading trans poetry
in coffeeshops, paint my name across

the side of every building in the city. Make
my boy-name your crowbar, and wedge it in

tight underneath your statehouse. Etch each
letter into stone, knowing the rain and wind

will one day erase it. Let there be no funeral
procession, no escort, no police in my parade,

Turn parade back into riot. Say it ends here.
Remember the days before 1969, before

all the words we had to describe the weights
lodged against us, only stones and bars

with no windows. Remember the names
that no one ever taught you, and put mine

right beside theirs. If I get killed for reading
trans poetry at coffee shops, know that

I’m not sorry for anything except
the queer losses I could not prevent.

Hour eight: Apology: My breasts

I only felt like you belonged to me

when that girl caressed you while
calling me “sir.” Regardless, you really

are quite lovely. I’m sorry that I cannot

appreciate you the way others do,
cannot make peace with the way

you bounce when I run, gathering

sweat in the cotton moat of my bra.
The sand in your hourglass runs

faster than the rest of this body,

though I wonder who will still manage
to touch you— your presence so large,

so dirty, so obvious that I keep you
bound against me. If I let the doctors

carve apart your softness, will lovers

lay closer to the heart? Who will love
this hollowed body, shape my manhood

into more than a kink?

Hour seven: Apology: My friend’s boyfriend

I do not understand what she sees
in him, his bumps and crevices
on full display, unapologetically ugly,
expecting to be loved exactly the way

he is— knobby feet in flip-flops,
clothing loose, draping over
the largest parts of him. He swirls
wine in his glass and tells me

my poem should be in couplets,
not tercets. He offers no compliments
first, no apologies, and I’m not
offended so much as jealous.

I write his comments in my notepad,
quiet in my disagreement, swallowing
my commentary about how men
don’t compromise, my fear that

my empathy and masculinity will
always be at odds, but he catches
my eye, says hey, you can disagree
if you want. I shouldn’t need

his permission, but I take it.
He listens before he speaks,
our comments falling into rhythm
like the punching of a chess clock,

a banter rooted in poetry,
an unapology, an undoing
of my silence. He’s still wrong
about the tercets, but I see

for a moment what my friend
does, the quick bounce of his wit,
and I wonder if anyone will ever
love me like that.

Hour six: Elegy: My Funeral

When I die, there will be no traffic jam,
no escort, no police in my parade.
I do not want a single mother
to be late picking up her child

from a private school she can
barely afford. I do not want a passing
middle-aged accountant to be late
for his family dinner, for his children

to eat in silence, wishing he were
home. I want to learn how to take
up space while I am alive, to dance
sober with the lights on, to break into

song without worrying about my voice
sitting too high in my throat. I want
to wring every sweet note from this life,
crack its bones wide open and suck out

the marrow. I want to die with a list
of accomplishments too large to fit
onto any stone, the correct name
etched into my obituary.

Hour five: Apology: Taco Bell

My father preferred a crunchwrap
double-shelled taco or a Mexican pizza

to whatever my mother had left for us
in the crock pot. On the nights he didn’t eat,

there was no question of where he’d been.
It was the dietary equivalent of cheating,

the home-grown vegetables left to simmer
into mush as he gorged himself on tortillas

white as bleach, but sweet as the empty
space inside a cavity. His body was a plant

rooted in the wrong soil, withered at
the edges. Death coiled around him

like a taproot trying to find nutrients
in clay, his pale fingers turning black

as they wrapped around another
soft taco. Even in the nursing home,

where he was the youngest by at least
thirty years, he asked his friends to bring

chalupas, bean burritos, Baha blasts,
not caring how long he lived, not wondering

if life could be more than a greasy stop
on a long stretch of road, an empty wrapper.

Hour four: Portrait of my trans body as a jack-o-lantern

scoop out the soft parts
with a sharp spoon.
the scraping of metal
on bone proves that you

are becoming. place
the parts of the pumpkin
that make more pumpkins
in a bowl to the side.

carve a smile that finally
shows your light. hope
what is left of you
can keep on living.

Hour three: Ode to my pansexuality

I do not understand how the trace
of fingertips across the back of my neck
has a gender— the press of lips

to my temple, the sobs that rattled
my ribcage like a ghost shaking
the walls of a place it longed to leave,

your arms both the exorcist and
the blessing— but you would not
have held me so close had you known

I was a boy. I could have held you
together through the long nights
when poetry could not contain

whatever clawed at the edges
of your mind— you named it
monkey, demon, mania—

but I’ve always known how
to talk it into silence. You believe
that no man could have this power

over you. I say that I do not
understand why you love must
attach itself to gender.

Hour two: Bodysong

I dig my fingertips down
into the soil
past the point of warmth
in search of the dandelion’s root

& I might as well be standing before a mirror
running my palms along every fold
and crevice that screams woman
pinching my cellulite as if I could
pluck it from the surface of me

the earth seeps through
the fabric of my gloves
finding home beneath
my fingernails

I ask myself
when was the first time
I thought of myself as a boy
or at least as something
that was not a girl

& if my womanhood can
once and for all be plucked
from this body
or if I’ll spend the rest of my life
watching it sprout yellow
turn to the wind &
scatter across my surface

Hour 1 post: Two Girls at Taco Bell: An Elegy

I do not know what pronouns to use
for the girl I was at nine years old,
sitting across from another girl

who was not a girl at all. As he bit
into his burrito, I imagined that one of us
was a boy– it didn’t matter who– and we

were on a date. I imagined that we
had driven to Taco Bell in my lime green
convertible, that I steered with one hand

because he was holding the other. I imagined
that he looked like John Lennon in his round
sunglasses, that he’d insisted we eat here

because of how much I loved the bean burritos,
saying it’s alright babe, I don’t mind. I imagined
that he always called me babe, that our whole

life was a sleepover that never ended.
At nine years old, our hands were too
small to know what it meant to hold

each other, though we held on through
sweaty palms and wayward glances
from strangers in line to order their

crunchwraps and double-shelled tacos,
too rushed to call us out for being dykes.
They would have been wrong and right

about who we would become. Now, we attend
colleges on opposite sides of the state,
only meet in the summer. We never say

anything about the burritos we ate
one-handed, though we still look into
each other’s eyes without daring to ask

what we’re looking for. Our Taco Bell
has been gone for years now. Another
restaurant stands in its place. We drive

away in seperate cars. In a year’s time,
he will no longer know what to call me,
and I will begin to hate bean burritos.