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December 28, 2017 Poetry

Five Poems

Spencer Williams

Five Poems photo

Frustration Speaks to Management

Your boss           misgenders you four times in front of thirty incoming freshmen in the lobby of your workplace           and you are, in this moment, unable to find the poetry in the space between his mouth and your body,           which he has successfully removed from the room.           And you begin to think of intentionality and fourth chances.           And you reckon that fourth chances are typically afforded to those without a reference point.          And you reckon that his intention was not to cause you harm.           But in this reckoning with language, in what you must construe to be a well-meaning slip of the tongue,           a dent has been made upon your face,           threatens to upend your composure,           forces you to examine what you know           he knows to be true about your body,           and what you know to be true about being looked at in this way.          So when you circle back to the moment he calls you “he” and does not flinch,           you hold tight to the security of breath,           of blood flow.           You have not died yet,           and this occurrence is one of intimate familiarity.          And so the correct course of action becomes: save face and spare           everyone your discomfort.          Becomes how you are in no position to correct.           Becomes how every bone is secure inside their designated spot          while other women like you          are limbs divided in places no one writes about.           Becomes how you blink yourself            present enough to smile at these freshmen,           these freshmen who do not know           it is not you they are meeting.


At a party, some girl asks me when I’m planning to go through a full transition,          and I am both shocked and unsurprised by the casualty of this question.          Under the cruel glow of inquiry, I want to tell her that the party is over,          that she can go home now.          But this isn’t even my party          and I don’t even know her name.          Instead, I tell her          when I score enough H to make my dick fall off           and a guy with a weaver’s nest for a beard nearly chokes.          I make a dip towards the punch bowl.          I want to drown so badly in this fucking punch bowl.          Instead I cry into it.          No one will taste me, it’s jungle juice.          This isn’t my party but I’ll cry if I want to.


I asked my therapist back when I could afford one          when I would stop feeling so in between.          She smiled, said never, so I left.        Today, I am still between so many things.          My bed and the door, for one.           My body and brain.          Mexico, the United States.          Sometimes I want someone else to put a name to me.          Take the weight off me for a bit.          Put me in a home that isn’t mine          and tell me that it is.          Other days I want to burn the home down          and walk back inside of it.     


Not These Dreams

In a text message, my mother tells me she has not lost a son,           has merely gained a daughter,           and I smile so lopsided, my tongue nearly fists through my cheek.          The text riddled with heart emoji punctuation is          my mother telling me to come inside,           fully convinced I cannot see the mourning in each letter.

Whenever I am caught off guard this way, I like to hang open.      

There are dreams I can recount that end with me coughing blood onto this conversation,           where home is wherever I want it to be           or where I refuse to say the word home at all.          This is not those dreams.          In person, my biggest fear is the assumption that I have died and no one is sure how to bury me.          Least of all my mother,          her shorn hair, her loving micromanagements.          

But I have not died.          I am here in the flesh, reading a text message so strange in its goodness,           at first I do not stop to consider the context of its composition.          My mother typing what must have felt to her           like a eulogy,           having lost twenty years of thinking she was raising a son,          and realizing

this is not like any dream she has had before.         

This is fine.          I am not offended by the implication that whoever I was before has been cocooning.       My mother still carries her son to bed with her.          And I sleep soundly with everything           I’ve ever been.


Dreams About Men Who Can’t Get Close Enough

When my friend tells me about the girth of a cock she recently contended with          I shudder all over          counting down my holes and           measuring my radiuses.          It goes like this:          I love a man until he opens          his mouth to me.          I dream him deep until I wake          and see that he is shallow.    I have so many uncouth thoughts on how          my body is until          it isn’t.         

A confession: I used to give my tae kwon do instructor back rubs in the changing room when I was thirteen.          As he fell back into his chair, I would close my eyes and imagine he was my husband.           This is as intimate as I’ve ever been with a man,          neck deep in this strange proximity, his unbearable warmth beneath my hands,           the kneading of his muscle.        

I am home schooled at this time.           These are private lessons.          One day, I absent mindedly tell my parents the truth when they ask me what I’ve learned.          I never go back again.

I want to be touched but I haven’t showered in days.          In the corner of my room, there is          the chair          which all my dirty laundry has eaten.          I suppose I still have everything I need,       one body and a vast queen bed of dead skin.

When I dream about men,          we do everything except fuck.          Sometimes they break up with me          and our distance makes me wetter.          Once,          I dreamt a white guy I wanted to touch in real life          was arguing with me about the paint color          of our future child’s nursery.          The next day, I saw this man in person and           he called me “boy”           before proudly estimating how big           the shit he was going to take would be.          In the back of my mind, I pictured the bowl

and felt______


I deleted Tinder from my phone because I had accidentally          rejected every man located fifteen-miles from me.          No other men were showing up on the radar.         

On Grindr, I found a professor I used to have sitting eleven feet away from me.          Seven faceless men messaged me “sup” and four white guys asked me for a picture.          I sent two of them the cover of the book I was reading.          The other two received my cat.          I received one response:           “cute kitty          whats her name           and do u top?”           Obviously not.         

In the trapping of lonely nights, I gleam with dew beneath my bed sheet          in a room with no windows.           Let my coarseness be the window.          Organs framed beneath malicious light, reflecting the maw of my historic           caught fooling in another man’s mouth.          I am touched nerve.           Bodily insult.           I touch myself and it is the same as crying.

Notice the burn mark on the underside of my left arm and how it appears to be grinning.           Notice too the bone crushed between my lips like deer meat trapped           beneath the chemical girth of the sun.          In my bed, I am unfuckwithable flame.          In person, I’ve been told I look extinguished. 

A wild misinterpretation: I tried to picture myself while masturbating           and became so acutely aware of my slack-

jawed expression          completion became a cruel impossibility.

And so I blamed my cum on something else.          I came and felt ashamed that I had nothing          at all to do with it.

There’s a history there.           My body synonymous with discomfort inflicted gradually by way           of ubiquitous haunt.           For instance, I tremble in rooms           I know to be warm.           I lift my skirt and bones          orchestrate their clatter towards the kitchen floor.


Blood is a degenerate multiplication.          

The body’s mechanical labor           holds tight to my hand on the walk back home.           This is to say that I am separate from my body.           This is to say that all I am is           seconds away from spilling. 

And there is such thing as a hypothetical blood,           like the blood of my refusal           to the suggestion that I return home with a group           of fraternity silhouettes,           to a room I know is not mine,           has never been mine,           has only ever been the blood of those who entered before me and left with           a multitude of missing parts. 

On this occasion, my tongue           is an insect smashed between my teeth.          

Desire is a circle of piss-drunk men exchanging           their hands for the heat          of my shoulder.         

If God is at all present for this interaction,           he is the stench of regurgitated ale wafting from           the black slit a sinister’s mouth.

There are six of them.

I know when they ask me to return           back to their untucked beds and leaking Trojans,           that it is not in the language           of invitation.           A moth flutters above us in search of dying light           as I come up with one-hundred ways           a body can be disposed of without anyone knowing.

The shortest of them continues to press firmly on my shoulder and I think:          are there no other witnesses?

The tallest of them raises his hand and I ready myself           to be struck.          But our hands collide, mine meeting his as the spawn of instinct           and malfunction.

And as they fade from view, I am left to wonder if this man          

has handed me the rest of my life.


*A section of "Dreams About Men Who Can't Get Close Enough" was previously published on Alien Mouth.

image: Carabella Sands