Tag Archives: gender fluid

Remnants of a Smoldering Fire

By Cat Taylor

Twirling in my grandmother’s kitchen
To the sound of bluegrass
And the smell of something vaguely
Apple Cinnamon
I declare myself
A princess
She whirled around
Hand on hip
Looked at me
And said sharply that NO,
In this family, we are witches
And I called myself a Good Witch
And I wonder
If I had been a bit older
And she a bit more tired
If she would have told me how
Redundant that is

My family is full of witches
And it has been so watered down
So distilled that
Once it reached me
The only thing left
Was the memory
Of the fire

Witches were not burned for being witches
They were burned for being women
And I think
There might be a metaphor
Waiting to be picked from their ashes
About women and fire
Or powerful women, and men’s fear of them

My grandmother told me
When I brought her the 2nd bumblebee
That day
To keep this fire
And she taught me
That this fire in the belly
In the brain
Can be the gentlest sort of thing

And yesterday
When I looked in the mirror
I saw her eyes
And what a joy it is
To see that this witch’s fire
No longer burns you
Or puts you on trial
But holds you
Keeps you safe

And a week ago a wasp got caught in my bedroom
And as I held her
Gingerly
In a cup with a half-written poem below her
I marveled
At the way her fire kept her alive
And fighting
And how my fire kept me alive
And fighting

But this is not just a self-reflection
This is a call to arms
That when you feel that fire
In your belly
In your brain
That restlessness
And quiet displeasure with the world
Remember
Your ancestors were witches
Or at least
Strong women
And I think that is mostly the same thing
There is so much light
To be spread with your fire
But also, so much
That needs to be burnt down
Call it a rampage
Or a reclamation
Or a controlled burn but
Use it, passionately
To spite the ones
Who used it against your mothers so long ago
But please
Don’t forget
That your fire
Is the most witchy, gentle thing
And you can use it
However you damn well please

A Love Letter from My Dead Name

By Jordyn King

Dear Jordyn,
It is June 29th.
My 23rd birthday, and your first.
And though you know who I am
I have no idea who you are just yet;
That’s okay, though. Part of the beauty of shedding an identity
is the ability to craft a new one, and
I have a guess about the beautiful
person you’ll become.
Now, I have some things to ask you,
but first and foremost,
I want to congratulate us or…
you.
You searched for your name for a full year,
and I think you found the one tailor made for you.
It is strange to think we are the same person, but this point,
our birthday, marks a completely new chapter in your life
So Congratulations, Jordyn. Truly.

I want to make a couple requests of you,
if you’ll allow me.
You don’t need to heed them all,
but I think it’s gonna help.

1: I ask that you remember me.
It’s hard for me to accept that I’ll be gone forever,
and I know you’ll do great things without me holding you back, but still,
I ask that you keep a part of me in the most secret chambers of your heart
So that when the road seems hardest, you might remember who we once were
and celebrate how far you’ve come, and how much further you can still go.

2: I ask you to forgive me my shortcomings:
I know they’ll probably follow you,
but I want it stated that my sins are not yours. Let your first breaths be pure
and free of guilt about my past.
I will carry those to my grave for you

3: I ask that you keep on fighting.
I know you will; it’s part of who I became and, therefore, part of who you’ve always been. But for the sake of the people
we both love, I want you to hold your fist high,
and fight like you have nothing left to lose.

4: Love everyone. Love them fiercely, and without hesitation or remorse.
I was never really known for regret, except once…remember that one,
to remind you of the consequences, and then love everyone anyways.
Love them through heartbreak and through bad times and falling outs.
Love them always, and love them the way I love being you.

5: Finally, I ask that you love yourself.
You are the future we didn’t think would be possible,
the person that we never thought we’d live to be when we were younger.
Remember to love yourself,
and be kind to yourself.
And remember that you made it
for all of us.
So happy birthday Jordyn.

Forever in your heart,
[REDACTED] Your Dead Name

Far from Okay

By Benjamin Stevenson

Rubbing it raw, I gulped the load
and slithered away from him.
I thought the boys in the videos
made it look so much easier.
Crawling up the ladder of pelvic
bones I wish I had broken, I stumbled
disappointingly into a familiar feeling.

Sometimes bad men ask me,
Did you have fun down
on all fours like the bitch you
are? You actually looked like
you wanted to die this time.

Stripped of the flesh,
I plugged the wounds
and soaked the husk
I call a body in warm water,
because I know
it is best for blood
and in that moment
he could have emptied
a boiling pot onto my back, and
scrubbed me like a kitchen table
far from clean and certainly
far from okay.

I still wouldn’t have felt a thing.

Notes for My Underpaid Therapist

By Benjamin Stevenson

Heather,
I have been thinking a lot about death
about sensations
how my chest would feel
while falling through dusty
air in a desert city___
slipping off
the balcony. But the image no longer
seems poetic, when I imagine what
bones might sound like crashing
against stale concrete. Stiff
as a board, & white as a candle.
I have been thinking about the
darkness that would certainly
follow me to this lonely place.
how metaphorical doors would wax &
wane far too quickly to respond
timely, nor fashionably
& how goddamn depressing this reads
on the unbroken screen of a MacBook I can
not afford, but that all my pretty white friends have.

Heather,
I have been thinking a lot about
my childhood, and all the things
I cannot and do not want to remember-
selective memory loss
Do you ever wonder if some children
need a slice of darkness to develop
into the tragic adults which our excuse
for a god determines them to become?
I do & this glimmering idea,
makes life almost fathomable,
or at least this is what I tell
myself at the end of every blurry night.

Heather,
Do you still think we’re making progress?

An Experiment

By Junior Knox

The inside of an atom is mostly just empty space, and now you know how this story ends.

I wore a gray knit dress to the Roxy to protect myself from the empty space; from the cold in the dead of a Buffalo winter. In simpler times, the Roxy was unpretentious games of pool and ten 19-year-olds squeezing together around a karaoke mic for Bon Jovi. Now, it is more cocaine than camaraderie, more salaciousness than celebration, but some stories just require the glory of a dive bar and my tongue in a stranger’s mouth.

I ordered gin and tonics.

In certain corners where unpretentious pool was still played, Kelly was the wild-haired brunette that paused to make eye-contact before flicking her wrist and connecting the cue with the ball. She set her cue down and approached, flipping her curly hair back with both hands.

“Hi,” she said.

“Hey,” I replied, sipping my gin and tonic.

“Can I buy you a drink?”

“I already have one,” I said, shaking it so the ice sloshed around, cube against cube, atoms hitting atoms.

“When you’re finished?”

It seemed a direct relationship, then, that the less gin and tonic I had in my glass, the closer we moved to each other, her arm first around my waist, then my hands in her hair, and finally, her lips to my earlobe.

“What was your name again?” She murmured.

She leaned over the bar, and after a minute, held another drink out to me with hands that were fragrant with the scent of her hair. My own hands took away the warm earth scent; natural and clean.

I drank, and told her my story. I drank, and tipped the strippers on top of the bar as she tipped her head back for free tequila. I drank, and danced with her, white arms outstretched in a dark room, floating and trailing brightness like an acid trip. I drank, and when I kissed her I tasted whisky and garlic.

“You’re pretty like an alien,” she said, and I went home with her.

***

It was a Sunday later that week, and I’d had two glasses of wine.

I watched Kelly as she settled back on her bed. I had already noticed how often she would throw her head downward in that exaggerated motion, grab her hair with both hands, and toss her great mass of brunette curls back behind her head. It seemed, then, that movement was her neutral state, and I was there learning how to dance.

In her room, an open suitcase was on the floor, overflowing with clothing. She was visiting from New York City for the holidays, she explained, and hadn’t bothered to unpack or separate dirty laundry from clean. It was her old room in her childhood home, and that would have been obvious even if she hadn’t told me. Family photos and old trophies lined the walls and the shelves.

She bounced up from the bed to show me her softball pictures.

“I used to be a blonde!”

I could barely spot her as she pointed to the photo before she tossed it aside and picked up a worn Stephen King paperback.

“Do you read?”

She sat back down next to me on the bed and began to flip through the pages. I watched her hands, bone beneath flesh, as they flexed and curled in such a way that the tiny creases in her skin seemed to disappear. I watched her thumb let loose one page at a time, until I looked up and realized she wasn’t looking at the book at all.

My nose inches from her nose, I felt like I should have something to say. Instead I waited, breathing, taking in the scent of childhood homes and softball trophies mixed with earth and ozone and New York City.

She laughed, so I laughed, too.

“I’m really reaching here,” she said, and only then did it dawn on me that she was waiting to be kissed.

I kissed her slightly open lips. It was imperfect, and our teeth connected. She laughed, so I laughed, too.

***

For the next several days, it was bars and coffee shops and ski-jacketed passersby breathing moist clouds into the cold Buffalo air outside the windows. I tried to count the seconds just to slow the minutes down, but the sunlight faded anyway.

I can see us as if we had been caught on a time-lapse camera. The sun zooms over us as blurs enter and exit around us, chattering nonsensically and gesturing wildly and spilling coffee that dries at once in sticky puddles.

Kelly jerks her head to look at me and bats her eyelashes rapidly and her hands move on my arms and pull on my clothing and caper with the disposable coffee cups until she has broken them down into their fundamental components of paper and plastic and cardboard.

Eventually, the film slows as my memory catches up.

“Let’s go to my place,” she said, because her bedroom was our reward for burning daytime. I drove, and she messed with the knobs on my radio, and we found a song to remind us of each other.

I sang to her as we pulled up into the driveway. I sang as the stairs to her room spun under my feet.

“Just put your hands on me and hold me,” she replied. “Just put your fingers in me and hold me just like that.”

I did as she asked, blood moving from my core to fill my capillaries and light my extremities like a forest fire. If I failed, that night, to rescue limbs and hair and fragrant hands and gray knit dresses, it’s only because the compound molecules in volatile gases were bursting apart, and there was not enough whisky or wine or flesh or tongue to absorb the energy that resulted.

“I don’t know what to do,” Kelly said, and I wondered what could cause such concern, if I’d somehow spilt my emotions around us, crimson and sticky and staining, or if it was my arms tangled in hers like roots gone wild.

It didn’t matter anyway, because the women just came to her.

“The women,” she said. “They just come to me.”

It was a warning, and I knew this, even as I bloomed like poppies out of place on white linen.

“This isn’t what I do,” I said, but I didn’t mean it.

What else could be said? She had the best intentions.

“I have the best intentions,” she said. “There’s not a mean bone in my body. Ask my family,” she said. “Ask my friends.”

Will you think of me when you’re in Atlanta?” She asked.

“Does it matter?” I said, but I didn’t mean it. I’d already given her what she wanted and the rest was just my undignified heart pumping undignified blood and neural patterns firing away, confusing pleasure and love and sex and infatuation.

It was the small hours of New Year’s Day when the affair came to an end. I had spent the night fighting sleep, alternating between accidental slips into slumber and inhaling the earth; the sweat and the sweetness and the sex implied by the scent of the curly mane spread out on the pillow next to me.

She had hinted the night before that I should be gone before her parents woke up, so at six a.m. I reached over the side of the bed to find my pants. I looked over at Kelly, her eyes closed, bare back flawless in the dim light. I pushed myself off to lift myself off the bed, and she reached over and grabbed my arm. Pulled me back to her, her mouth next to my ear.

“No,” she said. “Stay. Never leave, never leave.”

Did I leave? I must have. I awoke sometime later in the day, in the guest bedroom at my mother’s house. I put my hands up to my face and breathed deep.

***

I came back to Atlanta a scientist.

I tried to replicate the experiment. I tried to duplicate the chain of code, to unlock the combination that would yield the eccentric whose hair I could wrap around my fingers in a curly knot.

I came back to Atlanta an artist.

I lived in a one-bedroom apartment with bare white walls and beige carpet. I tried to paint the walls a crimson grid to match the brick of Brooklyn, white-outlined and stained with graffiti and bird shit.

I came back to Atlanta a storyteller.

I saw every picture of her girlfriends, those she rode through Manhattan on the back of her scooter, those she took to Europe, those she sunned herself bronze with on the beach. I planted her in every corner of my apartment, and when she grew, we traveled, too, from one room to the next. My ceiling was decorated with our slide-show when I would lie on my back and project us from my skin.

I came back to Atlanta an asshole.

The women, they were pretty like aliens, like grasshoppers, they tasted of seawater and cigarettes and some of cherry Chap Stick. I don’t remember their last names, but I remember the patterns their fingers traced on my back as I fell asleep.

Emma had curly hair and wide eyes and a Jersey accent. We pillow-talked about women and heartbreak and the city. I told her I didn’t want a relationship. Donna was big, pretty, and Jewish. Dark-haired and dark-complected. We slept together a handful of times until I made a joke in poor taste. We stopped seeing each other. Amy was African-American. Her nipples were pierced and she had a tattoo on the small of her back. She could have been a model but she was short. She told me she didn’t believe in love. Marilyn was three years younger than me and had just come out to her parents. We had very little in common but she fell in love with me anyway. She told me this via email after I broke her heart. Hannah was a skinny blonde who wore too much makeup. I took her out with my friends and she drank until she couldn’t stand up anymore. When I told her she couldn’t come home with me again, she spat in my face. Natalie was tall, taller than any girl I’d ever been with. I called her “girlfriend” for a little while. Together, we counted out how many we’d had, and I felt ashamed. We tried to stay friends but it didn’t work out. I never slept with Michelle but I may have teased at it. Eventually, I started breaking our plans. She emailed and called and sent me texts, and then she stopped.

Some had freckles. Some had moles. Some had birthmarks. Some didn’t shave. Some had terra-cotta-colored nipples and invisible areola and coral hair between their legs. Some wanted more than one night; some didn’t want anything more at all. They were teachers and nurses. They were accountants and account managers. They worked retail and government jobs. Some were artists, some were writers. Maybe they wrote about chemistry and oxygen and compound molecules bursting apart.

I cut my hair off, then I let it grow some more. I bought a scooter so I could feel the wind rush by my face as I zipped through traffic in the city. I met girls in bars and introduced myself as “Junior,” and when they put their hands in my hair, I put my lips to their ears and told them about the light and the noise and the pavement that radiates warmth even at night in New York.

hang out with me

By Maddie Fay

“hang out with me.”
a text i send a lot,
a little demanding,
but always sincere.
it means
“i like your company”
or “i miss the way
your nose crinkles when you laugh,”
or “there’s this new thing
i want to try,
and i want to try it with you.”

my heart stretches years
and states and oceans,
and i try to keep the people i love
as close as i can.
because their brains are magic,
because i like their insight,
because so many of us are
lost boys whose only real family
is each other.
because waking up
to another friend’s picture
on a facebook memorial post
becomes an avalanche of every
phone call i should have made.

“hang out with me”
always means “i want to see you,”
but sometimes it also means
“i don’t like the way
your new boyfriend talks to you”
or “none of us have seen you
around lately”
or “you’ve stopped eating again,
and what kind of friend would i be
if i just pretended not to notice?”

and we don’t have to talk
about anything you don’t want to,
just get in my car,
i’ll pack us both lunches,
and we can drive to the mountains.
i’ll remind you of the reasons
you are good,
the ways you have touched my life,
and why i’m glad to have you in it.
we’ll make really exciting plans
so tomorrow can stop
looking at you and licking its teeth.

i won’t pretend my love
can save you,
but some things
you can’t do on your own,
and i will help you find help.
some days you are
the brightest thing about this world
and it would never be the same
for losing you so soon.
if everyone who hurts like you
dies from it,
there will be no one left
standing at the other side,
reaching out an arm
for those who come next,
and the world will be left
to the people who inherited bridges.

i like your company,
and i would miss the way
your nose crinkles when you laugh,
and there are still so many
new things you have not yet tried.
so come over,
or call me; i’ll come get you.
you can play with my dogs,
we can count the stars.
i can lock up my knives,
you can sleep in my room,
just hang out with me
a little bit longer.

crazy bitches

By Maddie Fay

“you gotta watch out
for those crazy bitches,
man,”
says the drunk man at the bar.
he says this to me
conspiratorially,
like i, a bulldyke,
am far enough removed
from his idea of “woman”
that he can talk to me this way
and i will understand.
i have sex with women,
after all,
so how could i possibly
view them as people?
surely, i know
what he’s talking about.
and i do know
exactly what he’s talking about.

“crazy bitch,”
noun.
defined as,
1) any woman whose emotions
are inconvenient to you;
2) any woman who accuses you
or any of your friends
of predatory behavior.

a crazy bitch will get angry
just because you
forgot her birthday
or fucked her friend.
a crazy bitch will call you
an asshole
or a player.

“crazy bitches,”
he tells me,
“are always ruining things
for nice guys.”

and i know a lot of nice guys,
the kinds i go camping with,
the kind who’ll go to lunch
with your rapist,
but never one-on-one,
they just have a lot of
mutual friends,
and nice guys don’t like
to make a scene.

a crazy bitch
won’t make things comfortable
for nice guys,
a crazy bitch
will call it rape
just because she was asleep
and you didn’t ask permission.

“crazy bitches,”
he says,
“will accuse you of anything.”

and i have never been
a perfect lover,
often not even a good one.
i have forgotten a lot of birthdays
and fucked a lot of friends.
i have been called an asshole
and a player.
i have had sex with a lot of women,
but i have never been called
a rapist.
because i don’t believe in
grey areas,
because i make sure that
everyone i touch
wants to be touched by me
every time.
i have been accused
of a lot of things,
but never once of rape.
you say crazy bitches
are always accusing “nice guys”
of rape,
and i think you are saying
“nice guys”
when you mean to say “rapists.”

a crazy bitch will hold
a knife to your throat
just because
you put a gun in her mouth
and told her you’d shoot
if she screamed,
a crazy bitch will have the audacity
to rip her survival from your hands.
she is not full of soft things
the way you expected a woman
to be,
you can’t tell crazy bitches
what to do.

you are afraid of her words,
but she is afraid of your hands,
and your wanting,
the way that wanting,
for you,
is only a step
on the ladder to taking
instead of the start of a
conversation.

so when he says,
“you’ve got to watch out
for those crazy bitches,”
i say,
“yes.
us crazy bitches
have got to watch out
for each other,
because no one else
is fucking going to.”