3 Poems by torrin a. greathouse

Dancing in the Dark

a burning haibun / after Bruce Springsteen

I spent summer, cloistered behind the curtain of my room, chest wrapped in stolen bra & panicked sweat. Woke each morning, ribs check-marked with the red echo of skin’s dreaming—what it might become. First learned the failures of my body in what a lover abandoned. Saw, in her discarded clothes, my chest as absence. Sold the whole season on a dream of looking like someone else. Danced with a candle’s soft pirouette of smoke, Springsteen crackling in the speakers like harsh light across a mirror’s scratched silver back. He sings “Come on, baby” “this town” “I’ll be carving you up” “you gotta stay” “baby” “I’m sick of” “this” & I wanna sing back, finish this broken lyric: “body.” I let the song play over & over, till Bruce’s voice fails him. I wanna press my lips to the hole his voice has burned in the dark & ask him if he ever stopped wanting to change. I stand in my bathroom with all the lights off, clothed in nothing but the word “man,” the first lie I ever stripped off my tongue. I shave down to my scalp, each strand ignites, hair of brilliant wicks, stubble to sparks, lighting my face, leaving a silhouette of ash.



          //


I spent summer behind the curtain of my panicked
sweat each morning check ed the skin
my lover abandoned. Saw
my chest looking like
a candle in the mirror
I wanna finish this “body.”
over & over, I press my lips to
the dark & ask to change. stand in my bathroom
lights off, clothed in “man,” the first lie of my tongue.
I shave my hair to sparks my
face, ash.


          //


“check my look in the
mirror I wanna change My
clothe s my hair my face”

Family Portrait as an Unfinished Meal

my mother skins onions
like small game, dabs chemical
tears from the corner of her eye.

the meat tenderizer is broken
necked, so i must soften
the beef with my father’s hands,

marrow-thick with knowledge
of how meat must be beaten
brutal into tenderness.

how any body softens
with violence. she grinds salt
into the carcass like a wound

or memory. the kitchen sprawls
around our bodies. open oven
spilling breath into his absence.

i dress the flank with incisions, fill each
new empty. a palm full of garlic cloves.
a flight of headless doves.

Translation Guide for a Crippled Trans Body

my body: a former list of possibilities
my body:            a museum
of potential futures
                    anthology of bee-stings
hive of uncorked hearts
fractured xylophone of my chest
a spill of keys           a fist
softened mouth         my hips:
salt-white parentheses
bracketing the un-woman of me
my hips:          kicked-in hinge
severed joint       & fractured
entrance        my spine: a rosary
of teeth      folded like a question
’s broken back
my gender: a mangled
woman             my gender:
last descendant of genus
meaning both birth & family
my body:           wombless
mother       how it births itself
my body: poem
written in a failed language
my body: a misheard voicemail
                   one lover telling another
I came to you       like a mouth
to flames.

torrin a. greathouse

torrin a. greathouse is a genderqueer trans womxn and criiple-punk from Southern California. Her work is published or forthcoming in The New York Times, www.poets.org, Bettering American Poetry, Muzzle, Redivider, BOAAT, & The Rumpus. She is the author of two chapbooks, There is a Case That I Am (Damaged Goods, 2017) and boy/girl/ghost (TAR Chapbook Series, 2018). When they are not writing, their hobbies include pursuing a bachelors degree, awkwardly drinking coffee at parties, & trying to find some goddamn size 13 heels.

Lilly Higgs

Lilly is an illustrator and comic artist working in her hometown of Louisville, KY, with her two cats, Peanut and Noodle. (Together they make Pad Thai.) The daughter of two authors, Lilly accepted her fate, knowing she was bound to do something creative. She attended Savannah College of Art and Design, including studying illustration in New York and Japan. Her previous publications include TokyoPop’s Gothic & Lolita Bible, and Hazel.


First Featured In: No. 12, winter 2018

The Taboo Issue

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