Stranger

Do you know what it feels like
to live inside a stranger?
To hear them speak
To hear them scream
To never really know
which one outside
and which one in?

Death mask

She dies
and they dress her
again in the death mask
since birth she tried
to claw away
And success found breath
and first open smiles
and a mirror that finally
told her the truth
But finger nails bloody trails
led hate to her door
closing only again
on her casket
Dirt may cover up her bones
But shame covered up her face

TDoR

How about remembering
not just the violence of the world
but remembering the violence
of the words
that build our graves?

How about remembering
who is really dying
and the systems of control
that bury them alive?

How about remembering
not just the violence of the system
but the violence
this world taught us
we should do
to ourselves?

How about remembering us
before we are dead?

Boxes

There they are
waiting anxiously
in their self-described
‘most masculine attire’
knowing today
they must be ‘he’
so someone else
may clinically approve

We hug, we walk
we drive, we talk
as I try to be
a calming force
and relax my eyes
cynical wrinkles

***

The building is as confusing
as the process
has been to get here
and we bring our spirits
into the lifts in hope
of constructing another parallel

Appointment times
seem as uncertain as names
and pronouns brandished clumsily
twist they (today as ‘he’) into
‘her gender’s still listed female’

And even here
only two tiny boxes scowl

And even here
you use the name
that was never their own

***

We are led into a room
by a doctor confused
that someone might
want support
A doctor who hasn’t
even read the notes
that stand in for the one
who stands before him now

‘How do you see yourself
at the end of all this?’
he gestures at my friend
and at the forms
as if there is a box to check
and call them both completed

I feel a thousand things
unsaid in the space
between his speech,
and as the air crackles
with the birth and death
of replies
he adds
so we all know
where the goal is
‘Do you see yourself
as a straight man?
At the end?’

I nearly laugh
but I realise
he might think it is us
that is not taking this
seriously enough

And I nearly squeeze
my friends hand to say
all that I cannot say
out loud,
but if straight
has its own check box
I dare not scribble
outside the margins
with my touch

***

My friend answers
hesitating affirmative
and this evidence
is noted

Also noted now
is their trauma
as a child
as if abuse and pain
may explain the support
they seek from here

And here
where you tell the man
in front of you
about his vagina

And here
where you ask
a sexual assault survivor
what their IUD is for

And here
when they reply ‘contraception’
you seem confused

And here
where you ask them
whom you boxed up
a straight man
if they have sex with men
where they reply
‘I have sex with people
with penises’

And here
where you look confused
at the clarification and say
‘But that was what I asked’

And even here
your boxes
and your binaries
cloud your mind

And even here
there is no space
for us

***

‘A mental health professional
will have to see you’
the doctor says
‘to diagnose you
with gender variance’
and makes it sound like
something you can catch
not washing your hands
after touching queers

My friend’s own
mental health team
are not adequate
and their identity’s
pathologisation
must come
from this place’s
‘properly trained staff’

I strangle back disbelief
and instead paint each eyebrow
with disillusionment
and arrange them in a line

***

The line lasts only an instant
as the doctor tells my friend
the steps from here

From here
where the professionals
will deem you variant

From here
where the professionals
will read the notes on the page
but not in your voice

From here
where a panel of experts
will decide
who moves on
to the next round

From here
where the entry cost
is your humanity
and the prize
is the official sanction
of your self hood

Because
apparently the real answer
to ‘How do you see yourself?’
is ‘The panel is still deliberating’

***

As we drive away
I tell my friend
we have to laugh
even though
we are seething
and not to worry about it
because we’ll find another way

But as we drive
these confusing roads
I see the ghosts
of others like us
who came here
with their hope
and found no box
to hold that either

Wrong

There is something wrong with me

There is something wrong with me
she tells herself in the mirror
as she looks into eyes
bloodshot
from drink and purging
the bags underneath
carrying more
than broken sleep

There is something wrong with me
as she sees the pale bony
road map of her body
intersected with highways
she scarred the landscape
with herself

There is something wrong with me
as she cannot make herself
stand up
any more
and the dripping walls
and wet lino against
her cheek feels
more real
than her skin
has her whole life

To say she is dying
means she is alive at this point
But how do you realise
you’re drowning
if you don’t know
what it feels like
to breathe?

There is something wrong with me
and she knows this
but she doesn’t know
what it is
and she won’t know
until she sheds
this invisible armour
of lies
and lets the truth
fight it’s way
to the surface

The man who gasps
for the first time
gasps again
at the body
she has left him
There is something wrong with me

There is something wrong with me
he tells himself in the mirror
as he looks into eyes
bloodshot
from crying
the bags packed by the door
carrying more
than broken hearts

There is something wrong with me
as he sees the newly rebuilt landscape
the new growth on his face
above the twin hills
on his chest
watered at their presence

There is something wrong with me
and he cannot stand this
any more
and he did not escape
one ocean
of expectations
to be swept under
in another

There is nothing wrong with me
I tell myself in the mirror
as I look into my eyes
I see the fire of my resolve
and I carry with me
the knowledge
that it is the world
not me
that’s broken
and a map
that holds
the homes
of the dear friends
hands I hold

There is nothing wrong with us
as we look at our love mirrored
as we look into the bright eyes
burning an honest flame
There is nothing wrong with us
as we unload our bodies
as we set down the logs
we kept
and carried
of guilt regret and shame

There is nothing wrong with us
as we light our bonfires
together
not to evaporate the oceans
but to show there’s air
to breathe

There is nothing wrong with us
There is nothing wrong
with us
Let the wind
carry this truth
and thank the truth
no longer hiding

Because although
our fires
not always
seen
There is nothing
wrong
with trying

Watch

Watch
as others
spit poison
on arrows
and shoot
them off
into the air

Watch
as they claim
it’s not their fault
as we fall

We
who have shed
our armour of lies
because no weight
is protection
from drowning

Watch
as we’re blamed
for bearing
ourselves

Watch
with the others
as we fall

Piecing colour back

I walk heightened, lightly through my past
I am me now and me then, and everywhere else entirely
I open my eyes for the first time, from both sides
I hold myself in my grandmothers arms
I am the flaking ceiling to the dusted carpet
I am old newspapers stuck on floorboards

I am the first day of school backpack, the chip packet snatched from hands, the shrieking dental nurses drill, laughed lines in plays, plain noodles, dry drink powder coughed in friends faces with a twinkle

I am the uniform crinkles and breasts and pain, scattered scrawl, smart-arse, suicidal yearning for the stars, eleven years old and wanting to die, piano codes, magazines and wheels

I am late buses and mirror friends, crushing hallways, clasped notebooks, clasped hands, theatre bricks broken, hearts teased, minds confused, secrets held, truths released, hair cut, hair grown, glowing screens communicating much while never not alone, cuts and cars and badges and blood, black painted drama blocks, more myself as someone else, stitches and pills and metal-wear and awards, friends words fading fast

I am crowded planes and sweltering sphinxes, desert foxes and dirty bright beautiful streets, three tier train bunks and forts and monkeys and fresh papaya

I am packed cars, tiny rooms, mirror name friends and constant counting, apple flavoured drunkenness and stumbled revelations, hide and seek and cancer and aching blackness and baked alaska

I am two dollars and two energy drink early morning mopping, Starbucks and starving and friendships behind glass

I am beer crate furniture and photo shoots in sheds, lurching cars, stalled sense under covers, classes drifted in and dreamed out of, sushi and angst and international phone calls and tears, prescriptions and breakdowns, walls and withdrawals and denial, a tiny rat peaking in palms for protection

I am broken locks and hiding, booklets sorted and oatmeal and obsessions, daily phone calls and worry and ghostly wandering and filthy wizards’ shadows

I am vines and birds, nibbled net curtains, walks and weariness, disappearing dreams, nests of paper and balm and heaters and heart beats and soft sweet bodies, connection and kisses and distance, drugs and drama in next door room, unrequited quietly in another, absence and apathy and attempts, and closing off this city for good

I am aimless and adrift, hands held by old friends, voices and visions and venom and panic, mania and madness molding my my mind and carnival carousel of pills pull at the cracking lacquer on that grey hardened stone, up and down, up and down, down and down they go but pulled out in time, charcoal and cold reality in colder corridors and faces

I am someone’s, and that’s enough when I cannot be trusted with myself, old friends to new love, letting light in the window I have left covered and broken long, playgrounds and cemeteries and beaches explored as new sensations, new houses, new plans, mirror haired friends, mirror hated freak, tears streamed in toilets and avoidance and fear, friends distance in time or space replaced with substances and starving, stuffing purges hidden in bathrooms and bedrooms and broken promises, Lockwood creaking house locking creaky limbs and backs collapsing with grades into grey

I am empty house sitting and spinal imaging and non-fusion and belly scars and every movement pain, wheeled trays and couches and day time talk shows and empty stomach and empty life, frustration and anger and antagonism

I am first viewed tiny house and tiny frame, nerves frayed and mind frail, three rats a bird and a mouse and nowhere to move, next doors whirlwind’s movement masking poorly bottled sadness, smoking and choking on stones of lies told and truths swallowed

I am classes restarted, classes taught, caught in clothes and lines and life I never wanted, wasting time and away and breaking down and out, starved and stoned and starring into a hole of my own creation, dug in thinking if dug deep enough I’d fall out and away in peace

I am friend’s parents broken house and white paint covering the cracking walls, but never the cracks in the warmth built with trembling and strong hands interwoven, broken words and whispered wants written in breath condensed on mirrors, white dresses spoken of but burned in private pyres, and children pressured as pressure of my own demon orphanage builds another wing by cutting off my last

I am mirror houses of youth and holding on for them, bodies washed wearily that cannot wash themselves, curry cooked and crying and firewood, would I survive this lease, released only in virtual lives where I am not myself, knowing that I do not even know what that is any more

I am travel and zines and breakdowns in sheets and terror and hope, the return of a long forgotten friend, light explosions and heart implosions and hard exposure

I am new doctors and new dreams and new drama, solidifying self with pieces taken from others, creams and needles creating needed changes, arranging mental furniture finally into something liveable inside, time taken and love shaken and home broken and pieces scattered

I am family embraced, family lost, family kept at distance, distance friends confided and finding closer than myself, visions and voices and victory in flashes and brightness frames condensing into continuous film of new

I am beautiful kindness and kinship in tiny converted villa, willingness and wishes and creativity unveiled, rainbow friendship and meaning colouring each fragment put in place, sharing and giving and wonder and life and love found in firm intensity

I am one Christmas wish, one new year, one sweet bright summer merge, a sad confusion at brisk ending, but a thankfulness of it all, as I take the parts it gave me and begin to write my own self whole

I am new opportunities, new people, accelerating life too fast to hold on to things past, clothes and costumes and rocky horror realizations, art and poetry and movement composing roads I’d never taken

I am our quiet house listening to our laughter, the vines on the window and the lights from my room, the chair where I plan, I write, I dream unapologetically me, new challenges, held loves and hold on tight to letting go, every silly crazy thing that makes a friend family home, fear catalogued and challenged and cherished in defeat, everything lost now gained the knowledge that I didn’t ever need it

I am the paper
I am the words
I am the images created

I am the glue that seals the pages of this life together
I am the spines, the cover boards of the tomes of my existence

Now I use the stacks of the continuous series of scenes of this experience
To alone stand taller every day and reach new colours on higher shelves

I am twenty-eight years old today
and I paint my life my own

Wings

I am so incredibly proud of you
and your bravery, strength and heart.

And I am so honoured to be a part
of your fast freeing path so far.

That barrier is scaled now
however nerve-wracking
it may have been.

But isn’t the air so sweet here?
Look out, there’s so much to see!

Your wings unfurled now as your life,
and your heart now open to the world.

Welcome to the other side-
fly now, you beautiful soul.

Welcome to the other side-
fly now, you beautiful girl.