one-time psychotherapy session

the effort of appearing relaxed and comfortable
twisted the psychologist into an origami-like shape
            he had been duly informed of my transgender nature in preceding email correspondence
in fairness to psychologists everywhere:
he had no experience with trans patients but had offered that he was willing to learn

$130 later, i wished i had approached the entire session
as an experiment in poetry from the start
my shoes dutifully removed
i was not at liberty to simply jump up and run
tightly pressed into the patient role
i bit the inside of my cheeks to summon patience

before i had nested my uncertainties into the couch, the psychologist had already betrayed himself once, offering me a glass of water then proceeding to pour it and drink from it with slightly fixated eyes. Catching his stare, he interrupted and commented that he must have been thirsty to drink the water he had meant to offer me.

my resignation sighed my body into the couch
with a slight sense of betrayal i noticed
the interaction already writing itself into spoken words
when he misspoke

pronouncing enunciating announcing my old name once, twice, too many, too many, letting its ethnic flavor bounce of his pursed lips, apparently intrigued, he rolls it on his tongue while soundwaves pierce my comfort

perhaps I should charge you for Trans 101 I think back at him
too subtle a defensive weapon
the thought bounces off the origami folds
circles into the spiraling painting
intended to calm soothen focus troubled minds
        i feel an urgent need to curse
superseded only by my even more urgent need
to talk about the excessive self-monitoring which i monitor
while i’m engaging in this conversation
with the same amount of enthusiasm
as one who has paid too much for a movie ticket
to walk out in the middle of the film
no matter how predictable
the ending

[Western States Communication Association Conference, Selected Spotlight Performance, Performance Studies Interest Group, Reno, NV, 17 February 2013)

 

along the way

i expected age to arrive with clarity
a smartly packed suitcase for the remainder of the trip
instead i find myself standing at the luggage carousel
waiting to recognize what’s mine

from the selection of travel weary memories oddly tagged bags claim me

i expected age to arrive with precision
a timetable of passages neatly divided into discrete sections
instead i find myself simultaneously held & propelled by seasonal imprints
rotating out of sequence

in the 30-second morning grab for gloves, images tumble into my closet drawer

my grandmother’s back as she plows forward in the chilly autumn wet, her crumpled handkerchief tugging at her coat pocket
my mother’s breath shaping winter air as she walks the horses to pasture
my little brother’s hand, cold and pink from the snow, thawing in mine
or are those my three-year-old son’s frost-teased cheeks I recall
his hands now so much larger than mine

crisp and clear for now
i can almost taste a time
at which a bite in the morning air and a flurry or two will blend those images, scents and smells into one visceral recognition: winter

i wonder which gender will dress my season

i expected age to arrive with rationality
a greasy, dog-eared manual of tested decision-making criteria
instead
i find myself intuitively weaving in and out of places
existing only in a fragile mass of neurons

one wonders about winters lost in synaptic transmissions,
winters whose stage productions can no longer be corroborated,
forty-six winters competing for sensory primacy
in a setting as fragile as fresh snow

[Western States Communication Association Conference, Selected Spotlight Performance, Performance Studies Interest Group, Reno, NV, 17 February 2013)

in passing

i’ve always had words
they wrote me
it was my voice that failed me

not until repeated applications of testosterone elongated the pairs of folds of mucous membranes that project into the cavity of the larynx

could i feel my words
their weight
        wearing me up
        wearing me down
        wearing me out
throughout daily interactions
until i fatigue of processing

            want the words to stop the vision to dim the sounds to fade and the muscles to just relax

so in pursuit of induced relaxation
i enter the liquor store on Shelbourne and North Dairy
feigning nonchalance
        just like any other guy
        getting some beer

i walk up to the cashier
unable to ascertain the ways i’m being gendered
not uncomfortable in that ambiguity
i walk out the door
the six pack of Tuborg Gold bottles chiming softly
when my cell phone
deep in my pocket
sets off the alarm

time floats in and around the bottles in my grip
my performance – suspended
awaiting judgment

everyone turns to look

it is Saturday night and there are many people in this store seeking salvation and absolution in absolute vodka

my body tenses
into almost a turn
flinches back at sudden eye contact with the cashier
my breath
curls under my tongue

Excuse me, Sir
he hollers
and relief swivels my neck around
surely brings the import beer to a boil
as i dig up my cell phone to hold it in plain view
It’s just my cell phone
i say
my voice
firmly
carries my words

[Invited Reading, Pride is the Word, Victoria, British Columbia, July 2010]

 

on exhibit @ Landesmuseum Trier

my smart phone teleports images of skeletal male
only slightly delayed by transcontinental passage
simultaneously maintaining & refuting
dimensions of time and space
intellectually disputed
but persistently ruling our rhythms:
the museum will close in 15 minutes

but my smart phone
still requires my agency
to disturb the neatly reassembled bones,
weapons, fabric fragmented into such curated order

his remains found close to the village I grew up in
no descendants to claim an ancestor
the groups of semi-bored visiting French high-school students
as likely to qualify as my own tired genes

                                                                 i think him male
as instructed by artefacts and interpretations
although he could have just as easily been a transwoman
i contemplate the fate of being on display mislabeled for eternity
but find eternity no more damning than presence

                                                                 i feel skeletal
the sudden lack of flesh and fervor strikes me,
then coddles me like the traces of sand and soil once blanketing this human
years ago, museum visits catapulted me into cultural tension,
warped my tongue, twisted my ears
sound vibrating with taste
teased me with possibilities
of locating self in
too many rooms, too many interpretations

now
                                                                 i am boiled down to
                                                     bones
still standing
the weight of centuries as light or heavy as the weight of today

the incongruencies of being follow me from room to room
echoing the stifled giggles of the touring teenagers
still safely cloaked in pretend distinction
between self and century-old skeletons

clothed only in time
my index finger presses lightly
on the glass box containing her remains
connecting in vibrant mortality
comfortably suited for a new year

[Western States Communication Association Conference, Selected Spotlight Performance, Performance Studies Interest Group, Anaheim, CA, 14-18 February 2014]

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