Don’t Ask Me What a Transwoman Is

Ask me how my day was.
Ask me what dreams I’ve had.
Ask me how I slept last night.
If you find my cheeks streaked with mascara, ask me
what happened, what is wrong, what broke through my eyeballs.
Ask me what it was like to enter the women’s restroom for the first time.
Ask me what I fear?
Ask me what I would have if I could have anything.
Ask me who I have lost and how I’ve survived.
Ask me what life means to me.
Ask me what death means.
Ask me if I want cremation or burial? Or something else?
Ask me how or if I have loved?
Ask me who has loved me? Ask me how love feels?

My experience is different from yours.
But we are not our experiences.
My body is different from yours.
But we are not our bodies.

Can we agree to stop staring at each other
as if we were aliens from different planets?
Can we stop defining each other as if there were a drawer
where you belong and a closet
with a hanger waiting for me?

Don’t ask me what it means,
what it’s like,
how I know
I’m a transgender woman.
Don’t ask me how I dare to call myself a woman.
Just a woman.

Ask me what baseball team I care about.
None of them.
Ask me about the birds I’ve known.
Thousands. The kingfisher is my sister.
Ask me if the seasons matter.
Yes. Last winter nearly killed me.
Ask me why I chose Ellee as my new name rather than Rose or Rhianna.
It’s the name of a woman in a movie who went looking
for alien worlds, where she believed
her dead mother and father had gone.
Ask me if I think of death.
Yes. Every day.
Ask me what I believe. Ask me what matters.

Kindness and quiet and touch and getting out of bed
even when, sometimes, I feel the urge
to empty every prescription bottle on my writing desk,
then roll up into the blankets and sleep forever.

A Sonnet that Surrenders and Moves On

I wish you a thousand white flags. One flag for each guilt.
Guilt for a father who worked himself out of my young life,
for not pulling me out of second grade, away from the elder-women
who once scared the shit into my seven year-old shorts.

I wish you a new sense of hearing. I wish you to hear
the maple tree you and dad planted and all these years
how it grew and spoke to you, its subtle voice like a breeze
in its own shadow, a long drawn out breath of gratitude.

I wish you new vision. I wish you that one male and one
female grackle in springtime. The same grackles we saw
at Lake Meade, where three-foot goldfish and silver
striped bass ate the popcorn we fed them. I wish your soul

to rest into the birds’ dizzying love-ritual, into
that one simple need on which all others depend.

Sonnet for the Beaten Woman

May the white-faced cuticle moon give you reason to walk through
another bland blue-sky day. May the hoards of flaming red,
orange and yellow flowers place their names into your ears:
orange poppies, red poppies, sunflower explosions.

May the winter-dried marsh suddenly flood with green reeds,
ruddy ducks, Caspian terns and belted kingfishers. Don’t forget
it’s the female kingfishers, not the usual males, who carry the colors,
who possess the power of attraction. Remember this and let your hair

refuse to be tamed. Let it form its crimson crazy halo
around your face. Let the smile-preachers fear your volcanic
eruptions, the smelting oven of your eyes, the white noise
of a thousand hornets inside your mouth. Tell them today is the last try

out of ten, the last admittance into the locked hospital wing.
Tell them this is the end. The end of anger. The last urge to run.

Wrenched my back Saturday night. Then slept on it wrong and woke the next day as if skewered with a broad sword. Cried and cursed in my room, tried to move my motorcycle, to park it out of the way on the street, lost my balance and fell over. Out of anger and frustration, threw my slouchy backpack into the driveway and just sat by the fallen bike hoping I could seep into the cement and dirt, crying and I could water the weeds between the cracks, but that was nonsense so Scarlet helped me lift the bike, park it and head to urgent care even thought it was fathers day and she had a husband to be with and a slow cooker that hadn’t been started, and the co-pay was a fucking $75 and all I got out of it was a damn prescription and instructions to take Ibuprophen 3 times a day and it won’t get any better for somewhere after four days which means all the shit piled in my room would have to wait that much longer, be in my space that much longer weighing down on that part of my brain responsible for cheerfullness and hope.

Now, Monday morning and look on Facebook to find Samantha has written a beautiful piece about her father that reminds me a bit of my mother, and I say thank you to the god of creative writing and the god of gratitude, and my parent’s god, even though my back still makes it hard to stand up straight or walk like a woman younger than 95.

Thank you gods of pain.
Thank you gods of giving and asking for help.
Thank you Scarlet.
Thank you Samantha.
Thank you demons of despair and the calm cool blue mornings that follow behind you.

Sonnet for the Nearly Admitted

It’s Tuesday. I think. Almost admitted myself
into the hospital, but they don’t think I need
to stay. I’ll go every weekday for six hours
and do group things and try not to look too much

like a zebra without stripes, or walk around
like Pinoccio with my pivoting puppet head and my hope
to become a real person. But that can wait until tomorrow.
I am home now, in bed with the usual inanimate company:

blankets and pillows, a suitcase with clothes I’ll keep,
a hamper with things I’ll toss. I’ve already wiped
the bright blue mascara from around my eyes, erased
the failed eyebrows and turned off the lights.

And while I’m still awake, I manage to think of one
good thing: stale yellow marshmallow birds at Easter.