Four Poems by torrin a. greathouse

& so i am writing another poem about gravestones

which is to say, i am writing about destinations & not
that we don’t all end up there, eventually, but

i have watched far too many of us arrive to heaven, anxious
& far too early as if it were a party, & we invited

only to find the doors locked, as if birth were an invitation
[or gravestone] that carried the wrong name

to us on the wind & after all, what is a gravestone but
anything that carries our name to us, heavy as bones

so maybe this poem is not about a gravestone at all, but
a mouth gaping & loud, sick withered maw

in skin like the ugliest sunset, that opens up & swallows
a name, spits it out broken & maybe this

was only ever about our names, how they leave our
bodies, liquid, like blood & take the form of
whatever will still hold them


If Must You Bury Me, america

do not bury me in the wet mouth // of your dirt, too many years left waiting to swallow me whole // concrete teeth already sharpened // on my bloodless family’s skulls // ground to pearls in your bone drenched summers.

do not hang your flag for me, america // like a body strung at half mast this body // once beautiful, now limp // & troubled only by the wind // do not hang your flag for me at all // i don’t want to be remembered with anything // that looks so much like a child’s slit wrist.

do not invite the police to guard my funeral // do not dress my firing squad in blue // to hide the white // do not let them trample my memory in two colors // if they salute the earth swallowing me // it will be with the sound of another // 21 mouths opening in the dirt // & the smell of gunpowder // stained fingers.

do not burn my body // for you will make straw of these brittle bones // make ash of my effigy // let fire redact my elegy // spin ink back into charcoal.

if you must bury me, america // do this in open air // i read once that on the Tibetan Steppes they place the dead on mountaintops to be devoured // by birds of prey // if i die, then leave me to the vultures // let them pick me clean // on the evening news // let them judge me by the weight of my bones // as they crack them open on live TV // searching for anything that will let them name me // junkie, crook, anarchist, terrorist, bad queer, filthy queer // meat that rotted before they ever sank their teeth into it // & what good is the queer body they cannot consume // that does not dance pretty for them // as they fire bullets at its feet?

if i must be buried // do not place me gently // in some dark grave // let me stain the place where i decay // let me chalkline this body into forever // let your children learn to fear this place // & let the places where every black body & brown body & queer body & trans body falls be made holy // & let it burn their eyes & if we must be buried, america // then let this be the way we first reclaim the earth.


notes on a park at dusk [mid-episode] a week after the election


i stare into the surface / of the lake this only / unmoving thing
while the sky mandalas itself / & there is a church / under the
water burning / building made plume / of brilliant light &
the surface of the lake / is clear as glass / a mirror / or
a television screen / this is to say: there is a history / of churches
steeples blackened / as the head of a match / floating
face down / is it drowning?



shadows weave a net : from the fingers of trees : unnatural
pulse of shadow : flash bulb in reverse : & the chatter
of voices like helicopter : blades & how they cannot touch
me : my shivering in dress & cardigan : & cock & bones out
-growing my identity : & the blessing of safety : not given
to others : a gaping hatchet wound : across the moon : black
face : spilling light : a reminder



the pathway splinters / under my feet i stoop & press / a broken
snail shell to my ear & hear / america—sirens / an avalanche
of howling / [ransacking my chest] the dull / wet thud of fist
percussion / a gunshot ringing out / clearer than the liberty bell


A Heaven with Better Music

“I am sure there are other heres. / a somewhere
for every kind / of somebody” —Danez Smith

we name this church, floor empty as
a promise, somewhere. we drip sweat

& call it rain. enough combat boots & heels
become thunder. we fill this room bursting,

become a downpour. our skin is drenched
& smells electric for days. we become

the sound of flesh on flesh, the grinding
muscle & bone or anything that can pretend

itself bone, in a room pressed too tight for
running. this is a prayer for queer bodies

ransacked by hope & fear when the snare
strikes with a sound too close to a trigger

finger snapping. our skin is a prayer
for softer songs than this. in heaven

the jukebox only plays the kind of songs
you can dance to with your eyes closed.


night stretches, black latex tight over
the city’s curves & the glitterbombed

sky. another name for heaven. any star
can become the body of a constellation

you just have to connect them right. see,
i am naming this one Alisha, & this one

Hande & Tara & Barbie & Nadine & Niurkeli
& William & Lorena & Monica & Paulett &

Jasmine & Kayden & Veronica & Maya & T.T.
& Demarkis & Kedarie & Kourtney & Shante &

Keyonna & Reese & Mercedes & Amos & Goddess
& Deeniqua & Dee & Erykah & Rae’Lynn & Crystal

& Jazz & Brandy & Sierra & Noony & Nathallya
& Bié & T.E. & Paula & Launa & Letecia & Andinho &

please stop giving me names. i am afraid
we will run out of stars. please.


imagine a year that looks like anything
but a field littered with graves, open &

hungry for our burying. a year where
we are not told that making lightning

rods of our bones is a cure for this
holy, & our leaders do not prey us dead.

imagine the church floor, or the sky, buckling
under the weight of ghosts. imagine that

all songs taste like stars. fire-diamonds
pouring over your tongue. imagine heaven

is a dance floor, our feet—thunder drums,
our hips pressed like palms in prayer &

we are singing the words to every song.
we will make every dance floor a heaven.

we have learned to make any song a gospel
if you play it loud enough. for what is any gospel

hymn—but a song

for calling the dead               back          to dance?


torrin a. greathouse is a genderqueer, schizophrenic, cripple-punk from Southern California. They are the Editor and Co-Founder of Black Napkin Press. Their work has been published or is forthcoming in Assaracus, Crab Fat Magazine, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, Polychrome Ink, Rabbit Catastrophe Review, Calamus Journal, Emerge Literary Journal, and The Feminist Wire. torrin’s work was nominated for the Pushcart Prize by Rust + Moth. When they are not writing or editing poetry, they are trying to survive in america long enough to earn a degree.

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