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.

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?

 

ii.

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

 

ii.

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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