By: Benjamin Rhodes
This Poem Is For Cis People
A dozen trans folks stand shirtless
and chanting around a wax-drip
pentagram. A cis person walks in
and says It’s just so hard for me.
The goat in the corner drops dead,
all that wasted blood.
A cis guy says he instead of they
screams fuck and cuts out his tongue
with a plastic knife. He and his date
are issued a lifetime ban from this
and any other Wendy’s.
On Christmas morning, a trans girl wakes up
to an empty house. No family, no furniture,
no mirrors. It’s what she’s always wanted.
By noon her living room is full of squatters.
A pine tree hangs from the ceiling.
Her kitchen becomes the headquarters
of a non-profit bakery that benefits
sex workers and only sells sugar cookies.
A line forms in the bathroom as people take turns
soaking in the tub. They don’t change the water
in between each round. They don’t use
a bath bomb from Lush. When everyone’s done
they form a backrubbing circle like theater kids,
only this time with coconut oil and nudity.
Then they braid each other’s hair, even the ones
with close-cropped keratin. Dinner is served
on the patio. Someone cracks the radio with a bat
when it starts to play White Christmas.
At the National Convention for Transexuals
all the panelists and keynote speakers are cis.
Everyone in the audience is cis. The people
handing nametags out at the front entrance
are cis. The employees at the in-house Einstein’s
and Sbarro’s are cis, as are the bagels and pepperoni.
The bathrooms have been made gender neutral via
a taped-up word document that says Anything Goes.
The men’s room on the third floor has turned into
the hottest cruising spot for cis gays under forty
and soon its participants outnumber the attendees
in the “Come and See Pictures of One Hundred Bodies
Before and After Their Sex Change Operations
(Followed By a ‘See If You Can Guess Which
Penis Is Real’) Interactive Panel.”
The janitor at this venue is trans, but he called off
to spend the weekend on the lake with his family.
It’s his daughter’s birthday. She’s turning twelve.
Two Stanzas on Dysphoria
I understand what’s real about
my body. What it is
I hide from, what I cover all
alone. There’s no mistake
in flesh, there’s nothing sweet about
the blood that’s gushing just
below your skin – and what if you
could taste it? Would you gag?
A man in a neon vest stared me down as I got out of my truck. He’s not the reason my jaw is clenched.
If the back of your neck has been slapped
every time you stand up straight,
you learn to keep your eyes
on your feet. It’s not just that
my dad asked me to take down
a Facebook post because it offended
my grandpa, it’s that my grandpa
won’t call me by my name, that he
withdrew into his body when I
hugged him, don’t you know
how hard it is they’re trying?
It would be nice to go to bed for once
without having to crack my knuckles.
Benjamin Anthony Rhodes is a queer and trans poet living in Northeast Ohio, where he is a poetry candidate with the NEOMFA. Born and bred on the bayou, Benjamin hails from Louisiana and earned his BA in English from the University of Louisiana at Monroe. His work can be found in ode to Queer, Volney Road Review, and Freezeray