by Gabe Moses
Forget the images you’ve learned to attach
To words like cock and clit,
Chest and breasts.
Break those words open
Like a paramedic cracking ribs
To pump blood through a failing heart.
Push your hands inside.
Get them messy.
Scratch new definitions on the bones.
Get rid of the old words altogether.
Make up new words.
Call it a click or a ditto.
Call it the sound he makes
When you brush your hand against it through his jeans,
When you can hear his heart knocking on the back of his teeth
And every cell in his body is breathing.
Make the arch of her back a language
Name the hollows of each of her vertebrae
When they catch pools of sweat
Like rainwater in a row of paper cups
Align your teeth with this alphabet of her spine
So every word is weighted with the salt of her.
When you peel layers of clothing from his skin
Do not act as though you are changing dressings on a trauma patient
Even though it’s highly likely that you are.
Do not ask if she’s “had the surgery.”
Do not tell him that the needlepoint bruises on his thighs look like they hurt
If you are being offered a body
That has already been laid upon an altar of surgical steel
A sacrifice to whatever gods govern bodies
That come with some assembly required
Whatever you do,
Do not say that the carefully sculpted landscape
Bordered by rocky ridges of scar tissue
Looks almost natural.
If she offers you breastbone
Aching to carve soft fruit from its branches
Though there may be more tissue in the lining of her bra
Than the flesh that rises to meet itLet her ripen in your hands.
Imagine if she’d lost those swells to cancer,
A car accident instead of an accident of genetics
Would you think of her as less a woman then?
Then think of her as no less one now.
If he offers you a thumb-sized sprout of muscle
Reaching toward you when you kiss him
Like it wants to go deep enough inside you
To scratch his name on the bottom of your heart
Hold it as if it can-
In your hand, in your mouth
Inside the nest of your pelvic bones.
Though his skin may hardly do more than brush yours,
You will feel him deeper than you think.
Realize that bodies are only a fraction of who we are
They’re just oddly-shaped vessels for hearts
And honestly, they can barely contain us
We strain at their seams with every breath we take
We are all pulse and sweat,
Tissue and nerve ending
We are programmed to grope and fumble until we get it right.
Bodies have been learning each other forever.
It’s what bodies do.
They are grab bags of parts
And half the fun is figuring out
All the different ways we can fit them together;
All the different uses for hipbones and hands,
Tongues and teeth;
All the ways to car-crash our bodies beautiful.
But we could never forget how to use our hearts
Even if we tried.
That’s the important part.
They’ve got this.
Don’t worry about the bodies.
I personally have had no experience of transsexualism except what I’ve seen on t.v., and now this but I don’t think that that is the only thing one can get from this, what I call, beautiful piece of poetry as everyone has difficulties with appearances (the few who don’t are very lucky – tell me your secret?). I think that the idea to “carcrash our bodies beautiful” may seem a slightly extreme way to put it, but I love it. What I see in this is just through living; getting scars that we may or may not see, bumps and bruises – its all part of growing and ‘learning’. As you grow your body becomes a map of stories, each making you more and more beautiful. It’s like an old pair of shoes that have been worn everywhere and have holes, rips and stains on them. You love them because there a bit damaged. They have a history. Maybe that is why people like vintage clothes so much, because we feel there is an absence in our lives that we have to compensate for… or maybe not. Anyway, I’m diverging, but this is part of the essence of the poem. It’s about loving what is there in the moment, rather than one it has been, what it should be, or what it will be.
I also admire the way he has written about sex; replacing more vulgar words (though sometimes sexy in their own right) with more emotive and conceptual ideas. Because sex isn’t always just about fucking; it’s about sharing, it’s about bliss, it’s about feeling alive. A way that transexualism is admirable in how it really requires love for that person as a person rather than a gender.
I’ve put in bold the words that really stood out to me, and the quotation about our ‘vessels’ is what led to me to discover this poem in the first place, and I think it is such a beautiful expression. I try not to use the word beautiful too often, because it can sound insincere and over the top, but in this case I struggle to find another way to put it. I also love that way of writing; “and honestly…” It makes the poem seem real, and puts all the emphasis on the words that follow. “They can barely contain us” No they can’t. Just as what you see is never all you get. You get their insecurities, their hopes, their secrets, their life.