When I Spoke

1


When I spoke the words I am gay
I had let them fester like blood on a prison cell wall.
I hadn’t known that they would free themselves.

They scaled the swollen gutter of my throat, and shot
themselves right through Uncle Andy’s
diaphragm, holding the air in lungs hostage so he
had no words left of his own. He could only unfurl his
vinegar lips to sputter silent thank yous across my brow.

I kissed the darkness three times, because it stole
those three merciless words from me
before my Mother could.

She told me that I would never
survive a New York winter:

Mother, painted face and gossamer cheeks. It wasn’t you
walking down the hall to Economics, when you heard
a familiar voice, a voice that told jokes you always
laughed at in class, and he said: I can
tolerate faggots,
but if they flirt with me, I wouldn’t
hesitate
to beat them down.

I swore that was the best joke I’d ever heard, because
my stomach laughed itself into hollow
tree trunk,
and then nothingness.

Mother,
painted face and gossamer cheeks,
you wouldn’t know that I
hated him more than he
hated me.


2


Let me tell you what makes me measure
my existence by the pauses, when the silence
between each stammering heartbeat screams
like a head snapping forward.

The taste of gangrene is much
too sweet, so it’s better to slide my fingers across
my swollen gutter throat,
aching for that ticking pulse to just
stand
still,

when each throb of the heart will dance
to the cadence of euthanasia.

But the rabid pounding
against my ribcage,
fists upon flesh, bare-chested,
is the wielding of hammer and chisel.
He is a blacksmith,

And it is he who wrought my personhood.


3


I can’t tell you who I am.

But I can tell you that as I sat in that
lavender bedroom, when
my Mother spit that quivering prayer,
fix my boy,
fix my boy,
I knew then, the worst combinations of words
always came in threes. But I,
made of only jagged elbows,
clicking jawbone
and slivers of teenage torso,

I pieced each slab of soiled
skin back together, and
I hissed at her,
I am consummate and I am beauty
and you cannot fix what is
not broken.

And I can tell you that once, a woman
christened me Angel
and told me what my Mother couldn’t,
that the venom in my veins
was only stardust.
She had all of her Angels turn their eyes up
to that slice of heaven and we screamed
yes yes yes
until we became phoenixes, rising from the ashes
of our yesterdays.

And I can tell you that my little brother
has the voice of weathered sidewalks, rich
with the cracks of prepuberty and smooth
like innocence unsullied. And his
I believe in you could sing
every spilled breath to sleep.

I can tell you that my Mother
could very well be right when she told me I
would never survive
a New York winter,

because I am only jagged elbows,
clicking jawbone,
and slivers of teenage torso.
But there is one thing
I know for certain:

that boy,
who let those three merciless words
scale his swollen gutter of a throat,

he
is a blacksmith,
and he

has taught
me

everything.


Fix My Boy, 2014 by Ana Hinojosa


NOTE: This poem is part of “Pethetic Little Thing,” curated by Tavi Gevinson. Read the rest of the portfolio in Poetry’s July/August 2015 issue.
Source: Poetry (July/August 2015)