TC Tolbert – Tucson Poet Laureate

(traffic traveling
on interstate) – My name is TC Tolbert and
I am Tucson's Poet Laureate and I'm gonna read a
poem about my existence as a transgender person
and thinking through names. By birth name is Melissa
and so reflecting on that. "In someone else's home,
2018, February 8th, "you are sitting in front of
a considerable yellow mirror. "Carved into the frame of
the mirror are flowers, "the leaves of which
where they solo "could be mistaken for
thumbnails lined up at a salon, "waiting for the
arrival of the hands "to which they
should be attached. "There are fish under
water above you, "trying to tell the
night what is coming. "One fish in particular
has eyelashes "and a body covered in lines, "much like a topographical map. "You remember there
are tiny brooms "all over your own skin
that, even if you say stop, "will not stop. "You have said stop so many
times before to your own body, "whatever that is and the
lines being drawn upon it. "Now that testosterone
has occluded estrogen, "there must be fewer
bodies like yours or more, "it's hard to say. "You often mistake reflection
for it's lyrical sibling "and it hurts to see
anything this late. "The auburn closet to
your right was built "after the room was finished. "Closet isn't exactly
the right word, "but neither is metal
bar with hangers inside "and a regular
collection of shelves. "You've always been
drawn to containers, "repositories of any kind, "strung with a simple
strip of cloth. "Perhaps this is why
you cannot call Melissa, "or even Missy, your dead name. "You understand the problems
with birth name and still, "you've spent so much
time bargaining to believe "every name you've
ever been called "points at least
partially to a body alive "that you are willing
to love today. "The mirror only returns parts "of what holds you to yourself, "no matter the angle "and in this way it
is just like language, "just like every
story about transition "with which you've
been harassed. "Faced with the haunting
of our innumerable, "we become severing. "Your prayer was severaled
like the night to which "you are repeatedly
hope-harnessed "and into which soon
enough you will pass."

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