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A Trans Man's Guide to Finding a Partner

after Sam Sax

Born of two worlds, I walk on hooves and claws,

inhabiting both the roles a mammal can know

and unsure which one lives most thoroughly

in my chest’s unsteady beating. I see the world

 

through one forward eye and one to the side

as hair wags from pine branches and moths

slap out my teeth. Every attempt at becoming

alive with someone else is an ambush of limbs

 

pressing on mouths, pressing mouths on the hidden,

until silence is foreign. This far into the untamed,

streetlamps are bitten off at the stump, sidewalks

have names that slither around, and the breeze

 

has a voice that keeps breaking. I touch my finger

to the warmth of a sliced lip and taste a metal

I can drink. An owl told me to rename myself

after the sound of changing, but my name has gone

 

cold and I can’t remember what I came from.

Each week, I draw out a watery shard of midnight

and inject myself with a predator’s howling

I almost have an instinct for. Friends shrivel

 

and fall from the trees, but I knew to expect hunger

from any season’s coming. Some insist I’m prey

yet prey smell the predator and run from me on sight.

Predators ignore me. Except, of course, when they don’t.

 

Maybe when I can push the doe out of my body,

the tuplied streets will be gentle to my duality,

and the seam between the pink and the black horizon

will mean nothing to the antlers of my incisors.

 

But I am also the wolf who shreds the vale

with my doe voice, my body of fur and hide,

until the vale opens into a belly of bones

and swallows my blood song like knives.

 

This is an uphill trail where everyone has a little

nasty inside. When pines flash with fire, my claws

are quick to grasp the doe my wolf is gnawing on

under my skin and rip her out by the thighs.

 

There are only castles of breath and knots

that plunge, with a twist, between my doe

and wolf teeth. The moon also destroys me

when I don’t give him the vale of my maw.

 

In the dark, it almost looks like we’re not

fighting. When I slice his face with my tongue

his white wine pours through my fur

like scars. I glitter with his salt and hate

 

his bitter scent on my lips. He holds me each time,

his icy smile curling around me until I’m paralyzed.

He, too, tried to come into me but I turned my

face away and let him mark my other body.

 

The bear leaves his signature on trees so he can find

his way back to the honey. The doe ever-frozen

inside me whispers give him your entrails so I splay

myself on a platter at every heat of crooked

 

breathing. When he tore my throat open,

I came. I was almost surprised. I feel most

predatory when hung over a fire. He burned

inside me until he vanished from the sky

 

his smile winking out among pines as his pupils

expanded. His nose on my wrist, he tasted

the blood of my name. He deadnamed me

again and again, until I became a threat

 

I should have run from. But his growls are

also pleas, and the trees are just fingers

reaching toward a sky of white blood

splatter. Don’t be surprised. I died already

 

at the start of this song.




This poem was a finalist in the New South Poetry Prize and was published in New South, 2022

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