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