Project Description


The shower stall
my body’s confessional
—here, I admit, I love
most what can be
removed from me.

I raise the heat
until my thighs
bloom with small
guilty hands, scrub
dead cells, till
new skin to soil.

Trace fingernails
across my skin, each
red ghost they leave
behind, a scalpel
daydream, plowed
& opened dirt.

False rain feeds a new
season’s unexpected
blooms. I have learned
to call them weeds.

Meaning: unwanted;
invader; invasive
species. I’m taught
removal as “women’s
work.” Nothing’s more
femme than empty

field, a place to bury
seed. I mean, when
my grandfather tells
me, You will never
be a woman, this is
a matter of geography,

my body not yet
hollowed. Valley
at the meeting
of my hips, more
forest than clearing.

Pelvis a strangulation
of bloodvine, thick
choke of branches.
I mean, what man
will want to conquer
skin as wilderness
as mine’s become?

I mean, this back’s
too broken to bend
in all the ways
a woman must.
O, but I have tried

so many methods
to tend this garden
of salted flesh. Gentle
scythe of a razor. Plucked
stems out by their root.

As a little girl, I watched
my grandmother tear
dandelions from the damp
loam & laugh, her breath
winging seeds into the air.

She knelt each day
until the labor curled
her palms inward,
made root balls
of her swollen joints.

Once, I asked her why
she pulled the weeds
each day, only to watch
them return? Why replace
their flower with another
then they are already
there? She told me:
This is women’s work,
to remake the wild
into something
worthy of a man
deciding to keep alive.

I feel most daughter
when I remember
this, when I make
myself bare despite
the snapped stem,
the split taproot

of me. I first learned
womanhood as
survival—a field,
or body, made
so blank there is no
-thing for a man
to sharpen his
imagination against.

But even when I drenched
the field of my thighs in
a litany of poisons, still
each bud unclenched
its tiny golden fist
as if to say:

We were your first teachers.
Even in the harshest season,
we survive. We bloom forever
where we are told we don’t belong. 

There’s No Word in English for the First Rain of Any Season

My friend’s mother used to say
that every time you cry, you are
crying for everything that has
happened since the last time
you cried. Ceramic piggy bank
bursting with a debt of salt.
When I began to transition
it wasn’t into a daughter, but
instead a flood. Wide-eyed breach
birth of memory. I took the pills
inside me & out spilled blue
nail polish, ropes of silver chain,
my mother’s curls, my father’s
gin-drowned face, sky blue baby
clothes soaked in lake water, fish
hooks, sapphire earrings, spent
copper shells, Christmas cards,
prom tickets, & my birth certificate
drenched till dissolving, handfuls
of baby teeth, trout scales, burst
ballpoints, vertebrae, knuckle
bones worn to dice, one diamond
missing from a second wedding
ring—the list goes on & on & ends
as all things seem to, polished
brilliant by hard rain.

When a Man Sees Me on the Corner of Washington & Artery Framed in His Windshield, My Hair a Flurry of Red, & Shouts “Hey, Check Out That Fire Bush” to His Friend in the Passenger Seat, I Think He Must Have Meant Fire Crotch & Just Stumbled Over the Words, But Isn’t This How I’ve Always Wanted to be Seen?

As the distance between woman
& women? The first sign of some-
thing holier than man? Anything
you could mistake for a god.

torrin a. greathouse

torrin a. greathouse is a transgender cripple-punk & MFA candidate at the University of Minnesota. She is the author of boy/girl/ghost (TAR Chapbook Series, 2018) & winner of the Peseroff Poetry Prize, Palette Poetry Prize, & Beacon Street Prize. Their work is published/forthcoming in POETRYThe New York TimesPoem-a-DayRedivider, & The Kenyon Review. She is the assistant editor of The Shallow Ends.