Spencer Williams

Rumination on a Mother//Sister Tongue

                         My girlbody
        tangled in
           yolk strings
                    aside my
            sister.

                                   We
                                   pulled
                                     an embryonic
                                                           distance
                                              between us
                                                         through a
                                                          thick of reeds
                                                                 grey as
                                      assigned              biology.

                                      I think about this
                                           often:
                                             our mother’s womb
                                          like hands
                                                  digging out
                                          the fleshy core
                                         of pan de muerto.
                                                     
                                                             In her, we grew
                                                                                   towards
                                                                  the outer rim
                                                          of flimsy paper womb
                                        so           muted
                                           in pink as to
                     appear bashful
     or embarrassed
        by           borders,
           by the
           cruelty
                     to which our
                     faces
                        would eventually
                                                       turn
                              on the outside,
                     invisible even
                              when facing
                                           each
                                                other.

                                                                              •

                                                    Towards             the edge
                                                           a plate
                                                                  scatters
                                                      off white
                                                               skin
                                                        and weeds
                                                  black
                                                           with lust,
                                                                           drawing
                                                              full recon-
                                                figuration:
                                                                 body
lines
                                                   spirals
recede
                                                against
knots
                                               blood
arteries
                                                  umbilical
rivers
                                                      tubes
indistinct
                                               like siblings
                                                          with countries
                                                                                      at war
                                                                                        with
                                                                                            each other’s
                                   stained
                                           particles
                                                             ligaments
                                                   chunks of
                   internal          bleeding
                in pieces
                in                                          water
                            salt dissolves
              remains
       a border

     wet with
              
                           mother’s
                                        organ
                                 entrails
                                            leaking                               cursive
                       over both
                                          our                                                   names.

                                                                                •


In a reoccurring dream,      we are bulbous
                                                                                              shapes                                 floating
                                                                                                       stagnant
                                                                                            muddy                                   and
                                                                                         sheltering                                    flies
                                                                                in                                                  upended
                                                                                 creek beds.

                                              I believe my                                     sister
                                                 told me

                                                                                         never give
                                                                                               name to
                                                                blood
                                                                                          as if to
                                                                                                  share it.

                                                                                                            I still
                                                                                                            have siblings
                                                                                                   I’ve never met
                                                                                              rooting
                                                                                                      deep into
                                                                                                                 my girth.
                                                                 If                       they are dead,
                                                                    then I am buried                 too and
                                                                    the lot of us are
                                                                                        pale spots
                                                                           of land                       floating
                                                                   like an
                                                                            archipelago
                                                                                                   beneath                  the ground.

                                                                           •

                                              It is no use.
                                                                          If my blood sister’s
                                                                        fingertips
                                               betray reflections
                                                 of my own,
                                    they are cursed
                                                         to stain
                               every surface
                 with oil.
                                                                          For though I outlived
                                                                                the salt
                                                                                         burn of my birth,
                                                                            I remain
                                                                                     uncertain
                                                                                         of the month
                                                                    my sister came,                       only
                                                                                    that it happened,

                                                                                                           that it is as factual
as the name I
                                         give myself.

                                                                                                      And if my blood
                                                                            sister’s mouth
                                                   resembles
                         in          shape
                 my own, her
                           tongue remains
                           a stranger
                   unghosted by
                                            familial                    misinterpretation,
                  meaning she
          must know
this feeling too,
                  can spell it out
                                             in ways I
                                                             cannot translate.

                                                                               •

When
                        Carol,
my adoptive mother,                travelled
                                                     to Beijing
                                                                  with Carl
                                            to bring home
                                        his adopted                    daughter,
                                                         Carol too brought
                                        back a dish                                  of red
                                               paste for me
                                                                    to stamp
                                                                     my name
                                                            in Hanzi with.
                                                                                My name thus
                                                     became
                                     an imprint
                                       on every
                                                 bedroom wall,
                                                             a wound
                                            unbandaged
                                     and                                                              breathing.
                                                                                                   My fingers
                                                                                               dragging
                                                                                     softly              my name
                                                                                           into the chalk
                                                                                   white,
                                                         the blood of it
                                         fading like
                                         a mother
                                                 tongue buried
                                                            by generation.

                                                                            •

            The papers say the two of us
are not                twins
                                                              even as I do
                                              not reject
                                                           the idea
                                                                        that we are,
                                                                        in some
                                                                              psychic way,
bridged                                                                                   by thread
          at the
hipbone.
            Us two        (then three,       then four siblings)
                           uncut from
                the same
tired cloth,
              torn
                       like a handful
       of loose hair,
a scab
           browning at
the knee.

       Sister,             where
              do                        you                                                                           reside?
  
When                              I                                                                                              pull
           hairs             from                                                                                         my
      face…                are                                                                                                 you
there in the wound?                            Is this you
        you          threatening                     to
                                        bleed                                           me?

                                                                              •

In sleep,
            I see birth mother
floating
                    above                   me,                                                                                bright
  pink                      and
            naked
   as                              a                                                                                 prophecy.        She
                          chokes down
                     my body until her
                                      mouth
                                      floods with
                                 cells and       opposition.

                                                                    On the night I was conceived,

                         Mexico
tangled
                                                                   birth mother’s hair                            into canals
                                                                             of blood.
                             Seven months later,
and I entered grave
                           and
                      unpronounced.
                                                         How                                         to name
                                                                                                 a dying breath
                                                                            something other than quick,
facile.
                                          How to trace
                                    the blood
                                        back to a mother
                   I have one
                   photo of, who
                                           does not know
                                      I am not what
                                         they first called
                                     me.
          
           How many ways
                                     to call me “sir,”
                                             “him,”
                                     “tranny faggot”.

                                                                  How many
                                                  ways to deduce
                                    whether or not
                     mother’s addiction
                                             inflicted upon me
                                    my penchant for
                     the dangerous, as in

how                                       many men
do we now                                              share between
  us.
                                                              How to
                                           to carve birth mother
                                               out like
                                  a stone wedged
                                                  into my naval.
             
                                     How to find
                                     her teeth
                                  nose         eyes
                                             in a week’s worth
                                  of Facebook searches.

                                      How to tell her
                                          I am not
                                       her son, that I am
                                                                     barely
                                                           her daughter.

                                                 How many ways to
                                say “daughter”
                                                            “hija”
                                                   “girl”
                                                             “perra”
                                                        “mija”
                        
                                                            “tranny faggot”.

                                                                             •

                                      In a dream, I address my
birth mother,
                ask her
                           to guess
                                           how many
                                                              faces
                                                                         I see
                                              in the mirror
                                                                     each day.

                                                                        Ask her to
                                                              tell me
                                                          the number of
                                                                       siblings that
                                                                        know
                                                                     I
                                     am                  here.
                                            Ask her to
                                                  point
                                                          me to
                                                                  the spot
                                                               where my birth father
                                                                  touched her      ferocious
                                                             and summoned               me.

                                                                             •

The description provided by the Tate and National Galleries website regarding Louis Bourgeois’
“A’L’Infini” series deduces
that the title,          “into infinity”      is
suggestive
of both
an unmapped
expanse
and a life
cycle.


                                                                              So then.

                                                                                           At the end
                                                                                           of life, there
                                                                                           are still

                                                                                                       borders to
                                                                                                       be crossed,

                                                                                                       bodies
                                                                                                       averse to
                                                                                                       location and
                                                                                                            thus preserved
                                                                                                                              by their
                                                                                                                              unknowability.

                       Perhaps, this
                                                                                                                        is most accurately

                                                       how I think
                                                                 of you,
dear siblings:
                                                                                                 In portrait.               As borders
                             struck down

by
                                                                                   recognition.

                                                                  By this, I mean
                                                                                          I know you
                                                                                   best
                                                                                by the homes
                                                                         that won’t lay
                                                                                         claim to me
                                                                                         in full.

                                                                         When I
                                                                                 close my eyes
                                                         there is not one

                                                         thing that
                                                         owns me.

                                         
                                        Thus, my branch
                                   among the
                  oyamel does
             not know
of its
             address, is
             blind to
                         the other branches
             waving beside it.

                                                                              •

                       Roots, we are
                                  so many
                            bodies between
                                    us
                                        both here
                                           and not here.
   
                                                In Chula Vista,
                       
                        I                 climb the hill towards         my house          each morning.
                                                        When            I reach          the top,

                                               the border plays                     catch with

                                                                            my                    body
                                       and feeds me
                     to the sky.



I Explain Dysphoria to my Older Sister

Perhaps my biggest error is located in the assumption that I was built to live as
long as you, our mother, our father. I look up for a door to swim through in the
sky and find it—the door—shaped like the weightless center of a guitar. Behind
the door, I play soft mouth music. In the grey space, my tongue gyrates softly
against the ass of my teeth. I spit into the hollow and there is blood, a seed, a
sprouting limb. I have an error of a mouth, a friend remarks. On any given day, I
enter a room and count all the men I can identify—I mean—I count confidence in
waves, through heat, beyond doubt. Lipstick is an occupation—I do mean chore.
If there is a gun in the room, then I am already sucking down the barrel. If there is
no gun in the room, then I have brought one into it. Relief is a door in the sky
with chemtrails. I suck the lines, birth conspiracy—as in, am I woman, am I not?
Perhaps my biggest error is located. Perhaps my biggest error—woman, not. On
any given day, I look up and see nothing. I look up and hear no music. In my
mouth, the barrel gyrates against the ass of my tongue. If there is a gun in the
room, it is you. It is our mother, our father remarks. If there is no gun in the room,
then spit. Then limb confidence. Then sprouting doubt. Then seed heat— music
shaped like a lipstick sky. Already, I birth my weightless relief. The door beyond
is chemtrails. I can identify all soft meaning. I count and play guitar teeth.
Occupation is woman sucking down grey space. I enter men and swim through
the blood chore.

Spencer Williams is a trans poet from Chula Vista, California. She is the author of the chapbook Alien Pink (The Atlas Review Chapbook Series, 2017) and has work forthcoming from or featured in Hobart, Cosmonauts Avenue, Alien Mouth, Potluck, and others.