torrin a. greathouse

On Re-lacing My Shoes


           when the officers first return my shoes, laces tangled beside them, i
           realize i never learned the pattern of their threads. struggle to cross
           the twine under itself to form an orderly set of bars.


           i am Googling common+shoe+lace+tying+patterns
           & most+efficient+shoe+tying+pattern
           & average+tensile+strength+of+shoe+laces
           & average+length+of+time+for+suffocation
           & why+did+prisons+first+start+using+safety+glass+cells
           & suicide+statistics+in+US+prison+system
           & transgender+suicide+in+US+prison+system.


         excerpt from therapy journal

        new symptom: since confinement i’ve struggled with the feeling that
        my shoes are too tight, laces pulled taut, bones so close to snapping like
        a lock’s mouth.


          list of institutional euphemisms:
          special housing, protective custody, adjustment center, safety housing,
          administrative segregation, softie tank

          solitary confinement


          plexiglass cells were first integrated in prison corridors to give guards
          easy access to prisoners, the visibility of each cell preventing escape       
          attempts. there are a series of openings near the ceiling which allows     
          guards to administer capsicum spray without endangering officers.


          excerpt from therapy journal

          new symptom: extreme sensitivity to light, creating migraines & visual
          hallucinations. in solitary, the lights never go out.


          official explanation:
          this ensures officers are capable of observing prisoners at all times.

          institutional euphemism:
          this is a safety measure, meant to ensure the health & well-being of


          deprived of human interaction, prisoners begin to experience anxiety,
          depression, panic, insomnia, paranoia, & increased aggression. after 72
          hours of sleep deprivation, even prisoners without a history of
          psychosis will begin to experience distinct hallucinations. these effects
          are more pronounced in those with preexisting mental conditions.


           excerpt from therapy journal

          new symptom: i have forgotten how to tie my shoes. i can visualize the
          pattern, like my mother taught me. the rabbit circling the tree, diving
          into its warren. i remember every step. but each time it comes out a

Aubade w/ Autoimmune Disorder

“the parts of the plant where the sperm is received is called the stigma” -sam sax

+ the stigma is also a marking of disease
a red X across the door     of those infected w/ the plague

        [how once HIV was called the gay plague]

perhaps then the word faggot     too is a stigma
when it marks a door     or body

        + aren’t these both places where something is received

how when the older man     face sunken as damp earth
invites me over     feeds me drinks + the promise of money

        i stigma my lips into entrance to receive him

he slips off the condom     cums across his chest
[he will not let me taste it   + i wonder again if he is dying]

        his seed sprouts a bandolier of orchids     blooms his palms into funeral bouquets

years later i find him on Facebook     read about the drugs that keep him alive
pinioned in my cellphone’s blue light of dawn     i stroke myself

        to the memory of his arms   + the bills stained red w/ ink     

weep + cum in my own mouth     hold it there miracle
of my virus-free blood     dissolving like honey

-suckle     candied petals across my tongue


Apologia for Snapchat of Birdless Wing

forgive me     given half a chance
i’d shake the jar of fireflies

hoping to coax more brilliance from their fear   
sweat sieved like bath water     in Midas’ hand

watch the little glints rattled
loose of light     jar smeared with sunstains

tear the snail from its geode
-curl of a shell     its back peeled as half-ripe fruit

expecting some glittering secret inside
i’d take scissors to the rabbits ear

snip bloodless     velvet from its skull   
i’m so full of child’s arrogance

that any beauty     sufficiency dissected
could be made my own     i’d tear the dead star

-ling’s wing & pose it     for a picture
limp omen     spread like knifed fingers

i’m sorry     i’ve forgotten
which of these stories are true

& which i’ve invented to upset you
i’m marveled at the slaughter

of my hands     at the voyeur
sitting naked in the back of my eye

how they hunger     for the fracture
of such soft things     how gentle anatomy

is undone     & how any veins are so alike
in their unbraiding     bronze-blue

alchemied to common rust     forgive me
my first thought of any body     is how it empties


On Discovering my Gag Reflex, an Absence

how to tell the story? therapist says
you bury trauma in shock value; no,
that’s a lie, therapist is withholding
judgment; this makes one of you;
this story is about sex; but
it’s not; but maybe, it’d be easier
that way; his hand clenching; like
teeth; on the back of your neck; your lips
pressed to the stiff curl of fur; skin
linoleum white; how a story turns
in on itself; how fingers find the back
of a throat; attempt to reframe body
in its emptying; fail; saliva curling down
your palm like handwriting; therapist scrawls
dysphoria in her notes; saliva pools
w/ tears on white linoleum; this story
is about sex; but not how you assume
it is; words load themselves like a gun;
i say gag; you are already imagining
the scent of sweat; the sound of one body
choking on another; instead i mean
the desperate of one body to empty itself
into change; instead i mean disorder;
ketosis; acid stained teeth; how the words
do all the work for you; reframe the story;
so it tells itself; before you even
open your mouth

torrin a. greathouse is a genderqueer trans womxn & cripple-punk currently haunting the greater Boston area. She is the author of boy/girl/ghost (TAR Chapbook Series, 2018) & winner of the Peseroff Poetry Prize, Palette Poetry Prize, & the Naugatuck River Narrative Poetry Prize. Their work is published/forthcoming in POETRY, The New York Times, Poem-a-Day, Muzzle, Redivider, BOAAT, & The Rumpus. When she is not writing, her hobbies include awkwardly drinking coffee at parties & trying to find some goddamn size 13 heels.