Ode to the First Time I Wore a Dress & My Mother Did Not Flinch

torrin a. greathouse

My palm still recalls the shape, crushedvelvet’s soft-jagged pull that makesmy thin jaw ring, my teeth a rowof tiny bells. How it stained my skin’ssilhouette the color of a newbornbruise, before first-puberty mademayhem of my skin, unbraidedgenes to watch their blueprint spill,moth’s unfinished body from splitcocoon. In my mouth boyhood was a fawn,stomach lined with nettle blooms, a dogretching grass, bright red of a silver neck-lace torn from my throat by a boy who bitsmall moons from his fingernails& told me all the ways he could breakmy body & no one would evennotice. He left my mouth dry as velvet,scrubbed from a buck’s bone crown, rougeacross a tree’s pale face & I loved himfor it. Wanted him to love me back like any-thing other than a boy. Window. Perfectpebble. Shooting star. Pen knife. Paintedpair of lips. My mother helped me tightenthe straps, lent me her smallest heels,& watched me dance with a violent boy’sgentle name on my tongue. I can’timagine how both of them will see thisvelvet slip as nothing more than tenderskin to be shed bloody from a boyto make from him a man.

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torrin a. greathouse is a trans poet, cripple-punk, and MFA candidate at the University of Minnesota. Her work is published in PloughsharesNew England ReviewTriQuarterly, & The Kenyon Review. She is the author of Wound from the Mouth of a Wound (Milkweed Editions, 2020).

Wound from the Mouth of a Wound is a brilliant, necessary book, yes. But why? Because it proposes a poetics wherein lyricism and violence are shown together on the same page, often in the same image. This showing is painful, and very beautiful. This showing is ‘poverty inventing new magics,’ finding ‘so many methods to tend this garden / of salted flesh’; this steady gaze tells us exactly how it is: how beauty and terror enter our lives, each day: ‘A palm full of garlic cloves. / A flight of headless doves.’ What does it mean to live in a body? To suffer in this late empire? What does it mean to survive and offer a song? I say Wound from the Mouth of a Wound is a brilliant and necessary book because it does all of this, yes—with intimacy, with honesty, with precision. torrin a. greathouse is an inimitable, endlessly compelling poet.”
—Ilya Kaminsky

Wound from the Mouth of a Wound is a remarkable excavation, multi-tasking in the best and most unforgettable ways. This collection attends to both beauty and ‘the ugly of my tongue / lolling serpent curled in the slick of my jaw’—serving up visionary mediations and diagramming maps across the galaxy of a body, all while looking out for others as guide or oracle. In these pages, the fragments and fusion of public and private desires dig into exhilarating terrain I didn’t quite realize I had been thirsty for all along. The everlasting and intimate result of this book feels like we’re holding a small thunderstorm in our hands.”
—Aimee Nezhukumatathil

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