you always look like the afterparty, dressed in last night’s confetti I haven’t bled enough, recently enough to recognize at first glimpse this rainbow of plastic shoreline as sewage overflow—tampon applicators strewn amongst the orange brick of this city’s history you swallow & spew
cobble of ancient roadways, foundations of shifting architecture if I applied myself more, might I undo the bedrock of my skin, brickwork of cell, rafters of bone to become the right kind of boy? The man on the pier said “excuse me, ma’am” as he brushed shoulders with my shell & I turned myself
into a shy & quiet girl just long enough to whisper “it’s okay, sir” because I think for a moment he looks like my grandfather & I want to please him as much as I love him & hate myself. I clench a syringe in my fist like a lightning rod praying the weekly strike into my muscle will make me “sir”
while electricity strobed the sky & thunder rocked the boats in the harbor, a writer who penned worlds I could live in died last night & when the news washed up this morning, everyone on the internet fought about their pronouns & I salted your sweet water with my eyes, begging you to send us all back in pieces into a world
in pieces, I put on a skirt & stood before the mirror just to make sure I still hate myself that way. Sometimes I think boy is a thing to be but mostly it seems like an idea of something, a man once told me I love women only because I cannot love myself as the woman I am meant to be. He is wrong, but I think
I love a woman most when her face becomes a rip tide & I am perpendicular & everything else is a wash—it is true sometimes I confuse this great lake for ocean only because I am salt-hungry & out of my depth
KJ Cerankowski is a queer writer based in Cleveland, OH. His poetry and prose appear or are forthcoming in DIAGRAM, Pleiades, Entropy, Paper Darts, The Account, and Limp Wrist, among others. He is the author of Suture: Trauma and Trans Becoming, a critical lyric memoir published by punctum books. He teaches at Oberlin College.