Joshua Jennifer Espinoza is a trans woman poet living in California. Her work has been featured in Denver Quarterly, PEN America, Lambda Literary, The Offing, Washington Square Review, and elsewhere. She is the author of two collections: i’m alive / it hurts / i love it (boost house 2014), and THERE SHOULD BE FLOWERS (Civil Coping Mechanisms 2016).
ODE TO THE LASER
I pray to the hot light. It touches my skin.
Blesses me with pain. I am used to this
kind of relationship. Suffering for comfort.
The way of things. A long time ago a woman
created the universe. Filled it with everything
we’d need to be happy. Her mistake was trusting
us with its beauty. I believe she fucked off
around the time men realized power was a thing.
Look at the body, they said. How will we own this.
I came into life wanting. Moving through space.
Letting my hair grow long. Seeking my peace
in the devoted feminine. It should mean nothing
to dress one’s nails with paint. When I did,
it opened a portal. Another place. Heart-shaped.
All worry reduced to sugar. This is not about me.
I am not broken. Where we live is. Every bodily
aspect interrogated. Forced to change. Occasionally
a grace comes along. The first laser was built
fifty seven years ago. Today I hurt myself with it.
Watch the hair fall out of my face. Sweet safety.
Heavenly relief. While it burns me I imagine
I am an eagle. I am above a canyon. My world
pulses far below me. Just a little longer, I think.
Just a little longer.
You said I was the exception to your rule—
a pseudo-boy encased in amber, leaning over
every railing to puke her guts against
the wind. I probably fell in love with you
thinking the end of the world would arrive
before I’d have the chance to say it. I was a
a blissless girl, feathered and waiting for
fires that would never come, all nerves
and femme for femme in her sleep, too lazy
or self-preserving to take her clothes off
and get busy with her own tenderness.
You maybe saw her in the corners of my eyes
or in the way I’d hesitate to let myself be.
But you loved me anyway, even when
I’d cry and cry and cry and cry and wonder
why I couldn’t explain myself, why I
related so heavily to that Tegan and Sara
song, why our genders felt less like planets
circling one another and more like clouds
coming together to form an apocalypse.
I tell you now how I needed this destruction,
this death, the stripping of flesh from bone
and spirit from body. Only from the ashes of
one thing can another emerge. Only between
two women can such a dream come true.
POEM FOR CHRISTINE CHUBBUCK
Alone alone alone alone alone alone alone
we turn into light
and shatter and redefine
every hungry surface
And this world eats women
who refuse to play along
whose shape won’t bend to fit
And this world is too many wrong things
It forces you to become
all of its ugliness, it or kills you, or both—
I hate how much I understand why
you did it—
Moving through the world of light
he says to touch the blood
and feel it and hold it and allow it
But I, within my body, refuse
and how you refused
I choose life and I will suffer
and I will make my pain visible
as my form of protest