LESBEHONEST, three poems by Joshua Jennifer Espinoza

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).


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.


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

Remembering you
            and how you refused

I choose life and I will suffer
    and I will make my pain visible
                        as my form of protest