Editor's Note: This poem by Puzzlebox Collective member Athena the Architect brings together the intentions of Autistics Speaking Day and the Transgender Day of Remembrance to make a statement about our commitment and mission moving forward. You will see more work from her in Autonomous Press's NeuroQueer Horizons, a chapbook series starting in late 2016.
My fourth year participating I have to come on strong,
so let’s start with the shit at least half of you will read wrong:
I’ve been working too diligently at speaking clearly
to hear you tell me which day is set aside for me speaking,
so fuck the first to the nineteenth.
I decided to speak when it’s time to count bodies.
It’s always been my role, the place I’m put is underneath,
either supporting or working to earn a basic recognition of my humanity.
I’m not doing chores no more,
and I’m done front faking an expected presence
when I would rather run screaming from being alone with you,
but that’s not expected decorum in a men’s locker room.
I learn to be a blur, finding space for myself in deception.
Clinical observers have always called our pace of learning manipulative,
and it’s a term they use for resistance, too, and when pain is expressed,
but apparently it’s not manipulative to tell a child
that the reason you hit her in the face after school
was because you lost your medication
and your diagnosis says “depressed.”
Luckily I have a brother who stands between me and the others,
a swift quickness, work horse harnessed and capable
of pulling my workload when the others aren’t observing,
and over time he becomes faster, until they can’t observe him.
He’s a blur of motion that they find unnerving,
and he uses it to keep me from being alone with anyone
who looks past my body, sees me, and decides I’m for them to play with.
My quicksilver bullet, my headmate,
my prolific novelist-cum-suicide Herman Hesse acolyte,
he’s eventually going to catch his end,
but until then, he’s the one who protects us when artillery shells hit.
I’m finally finding my body in the year my siblings mostly expect to be bodied,
transitioning at the life expectancy for those of us who come out in their teens,
and I see the faces around me when I go out presenting publicly,
wearing makeup without hormonal support, my face like
“Fuck you! Quit staring, I got shit to do and I’m walking!”
And that’s only possible because of what he did for me,
but one of us has to go this year, and he already put himself
between the shooter and another fighter in the family,
so I have to remember him, along with the sisters who had more courage than I did,
who came out when we were little, then got statisticked and became
part of the reason I can’t stay hidden. I’m sorry, kids.
I wish I’d been strong enough to fight when it would have made a difference,
but the moment of merit hadn’t happened,
and I was too busy protecting myself from the next blow to know
that there were people ready to help stop the next hit from landing.
I’m writing thirty novels to help him go, because people need to know
the process by which we became possible, so they can benefit
if the moment of merit is something they also need to accomplish.
I was professionalized by people who taught me to look deeply
into the way I supported other writers in my community,
but the support they seemed to need was nothing that fed them,
so there were always congratulatory dinners if they could be afforded,
long tales to regale the host, singing for supper until an invitation for a workshop could be extended.
The result was that their support for emerging artists lacked a certain focus to the tutelage,
because the business they were engaged with was old enough to be, by default, simple.
While they were wondering how it was that they worked at nothing but novels
and watched years pass between them,
I skipped the bistros where they lamented and spent nights going toe to toe onstage,
putting performance poetry out through clenched teeth,
trying to find a way in modern vocabulary
to lament the relationship between mathematics and medicine,
sharing sensory impressions of medallion necklaces
like a motherfucking golden chariot of the sun,
shooting arrows of flow like fire into everyone,
and defending my title from someone with big lungs and ninth grade educational formalities,
but a vocabulary with more grace than ten holy men
and a sense of rhythm that glossed over syntactical departures
with a scaffolding that bridged the audience’s differences in idiom.
And if I wanted to get half of what was in that hat for groceries,
I had to be on top of him with a ferocity that masked the fact that he would practice with me.
Every poet in the pack was a brother, but only one of us got to eat.
You’re surprised at how I work? This is how I had to be.
It made me. Fuck you if you think a novel in eight years is an accomplishment,
I had to do a fresh three minutes of perfection once a week to keep my car filled up with gasoline.
So getting the spit out in time is what he did for me,
moving quickly, Quicksilver slipping past teeth,
flow lightly like lightning moves until he’d punch you,
but in the end that was not for me.
You see, the truth is
his presentation isn’t the rhythm
of our movements,
so when he does his thing
it disrupts our control,
the somatic unity,
meaning he will work
until he’s melting me.
You see, he’s fast,
but she’s weird, and
though it looks like his anatomy,
he’s really just her beard.
Now that he’s departing,
I am finding transition completes me,
and that means I’m no longer standing
hidden, whispering over your shoulder
and teleporting away before you see me.
Instead I’m standing strong,
whipping your ass telekinetically
and spraying cover fire from fingertips
like a social-justice-positive Palpatine.
Don’t fuck with a Sith Slytherin witch bitch
who’s had a recent loss in the family,
because I will cut you with something
that isn’t even physical,
and you will realize alignment change
happened right before your eyes
and now the villain has a mission
and she’s out avenging.
I got lit up like this when I was without him
and a genderfae Katniss Everdeen
took cover from enemy fire where I was hiding,
and then that warrior said to me the things
I needed to hear to understand what I was meant to sing.
“I’m using a fucking bow,
The city is flying,
None of this makes sense.
Parents try to kill me when I say please,
And contracts don’t matter,
Even when I have all the signatures,
Because I can’t speak for my experience
if I’m talking.
This is actually what they say.
So don’t try to make sense,
and if you are too wounded to come with,
there’s no judgment,
but I have to go back out there and draw fire,
and I have to trust the others
to tell me where the snipers are
when I put arrows back into their armaments,
so I can’t stay here and coddle you through this.
If you lock the door, your brother will be sent,
or else someone from a rescue team,
but if you follow me, I’m not here to save you,
and you will be expected to be avenging.”
That was all it took to make me see,
I couldn’t leave K to do this knowing the Mockingjay
was just intentionally providing bait
with no cover fire, and no way
to recover ammunition, so,
knowing the enemy could now see me because
my brother wasn’t a distraction,
I sprang into action.
I didn’t go through that door,
I blew it into shrapnel shards to create environmental hazards
and then we went to war.
Now, when they see me I subvert their gaze
with my witchy ways,
turning their intentions in their heads
and making my fingertips provide the pyre
to burn their targeting sensors before they fire.
So now, it’s your moment,
as we prepare to say the names of the dead,
this makes no sense,
and I don’t expect you to magically have the strength,
but if you follow me, don’t expect rescuing,
I am out for avenging,
And what I need are recruits, not complications,
so I understand if you stay hidden.
For the rest of you,
it’s time we went to the Gaslight Village
to learn what we need to win this,
another site on my trail of origins.
Fuck a wack, narcissistic cyborg with religious visions,
this isn’t the age of Ultron,
it’s the age of the Heirophantess,
and this isn’t the fulfillment of an incredible wish,
it’s the coming of the Scarlet Witch.
Here’s this year’s dead list:
Papi Edwards, Lamia Beard,
Ty Underwood, Tasha DeJesus,
Yazmin Vash Payne,
Penny Proud & Bri Golec.
Don’t get up from your seat yet.
Kristina Reinwald, Sumaya Dalmar,
Keyshia Blige, Mya Hall,
I’m not even getting very far,
Vanessa Santillan, and
And I’m not sure I even know all of them,
Ashton O’Hara, India Clarke,
K.C. Haggard, Shade Shuler,
Amber Monroe and Elisha Walker.
Kandis Capri ended on August 11 in Phoenix,
And when the list is ended,
Remember that the year isn’t over yet.
Tamara Dominguez, Fernanda Olmos,
Sometimes called Coty,
Kiesha Jenkins, Zella Ziona,
And there are just a few more:
Marcela Estefania Chocobar,
Amancay Diana Sacayán,
And Yoshi Tsuchida brings us to
What I hope is the end.
I don’t blame you if you stay in here for your safety,
but if you come out, know what it means to follow me.
Now, I have to go,
I hear avengers assembling.
Athena the Architect,