It’s Been 4 Months & I Still Miss the Chaos
I really took being in public for granted. The choice
to say no to the club invite & engaging with life
around me when I said yes. The sticky-floored bars
where you get hoarse talking over everyone;
the encouragement to yell & jump up & down at concerts.
I miss how we all knew how to look foolish as a unit.
How me & the homies knew to kiss the sun back
& strangers on the lips if the liquor made us
bold enough & let the slickness of sweat sizzle
under those terrible terrible LED’s. How we called wanting
close proximity with strangers “dinner with a friend.”
I miss being ignored by waiters. & shoulder touches
on the way to the bathroom & Black joy that isn’t tied
to resistance. The DJ’s bobbing their headphoned
heads even when it was the sound of nothing.
The hue of a maybe-lover’s arms holding me
& a neighbor during the required Swag Surf of the night.
This morning I ran so hard that breathing was a thing
of yesteryear. That felt close. Dying feels closer.
Every Building in East Austin is a Ghost
There isn’t much that I know about this place, except
that every building is a ghost. When traveling, I find home
in bathrooms, quiet buildings, people — yet here it sits
in the sick of willful
ignorance. You see that bodega? It used to be a family tire shop.
You visit that coffee spot? It was made with rubbish
of a 70-year old home.
There’s a scarcity of love built into all the asphalt.
Preservation depends on what is considered good. The city
natives know still spills
in cracked corners of my local whole foods. I’m expected
to unsee that unresurrection. Does no one else see mummies
lost in here?
The local paper’s business section is an obituary. “We’ll be building
on top of your memory now.” I don’t know much about place,
except that history is epistolary
& fresh paint is sometimes mixed with blood.
Heaven be a Rosewood Park Juneteenth.
Hell be a rent increase by property tax.
It’s 6am & The Sun is Out
I make peace with this being a beginning: speaking
when commentary makes me unbelieve in my body /
saying No when asked if I found a church home in my respective shelter
city / saying because they’re not good people when asked why I don’t
attend family functions / spreading the good word of moving out
of a town you could never call home / if home is really where
the heart should be my heart is somewhere in Fort Worth, Texas
between sundry items at Ramey Market or sinking in Kool-Aid at Madea’s /
I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t lying about how much
something harmed me / I run with the opposite of progress every
time my father speaks / Congress is no match to the grave
I choose to lay my mind in / I’m making peace with all
of the I’s in this poem unfortunately being the speaker & I
am tired of making peace with mini-progress being a precursor
for death & ignoring the pleading for a/c permeating
through my clothes every time a Texas summer gets hotter /
I make peace with all the living things around me shaking my hand
as if we’ll make it / through this / unscarred & together & the sun
is just a metaphor for my falling–
How To Identify Yourself with a Wound (2020)
The virus came & everything was already so lonely. I became
accustomed to yearning & receiving isolation in return. I remember mistaking
a shoulder touch for “I love you” & tongues triggered “forever” in my brain–yet
another noctilucent love would fade as the prayer plant opens in the morning.
It’s hard living touch-to-touch. I fucked in fragments of consciousness
only to be reminded of shame every time a shirt or body was too close.
& then there was you. Fighting local grocers & restroom signs for me;
filling places in my body that I didn’t know knew empty; showing me that love
is nothing to be afraid of; that I am nothing to be afraid of; for the first
4 weeks, I was afraid of hurting you. Now I am afraid of never being able to hurt
for you again. You made me believe in touching someone without using hands.
Peeling back our intricacies has been my most consensual labor. I am nourished
with fruits & facetimes— all that’s needed in the pyramid of our love. Soon,
my chest will finish growing skin that only you & surgeons have touched.
& even when the world ends in greed & misfortune, at least we
will have treasured this divine exclusivity.
I’ll Miss the Women’s Restroom
How it always smells like death but when it doesn’t you enter a utopia. Fluorescent
lights, baby-changing station, all faux lavender & febreze plug-ins. All hand sanitizer
& cloth-like paper towels to harden your thirsty, wet hands. Some even have baskets
of tampons. Or soft music lulling your troubles away coming from the last stall. How I’ll miss
the lack of piss stains on the walls & threats of danger mostly in the form of words. “Are you
a man?!” admittedly feels safer than a punch thrown at the throat. How I’ll miss passing
for a non-punchable punching bag; how this weary rest stop sometimes feels like resting.
I’ll miss men in my hood saying “scuse me, ma” on the way to their restroom. Miss the girls
saying “do you” when I needed the last available stall. I’ll miss when anxiety feels like
the only rite of passage & when my appearance isn’t synonymous with violence.
The stares / the clutching of purses / the talks about “men being allowed in here now” / the
being on display / the invisibility (if you don’t acknowledge them, they can’t be real) / the
reminder that I am wrong / the eyes of unsafety & discomfort that make me unsafe &
uncomfortable / the alternative being violence / the present being violence / the contemplation
on which violence is worse / the alternative not thought of (if you don’t acknowledge them, they
can’t be real) / the alternative denied / the eyes that tell me I am wrong / the mens room waiting
line, how it prepares my body for violence
Yesterday, a man unlocked the men’s restroom when I asked for a restroom to be unlocked,
& that felt a little like practice. In the willingness to look the other way, or at least in finding
power in arbitrary distinctions. I feel my most manly saying nothing when I should. How good
pec-pumping feels when “light skin or dark skin” conversation pursues amongst the dank
smell in the men’s restroom. How do I write myself out of a war?
How do I write myself out of centuries of power & right to rage due to genitalia &
a flat chest? I opt into one but carry the elegy of both. When I enter my new excretory
destination, I insist on going to a stall. Standing simply can’t hold this madness.
the fear of voice / the omission of my own voice / the squints / the hyper-visibility of my hips / the
punch to the face / the kick to what is still a uterus / the pummeling from one unsafe space to
another / the history / the federally mandated violence / the insistence on living knowing that it
would be easier not / the desire / the wanting / the fantasy, but only a fantasy, of better / the
history of my living (if you don’t acknowledge them, they can’t be real) / the choir of faggots &
dykes & names that are not my own
Every morning on my path to my work’s single-stall restroom, I perceive a savior. They
wear an off-white dress draped in black plastic; I never knew the mold of old homes smelled
like lemon. I never knew a whiff of nostalgia could bring a body to ache. I miss
the women’s restroom, but not nearly as much as I miss the flood of feminine around me,
the stepping into a world that saw you as other than yourself, but at least a little bit softer.
Two truths & a lie
1. I love my mother the way I love cacti: very intensely & from a distance
2. When I was younger, I said “I love you” to her just to get something that resembles a
3. At night, the crickets speaking through the creak in my window resemble the crickets in
my childhood home the night I hushed my welts to sleep—
1. I love my liquor the way I love my mother: in a way that feels good & unhealthy for me
2. In 2016, I puked in a trash can with no bag & holes at the bottom. I can’t help but think that was a metaphor for the year
3. In 2016, something in me died along with my willingness to be a mother—
1. I love my men the way I love my liquor: only appropriately past 10pm
2. I never knew I could consent to pain until him
3. When he hit, I meant to ask for less, but it seemed like he liked it enough to let me hide—
1. I need a lie to get me through this poem.
2. I need something that doesn’t tie me to the person I once was.
3. I love my mother the way I love my memories: in a way that lies to me sometimes. But still the memories
KB is a Black queer genderless poet, organizer, educator, and student affairs professional. They have earned many fellowships and publications, most notably from Lambda Literary, The Watering Hole, Cincinnati Review, and Palette Poetry. They split their time between being Program Coordinator for the Gender and Sexuality Center at UT Austin, Founder/Lead Organizer of Interfaces, Co-Founder/Lead Organizer of Embrace, Teaching Artist for the Austin Library Foundation, and Co-Organizer for Black Trans Leadership of Austin. Catch them talking sweetness and other (non)human things online @earthtokb.