On a night when the grass was thick with frost
I stepped out to meet Death,
who is tall and fine-boned and austere.
Death is not a man or a woman; Death
is bloodless as an angel and
greets you with an open palm.
It wears a black suit to show it is a professional.
I was tired that night from throwing up,
my blood singing with sickness, my centre of balance
wandering, no longer
resting between my lungs. I fell
three times just getting to the door.
My eyes hurt.
I had been lying in a cloud of my fallen hair
but I arose for Death
naked and smooth
The soft owl call of Death led me past
the guardrail of my front porch.
I stepped out past the yellow half-circle
from the cobwebbed light over the door.
And Death was waiting in the trees, in a suit
made of the black silk of the sky.
Its palm was open, and as I walked
beneath the sickle moon
my legs became steady.
My blood was singing when I put my hand
in the open palm of Death.
The grass under my feet was thick with frost.
*this poem is a re-imagining (not really a rewrite; but it's based off the same poem) of a poem I wrote two years ago called "Swan Song". Which is here, if you're interested in contrasting (I thought it was interesting).
Warning, I guess: this is a poem about trans* people, and it's a bit more graphic than my usual; there's mention of rape and suicide and trans* people being killed. Every death in this poem is based on a real thing that happened; the second stanza deaths were both news items I was made aware of.
Six Ways I Don't Have to Die
At the hands of my father,
the fear in his eyes
crashing like rocks in still water,
like his fists on my head,
crying like David for Absalom,
O my son, o my son,
crying to me with the wrong name
even in death.
In an empty field, strapped to a post,
taunted by the feverish boys
who tried to rape me womanly
or on the floor of your local McDonald's
with a silk skirt flared around my broken hips,
between the red and yellow plastic tables, videotaped
because people are proud of what they do.
Of a stopped heart, while
paramedics pause at my bound chest
and silicone dick,
laughing at their luck.
From a bullet through the ear with my grandfather's Colt
in the false safety of my room
where even the bureau I've had all my life
is filled with someone else's clothes,
where blue and pink sheets
make me a stranger--
and sometimes, alone
after weeks of coughing my lungs raw,
my lover standing at the door,
ear pressed to the opaque hospital glass,
straining to hear something less than profound
that I will utter at the end
to summarise a life of exile.
The woman in the bath is a grey bird,
the kind you catch and then let go.
Her dark hair softens her face
like the milkweed lining her nest.
Freckles spot her skin, like the first rain
on the dry asphalt.
I carried her here from her dark bedroom in
the cage of my arms.
Only twice my age, and bound to her wheelchair
and her hospital bed with aluminum rails,
she waits patiently for me to
run the hot water high over her pale thighs,
twitches her wings to wring them dry,
watches me with her bright black eyes.
I kneel by the bath
in the small blue-tiled space between the curtained window
and the stack of soft towels left by her husband
as I sluice water over the bone-thin shoulders
of a creature who sings in her own language.
When it's over, I will dress her like my own child
and carry her back to her darkened room
and leave. She'll rest her head
beneath her wing and wait
for someone else: to-morrow's newest face
who'll come and bathe
her fine grey down.