Excerpts from “Exhales – 2008-2013”
When a death occurs it is not your death. You do not know this instinctually. The death is outside of you. You are in a dark hole and someone is outside of you. Someone outside of you is is in a dark hole. You know this. You know this like the dark hole that is inside of you. You are someone. You are someone outside and near you. What is in a dark hole is near you and it is dead.
Yesterday it was 28.
Today it is 129.
Tomorrow it will be 130.
I won’t be able to remember how to get to the Transgender Day of Remembrance Memorial page for weeks. The year is already over and still it is 2010. This is the same year as last year and the same as the year before that. Today it is 131. Yesterday it was 143.
Chances are any one of them could have lived in Tucson.
Although it is unrealistic to say that any one of them could be me, I say it anyway. I say that the women who were stabbed with sharp objects in their own homes were women who looked out their windows before they were women stabbed with sharp objects in their own homes. I say that the electrical cord will continue to be a weapon long after it was used on her throat. I say that the women with bruises on their palms were women with voices before they were women identified by the bruises on their palms.
I say that the women strangled with scarves were women with scarves. I say that the women who were beaten with bricks were women with bones. I say that the women who drowned were women who talked. I say that the women whose homes were set on fire were women with homes. I say that the women who were run over by cars were women who walked. I say that the women who were stabbed in the neck were women who knew they were being stabbed in the neck. I say that the women without names were women with names. I say that the women who were found in the dumpster I say that the women who were shot with an automatic rifle I say that the women who were gang raped I say that the women whose heads were shaved and their videos were shown on the internet I say that the women who were executed I say that the women who were found naked in the street
I say that they were women.
I say they were women.
And I say that the ones with sharp objects, with electrical cords, with scarves, with hands, with fires, with cars, with knives, with shoulders, with rifles, with razors, with clothes, were men. They were men. They were me.
We have been told that, with the invention of the video, death is no longer absolute. We have been told that we should feel lucky. We have been told that working memory is 5-9 objects, 60-90 seconds. We have been told that there were no witnesses. We have been told that there are no suspects.
This is the shape of what we are missing: 6’3 brown skin green eyes brown hair
hands large enough to protect the face from the first swing shoulders and calves full of muscle misplaced long nails, delicate, a large thing asserting its wish to be small
We press record when what we want is to listen. We press play when what we need is to forget.
the body hates being spoken of collectively
but there are bodies collected and bodies held up
like trophies and there are still bodies
to be hunted and won. when a transgender
woman says simply, I am a woman, she is
making strong the very same muscle
that betrays her. the same bodies with
the same histories are slaughtered
in the same fashion by different bodies
with the same designation: men. the body hears
a voice like its own voice say, I am a woman,
and it wants the voice to apologize. it wants
the voice to be wrong. when the body attacks itself
there is not another body to turn to for protection.
cells outstripping cells just like them. when the body
attacks itself what else is it trying to do but keep itself alive.
what else but find room to exist. what else
but a body to become undone.
The men in Sing Sing speak themselves into existence. Apologizing first, the men declare themselves to be men of volition. I am brushing my teeth now. I am straightening the sheets. I am wondering how many objects we’ve made that serve only to duplicate the efforts of the fist. These are invisible men and even when we imagine them they are uniformly nondescript. They do not exist without themselves and even with themselves they do not exist.
TC Tolbert, a trans and genderqueer feminist, collaborator, dancer, and poet, is really just a human in love with humans doing human things. S/he’s written Gephyromania, I: Not He: Not I, spirare, and territories of folding, and co-edited Troubling the Line: Trans and Genderqueer Poetry and Poetics. Faculty at OSU-Cascades, Assistant Director of Casa Libre, and wilderness instructor for Outward Bound, s/he loves living a life of compositional improvisation on and off the page. www.tctolbert.com