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In someone else’s home, 2018 February 08

By TC Tolbert

In someone else’s home, 2018 February 08,

you are sitting in front of a considerable yellow mirror. Carved

into the frame of the mirror are flowers, the leaves

of which, were they solo, could be mistaken for thumb

-nails lined up at a salon waiting for the arrival of the hands

to which they should be attached. There are fish under-

water above you trying to tell the night what is coming.

One fish, in particular, has eyelashes and a body covered

in lines much like a topographical map. You remember there

are tiny brooms all over your own skin that, even if you say

stop, will not stop. You have said stop so many times before

to your own body, whatever that is, and the lines being drawn

upon it. Now that testosterone has occluded estrogen, there

must be fewer bodies like yours, or more, it’s hard to say.

You often mistake reflection for its lyrical sibling and it hurts

to see anything this late. The auburn closet to your right

was built after the room was finished. Closet isn’t exactly

the right word, but neither is metal bar with hangers inside

an irregular collection of shelves. You have always been drawn

to containers, repositories of any kind, strung with a simple strip

of cloth. Perhaps this is why you cannot call Melissa, or

Missy, your deadname. You understand the problems with birth-

name and still you’ve spent so much time bargaining

to believe every name you’ve ever been called points at least

partially to a body alive that you are willing to love today. The mirror

only returns parts of what holds you to yourself, no matter

the angle, and in this way it is just like language, just

like every story about transition with which you’ve been

harassed. Faced with the haunting of our innumerable

we become severing. Your prayer was severaled. Like the night

to which you are repeatedly hope-harnessed and into

which soon enough you will pass.




Listen as TC Tolbert readsIn someone else’s home, 2018 February 08.”

Added: Tuesday, May 23, 2023  /  Used with permission. This poem originally appears in print in Volume 48, issue 3 of "American Poetry Review."
TC Tolbert
Photo by Rachel Marie.

TC Tolbert (he/him/hey grrrl) is a trans and genderqueer monkey-goat who never ceases to experience a simultaneous grief and deep love any time s/he pays attention to the world. S/he writes poems, works with wood, learns, teaches, and wanders. In 2019, TC was awarded an Academy of American Poets Laureate Fellowship for his work with trans, non-binary, and queer folks as Tucson’s Poet Laureate. Publications include Gephyromania (originally published by Ahsahta Press in 2014 and re-released by Nightboat Books in 2022) and five chapbooks. TC is also co-editor (along with Trace Peterson) of Troubling the Line: Trans and Genderqueer Poetry and Poetics (Nightboat Books 2013). The Quiet Practices won the Chad Walsh Chapbook Prize at Beloit Poetry Journal and will be published in summer 2023. Learn more about TC at his website

Image Description: TC, a white, transmasculine person with goatee, smiles widely, sitting on a wooden stool. S/he is wearing a gray short sleeve button down and cut off jean shorts. Glasses are perched atop his head & some tattoos are visible. 

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