Three Poems by Joshua Jennifer Espinoza


Image by Rick Payette. Reproduced under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic License.

Ode to Barely Getting By

The most underrated flavor is the one that keeps you alive.
I’ve licked at the dirt in the ugliest of times and I’ve spoken
no words for months on end to keep from entirely losing myself.
You can cover your body in anything and still say what you are.
No one can stop you from disappearing into the earth. That isn’t true.
I was forgetting about power again, as I often do when I want to breathe.
There are always hands against us. We learn to savor the sweat left on our lips.
We don’t dare imagine the taste of any blood but our own. That’s a lie.
We do this all the time, but remain unwilling to look for any meaning in it.
When I chewed apart the inside of my cheeks I wasn’t thinking 

about god or hope or music. I was thinking about my mother 

and you and all
the faces I might one day come to see.

 I was thinking of the word we and all its beauty and its terror and its nothingness.
 I was thinking of the word I and the way it falls like snow over sleeping bodies.
 I was thinking of the way I never slept as a child because of the name I was given.

 How wrong it felt slipping out of my teeth.
How it pushed like little branches into my ears while I longed for any fruit
to spring forth and bless me. But there was only pressure and pain
and every horrible kind of growth. I made each surface a mirror.
I sketched songs against my arms and ignored the feelings they released.
It was not romantic. It did not send a chill through my body.
It only let the air flow into me for a moment, just long enough to encase my body
in whatever death’s opposite is. Not life. Something else. Something less than
a dream and more than a memory. Something like a hole in the ground.
A space where you could hide away and wait out the storm—
and maybe if you survived you would emerge into the world and
look around at people and feel a love larger than anything in the universe.

I Need To Remember

   I need to remember
there is bliss to be had in confronting
this pain.

Do we not time travel
     every morning
when we wake and feel heavy with

 Do we not think back
to last summer
 and many years and years
       and summers before

when we’d eat grass
   and lick sunlight
   and get so drunk

  we’d forget about power?

Yes, I still dream about the old house.
They called me boy and cut down the trees
       I planted in my bedroom.

They separated me from my precious wind
my unnamed water
 my strained lapping

   and it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter.
Oh god, how it matters.
I need to keep this close.
The birth of a woman is never anything less

      than an apocalypse.

Movement Is a Miracle

I breathe and then don’t breathe

I panic and then don’t panic

I say who will rescue me from myself
 and I rescue me from myself

back and forth, back and forth

I mimic the late summer wind
 and the mid-winter rain

I give myself in doses to a memory

some outline that imagines a future
 without bodies or words

some possessed particle encased
 in the brittlest glass

My frail arms, my whispering chest

My long hair draped over the flame

My spirit stretching hard into a world
 that does its best to keep spinning

This piece appears in The Lifted Brow #33. Get your copy here.

Joshua Jennifer Espinoza is a trans woman poet living in California. Her most recent collection There Should Be Flowers was published by Civil Coping Mechanisms in August 2016.