Roz Kaveney (rozk) wrote,
Roz Kaveney

A poem for 'Melissa' and 'Tiffany'

This morning, I posted this link which spells out a case which seems to overlap with many of the worst nightmares of the trans people I know. Luckily - and I use the term a bit sardonically - it seems that some of the worst fears expressed in the original post may not be, in fact, quite as justified in this particular case as we had believed.

In other cases I know of, they probably were, and the possibility always remains, just as long term gay and lesbian lovers are torn from deathbeds and women are murdered for short skirts or looking at the wrong boy, or any girl.

If it did not happen this time, it will some other.

Poem behind cut tags, because a bit on the intense side.


It happens.
I know it happens.
We know it happens
We hope it doesn't.

It's the love
Families love us
so so very much
so much
they'd change us
fix us, twist us
cure us if they could
so that we'd come home
back to their little house
stride down the front path
barked at by the dog
purred by the cat
and hugged by them in turn
and hugged by all of them
grandma as well
- though she was never told -
looking as we once looked
in photographs
up on the mantelpiece

so we'd be who we were
the one they thought we were
and not the one
we were inside in dreams
the one we are.

and we could go to church
with them, again
in suits and shirts and ties
hair parted at the side.
And talk to God
as God would have us talk
respecting how they think their God made us
And be with them
in heaven not in hell
dull heaven
in suits and shirts and ties
hair parted at the side.

Some think it's a sickness
a doctor could fix
drug the girl out of us
stir up our brain
with knives with cunning knives,
or with electrodes, shocking to the core,
or just by telling us
so many times
how sick we are.

And some of them still think
It's demons got inside us
made us change.
Such scary demons
demons of lipstick and hormones and dreams
false eyelash demons
sequins on their tails.
And if they paid a priest,
their priest enough,
he'd pray it out of us
so we would spew
demon and sequins, eyelashes and pills,
in one big vomit
and be who we were
be who they thought we were

It sometimes happens
And it is not love.
'Love is not love
that alters where it alteration finds'
How much the less
the love that tries to change things back again
to change us back again.

Families say they love
but want to own us
want to own our souls.
Not all of them
but just the ones who try
to pull this shit,
to twist us from ourselves.

It happens
And I did not always know
I gave her to them
Thirty years ago
I did not know
I had no other choice

I found her there
Little punk lilac Tiffany
Just lying there
At our front door.
God knows how she got in
Or why she came to us.

I thought it was the drugs
'coz she took drugs. The blood
was trickling gently from her nose
And she was breathing, gentle fluty sighs.
And would not wake. I sent the john away
and went inside and dragged her to the couch
and called the paramedics. When they came,
they asked her name, and how I knew the kid.
All I could tell them, name and the hotel
where she'd been staying once, some weeks before,
when I went back there.

Asked if it was drugs - they didn't know.
Thought not, and they asked me
Had she some injury I knew about
To spine or brain.

Some coked up sisters
when a deal went wrong
they threw her out
out of the seventh floor,
she bounced off awnings onto someone's car
so she survived, but that was years before.
And they said, that would be the sort of thing.

Took her away.
And they went through her bag
which I had not
because I did not know
and they found her ID, her old ID,
the one that had the names of next of kin.

And that was it for me and all her friends
we couldn't visit, we weren't on the list.
Some nurse that people knew told us the rest
they shipped her back to Utah, washed
the lilac out of hair that they cut short
and combed with parting at the side.

I knew she had some friends out on the coast
and I told them. They'd done it all before
And maybe maybe maybe
Her friends,
who were our sisters
went for her
riding riding riding
on their hogs
huge Harley hogs.
Her Angel friends
and it worked out

But then I didn't know
and had no choice
and maybe saved her life
and did the right thing.
And I rang her friends
her Angel friends.
Oh God, I wish I knew.

I hadn't thought of Tiffany in years
Until Melissa.

Oh fuck can you imagine how it feels
out of death to wake
and out of life to sleep
pain so intense
you don't know who you are
and drugs so strong
to fight the pain
that you can't form a thought
except by inches, inches
oh so slow,
that you forget the inches as you go
and yet a thought
a thought of who you are
threads through the pain
threads through the blinding drugs,

And there's your name
you knew that it was there,
just out of reach
but someone you can hear
can kind of sort of hear
buzzing around
is calling to you by some other name
a voice you kind of know
a name you know
but not your name, the name that you claw back
a letter at a time, then lose again

Can you imagine
lying there awake
through pain and drugs
and maybe you can move
one finger half an inch
And it might be your brain
broken forever
it might be the drugs
that might wear off
right now you shit yourself
you piss yourself
you know 'coz you can smell
although you cannot speak, or see
or maybe hear, except that name
the name you know is wrong
calling you home.
It might be the restraints
they tied you to the bed
they mean so well
so you can't hurt yourself
ever again, so you can't do
a thing that they don't like
ever again.

And someone strokes your brow
or kisses it. And says they love you
calls you the wrong name
a judas kiss of love.
Imagine that,
and wake to that
each day, in so much pain
and know through pain and drugs
how many days
how many nights
you'll lie there out of name
and out of self and out of power to change
whatever they do to you for your good.

They keep your hair
cut short, and parted at the sides.
you feel your legs,
your elegant tanned legs
grow weak and thin.
Some day, some day quite soon
when you are strong enough,
they'd take you down and cut your breasts like hair

and you can't move
and you can't speak
you cannot even cry
but maybe turn your head
from life to sleep, from wake to death.

When Stacey died
Beautiful languid Stacey
thin and frail but strong
so very strong the tumour in her brain
died of infection, poison she survived.
But not this time,
the borrowed time she had to pay again.

When Stacey died
She'd asked ages before
that we would paint her face and style her hair.
'I saw how Linda looked,' she used to say
'And it was not her best. But mine will be'.

When Stacey died,
I went along just to hold Maz's hand
I had no skill, could not be Stacey's friend
the way the others could. But nonetheless
I went there with the rest

When Stacey died
The undertaker tried to lock us out
The undertaker shouted at her friends
her wife, her parents, said that it was wrong.
He said it was the law,
she'd lived a woman, he would bury her
a man. He swore and said it was God's will
and said it was the law.

When Stacey died
The undertaker was a foolish man.
Her friends were Soho girls who worked the clubs
and worked the streets, and did not carry knives
'coz knives get you arrested. Nail files though,
tail combs with metal handles, sharp enough
to show such men the error of their ways.
I had my phone, to ring a lawyer friend,
because the law - not always on their side.
Her father, old and noble, waved his cane
under his nose, and prodded at his gut
Her wife just cursed him, both in Portuguese
and in choice Hindi.

and so when Stacey died
she died
as she had lived
so elegant
so beautiful
a woman to her grave.


We buried Stacey, as she would have wished
And maybe Angels rescued Tiffany
And Stacey, come to think of it, that time,
swept in in boy-drag, to the hospital
where Goldy's parents tried to lock her up
to fry the dykeness right out of her brain
And Stacey said, ' I am the one with rights
that woman's husband'
oh so butch that day
when Goldy needed her
to be the man that she had never been.
They got away,
and found themselves a justice of the peace
just to be sure.

It doesn't always go
As badly as it might
Melissa might
wake up one day
with brain and speech intact
and say 'why, thankyou dears for your concern
and I'll be off now. Parents, you may get
a christmas card in twentyseven years
And doctors, you will hear
much sooner, from my lawyers.'
Sweep away and join her friends
and live, and one day laugh.

Or she
may sleep her life away
may dream a life
where they can't touch her
be amazingly
the woman that she is
and lie there while they watch her sleep and smile
a smile that plays and mocks them on her lips.

And even if
they seem to win,
if she has lost those years
the years that never were
they tell her when they lie,
and even if
they get her home
in suit and shirt and tie
with short hair parted at the side
they'll never know
from day to day
the day that she'll wake up
inside the body they have forced on her
and be so angry
oh they will not like
Melissa when she's angry
or Tiffany
when she is mad

Those girls'll Samson-smash
the preacher's church
dull heaven of their gods
and hospitals
where doctors sell their skills
to twist their patients
from their proper selves,

And they will destroy
the little houses
with the dog and cat
lazing upon the porch.

Their families
whose love is selfishness
whose truth is lies
Will never know
until the day
the day when it will come
the curses she is muttering in her sleep
the curses brothers, sisters chant along.

Curses whose day, however long delayed,
will rescue her. will bring our sisters home.
Tags: poetry :, poetry queer lgbt trans
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