linette reeman


my college history class assigns a primary source with
the word “transvestite” in the title. after a semester
of genocides, this seems easy. my classmates
assume that massacres involve entire generations,
that singular bodies cannot die more than once,
          but my father disagrees.
having learned “blood” as a synonym for “boy”
outside of his primary school in England, he knows
how war can live inside a person’s body long past
the truce. the Holocaust taught him the fear of
small spaces all Jewish children now grow up knowing
the smell of, so i inherited a want of leaving, of
breaking out of the box i was told my body was born
to fit in. what i mean is,
          if i was alive during the Holocaust, Hitler
would’ve had a hard time deciding which massacre
i should wear—
          gold star or
               pink triangle?
               even now
my father remembers the wolves that pulled apart his
childhood and sees me
          wearing my queerness
               as a synonym for me
                    planting a flag in
               my own death.

when i pull on a binder, i learn
“boy” as a synonym for “blood” the way my insides
shred themselves prayer over another month of me
trying to name my body for what it is, or, my friends’
identities hungry for validation.
                              one day it will look
                    like a dance /
                              but right now it looks
           like a fight—

when i tell my father that i am no longer female,
he pictures the blood we both share
                             beaten out of my body
                             and smeared
                             across the sidewalk,
envisions me
          as a butterfly breaking out of a cocoon
                    made entirely of pink triangles—

so when my classmates dismiss our new book
as not worth the effort,
          i die again /
                    stand up / mention
the outdated terminology, how the theatres of this war
lie in each person who dares to speak its name,  
how every time i do, the audience
                    makes a massacre of my privacy /
                              butchers my pronouns /
                                        lets my name bleed out.
my classmates do not question the book again.

in it, a Spanish woman cross-dresses her way out of
a covenant, takes plant supplements to reduce the size
of her breasts, conquests her gender across an
ocean, then spends the rest of her life holding
a sword in her teeth. i want to know how she opened
the massacre of her body to an audience of mouths.
                    how she hid all / the blood.  


in regional folklore,
the “Jersey Devil” is a
demon-creature that haunts
the pine barrens of southern New Jersey
/ having been the thirteenth child born of an ordinary woman
who the towns-people later called a witch
because what kind of human could birth
an ugly so honest it wore its sin on the outside

so when the Jersey Devil came home
from kindergarten crying saying
“the other kids told me they don’t want me playing with them
on the swing-set anymore”
its mother was not a good enough parent to lie to it / just
bandaged the Jersey Devil’s fist shut / said
“you are different, and the world
is scared of different”

so the towns-people forgot that the Jersey Devil’s mother
had her own name, which was Mary. and once
the Jersey Devil asked its mother if she thought it was beautiful
and Mary Leeds loved all of her thirteen children equally but
said something other than “yes” and
has regretted it ever since

and once the Jersey Devil got its driver’s licence it started learning
all the back-roads and the towns-people said they could hear
something sobbing out there in the woods and
they were worried it was something dangerous

so when the Jersey Devil came home
once again and then stopped for good
Mary Leeds didn’t understand, asked
“who taught you how to leave so easily?”
and the Jersey Devil said
“i was born in a place called ‘Middletown’ so
how could you expect me to be anything other than

and Mary, who finally learned how to be also
the Jersey Devil’s mother, said
“call me when you get wherever you’re going”

but the Jersey Devil was already backing out of the
driveway and legend says that on nights like this / when
the moon looks like a bruise and someone calls it
beautiful despite // or because // Mary Leeds stands outside
her front door / cellphone pressed to her temple holding
/ a fistful of bandages and somewhere
off a back-road in a thicket
of woods there is a faint



Linette Reeman (they/them) exists on the internet at



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