2 Poems by Alain Ginsberg

A Mouth, A Wound, A Word

Tell me to fall in love with
the West, that this is the time
for my arms to become Pelican-mouth
open—I still eat fish, and I still
know all of the ways a thing can be gutted.

When I ask you what I should
yell into the Pacific, you remind me
I do not need to be angry, and I don’t get it. How
should I know any other way to show my love,
but split open, wide and gaping—a wound, a mouth.

The sister of my sister, which is
to say my home, which is to say
not family, but open arms
and closed liquor stores on
Sundays, is not a liar to me.
Speaks to me adrenaline, covers
everything in dust, doesn’t care if I eat at all.

I dissociate when I travel
often, mostly because I do not
trust myself to exist as someone looking
out for myself. I crack my neck, though
I will never become an owl. If I ask
you to count the freckles on my back,
I am asking you to become a home.

In Oakland before sleeping
you show me a bird skeleton in a vial.
In Portland I find multiple decaying birds
on streets named after other streets.
No one asks your name in the same
way they do not lock their doors at night,
which is to say they have never felt

You tell me to say nice things
to the Pacific and I still don’t
know how to say that I miss
you without bleeding, even if it’s
on the inside, even if I do
not know all the ways that
I am loved quietly, softly, without fright.

When I ask you why I will
fall in love with the west
and you tell me it is because
it is beautiful out there I know
I will never get it. The same way
when someone I get lost in tells me
that I am cute in Oakland, I hide.

The same way that I see an abandoned
car on the side of a field on my way to
Olympia, and I feel home in its chassis.


“owl” image by Flickr user Bradley Stephen Wise

On Building

The world builds me into a man.
It is easier to not kill one of those and yet
I am murdered on every tongue that creates me in this idea,
the same way the cows still go out to slaughter on a free range farm.
How you can know the name of a corpse and it is still
just a corpse.

Teach me how to build a haunted house,
tell me to put up four walls and a roof,
to install a door.
How it does not matter if the inside
is a river or a cavern,
as long as you do not look there
you can pretend the bodies are all alive inside,
that all the skeletons in the closet dance.

The straight girl paints me into a boy,
sees only the shoulders
and the jaw
and figures it all out.
Figures if you hold your nose
everything tastes like chicken,
figures if you add enough salt
it will preserve itself
long enough to leave out, cut open, raw.
Teach me how to skin the genderless person:
hang up the body (my body)
make cuts in the hide (my hide)
determine whether to call it buck or fawn
devour the meat, as if that is all it, or I, can offer you
making sure it is dead first is irrelevant,
you have already killed it, they bleed the same regardless.
The blood is always red, and the best cuts are always prepared rare,
it’s always about the flavor, never where you get what you consume.

And so I build myself into a man biblically,
call myself trans Samson,
use my own jawbone to beat
centuries of societal expectations of gender identity
into myself, grow my hair long
to subvert this and die
anyways, like I ever had a choice.

How to skin the gender from yourself:
make your body into a haunted house,
build up four walls and roof,
install a door
and make sure no one can question the fact
that your ghost is just another dead thing on the kitchen table,
splayed out raw, salted dry, ready to be eaten by anyone
who chooses to look inside and think
that you taste like anything
than chicken.

Mastor of Ceremonies spoken word at The Crown

Photo by Megan Lloyd

Alain Ginsberg is an agender writer and performer from Baltimore City, MD whose work focuses on gender, sexuality, and narratives surrounding trauma. They have been featured or have work forthcoming with Pressure Gauge, Drunk in a Midnight Choir, Beltway Quarterly, and elsewhere. They live with an amazing dog names Ghost Mountain who resembles a meatball with an underbite. Visit their website: anotherginsberg.bandcamp.com.