poem index

sign up to receive a new poem-a-day in your inbox

occasions

About this poet

Kayleb Rae Candrilli is the author of All the Gay Saints, winner of the Saturnalia Books Poetry Prize and forthcoming in the spring of 2020, and What Runs Over (YesYes Books, 2017), a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award in transgender poetry. They are a recipient of a 2019 Whiting Award in poetry. They live in Philadelphia.

Expressing My Feelings to My Future Husband-Wife (Or, Ritual in Which Gender)

//

When my partner asks me for a self-
portrait, I tell them:

            Just out of high school
            I worked as a statue

           of liberty. I wore blue velvet
           and danced along an off-

           shoot of route 6. Mascot
           for freedom—I advertised

           a tax agency. I had come
           out that year.

           Passersby rolled
           down their windows,

           threw lit cigarettes, trash, pennies.
           I have always been one for retaliation.

           So I threw the torch.

\\

 

//

My partner and I research the back-
yard tree with purple droppings

until we discover
she’s a true princess.

Royal green blood with roots
the size of bodies.

This princess is invasive.
She garden-snakes under

our home and upheaves
what we thought we knew

of ourselves. And god,
isn’t it terrible to gender

even a tree. Isn’t it terrible
that she reminds us of what

we’ve named our bodies’
shortcomings. A flower

concaved as cunt
seems, right now, like a betrayal

we will never forgive.

But soon

\\

 

//

I dream that my partner leaves me
for eight years in the Coast Guard,

a kraken stings the surface
of this dark blue nightmare.

Split this dream in half and it becomes
four years and I still don’t know

how to swim. None of this is real.
But god, my partner loves the water,

enough even, for me to get in. 

\\ 

 

//

When my partner turns their hands
into window blinds, they smooth

my aging forehead with this new
type of shade, they call my skin

into perfect order with their skin.

I tell my partner I will be polite
to windows

only when I like what I see
through them. They understand

that this world is hell
bent beyond repair.

But inside
              one another
              there is a peace.

Inside one another
neither of us remembers gender—the meaning
of her or hers. She is lost

                                      to space. He was never
                                      that great to begin with.

We even misplaced the meaning of girl.

If we knew where it had been left,
we still wouldn’t go get it.

\\

 

//

Today I am the age
of an arsenal
                   of letters. 

Between my partner’s legs
I speak the whole

alphabet. They stop me

when I’m close
to what feels right.

At the end of the day
all we have is this ritual

of love, and that, I think,
will be enough

to live forever. 

\\ 

 

Copyright © 2018 Kayleb Rae Candrilli. This poem originally appeared in Hayden’s Ferry Review. Used with permission of the author.

 

Copyright © 2018 Kayleb Rae Candrilli. This poem originally appeared in Hayden’s Ferry Review. Used with permission of the author.

 

Kayleb Rae Candrilli

Kayleb Rae Candrilli

Kayleb Rae Candrilli is the author of All the Gay Saints, winner of the Saturnalia Books Poetry Prize and forthcoming in the spring of 2020, and What Runs Over (YesYes Books, 2017), a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award in transgender poetry.

by this poet

poem
            After Ocean Vuong’s “Prayer for the Newly Damned”

Dearest Mother, what becomes of the girl
no longer a girl?

The stretch marks from my once breasts
have migrated 

to their new tectonic 
flats. But you can always find 

hints of what used to be. 
Trust me, it is more beautiful 

this way,
2