I could say I am simple—my heart
again a newborn with a shelf life.
But there is nothing simple about
my body and its fruity orbit around
the sun. When I had my breasts
removed from my chest, the surgeon
did not ask if I was ready to sleep
so violently. When I woke, my nurse
made sure I felt like a woman
with a wound she didn’t care
to tend. I do not regret my body
but I regret the hands of most
who have touched it. Beautiful loves
the dust. The desert will melt in the rain.
The desert will eventually melt
in the rain. I spend so much time
worrying for the Earth and its hurricane
complexion, all its cyclone acne,
that I rarely consider my own skin
and all it holds. My partner asks
me to keep my blood inside my body
and I always struggle to honor
this basic love. I tear at my skin
and at the Earth, despite myself.
It is hard to remember that every
body is an ocean under siege
and life is just laboring between
our self-inflicted scars.
I have made all my self-inflicted scars
useful as sundials. I can tell the time
in tissue, lumped hard as a dune.
When my partner and I discuss
our wedding, we choose the date
by studying the moon scars
strapped to my chest. Sometimes,
I feel I control the water, the tide
rising when I feel most in love.
When my partner and I lift up
our lives and move, it will be toward
a lake. We will learn every knot
that can be tied and we will tie them.
We will sail just about anywhere.
We can sail just about anywhere
in this life boat we’ve built
from scratch. My partner and I
have harvested the lumber
of our bones, and twined the boat
bed with our hair. This is what
industrious lovers have mastered,
the art of floating on the flesh
of one another. I would be silly
if I said I wasn’t afraid of death
when sharing a life is so sweet.
When I look at my partner’s skin
I know it is as young as it will
ever be. I keep my eyes open.
Young as I’ll ever be, I keep
my eyes trained to my own hands
and how tenderly they hold.
What happens now will matter
and I would like to be proud
of myself and my handling
of all these inherited addictions.
I’ve landed too many right hooks
on tree bark, too many on brick.
I am trying to change the future
my blood has written for me. And soon
I will be gentle enough to mother even
the cherry blossoms. Soon, my body will
mother whoever needs mothering most.
My body mothers just about anyone,
and I promise I can take secrets
safely through the night. I once carried
my transness in a secret jean pocket
for decades. A few times, I even
sent it through the wash, hoping
to clean what was never dirty.
I am done lying. I yearn for those
years. I want to relive my life better.
But mostly, I wish I could tell every
trans child a story about running through
the forest shirtless, about how the wind
licks when only the trees are staring.
I promise, sunrise can feel sweet.
I promise the sunrise can still feel sweet.
My partner and I keep sugar packets
in our pockets for exactly this reason.
A bit sprinkled on a halved grapefruit
and we almost forget global warming
and the ways we are failing the world.
Often, when trying to ignore the pain
humans have built, I identify columns.
Doric I say, or Corinthian, or Ionic.
Sometimes I say, look Corinthian on top
and Ionic on the bottom. My partner
reminds me that none of this matters
if the building is standing. They remind me,
just being alive is the most important part.
Just being alive is the most important
part, and on Facebook today, the baby
born premature is off oxygen, breathing
all on his own. This small joy is enough.
Imagining the cut grass he will soon smell
is enough. I have worked so hard
to feel sustained by smallness.
When it rains the scars that rope
my chest ache like broken bones
that refuse to heal, but still I am alive,
and am happy to be so. When I dream
it is black flowers, my partner, and
the softest silences between us.
Love is the hottest summer. Let it in.
If you let it in, love can burn hotter
than summer on pavement. I’ve spent
winters fevering in love. I’ve autumned
in bandages and blood and my partner
still kissed my neck, with their molten
mouth. When I was under anesthesia
my partner was not. I often imagine how
warm their hands were wringing—
a fire started with no flint at all.
We could take this love to the forest
and live. We could start a fire even
in a rain hell bent to erode bed rock.
When I sleep with my mouth open,
my partner plants mint, and it grows.
My partner opens my belly and plants
rosemary. They tell me this is not
about birth, but about remembrance,
roots, and their flood water deep
devotion to the sea. Though my partner
will never say so, they want me to become
a cliff above an ocean, so that they might
feel safe, just once, when looking down.
I have never wanted so badly to be stable
ground until now. I would trade
my soft human skeleton for one
made exclusively of rock. I would
welcome the elements as they
hammer at the crown of my skull.
My childhood was my father’s hammer
cracking down on the backs of my hands.
Sometimes it feels like all children with a story
of abuse know something of construction.
Tongue and groove pine, fitted together
in harmony, like their parents never did.
Plywood waterlogged in a heap, untarped
and open to the rain. Who hasn’t salvaged
a bent penny nail and built a fort to hide in?
We have survived on what those who have
hurt us, have taught us. What a sweet
and sour life this is. Hand me a coffee
cup of copper nails. Let me show you
how much can be built with only glue.
How much can be built with only glue?
Ask any trans person in America
what holds them together, and they
will answer: Elmer’s glue, a few loose
stitches, and whatever love can be
harvested from this Earth’s sad soil.
When I am harassed on the street
I pull out my own stitches and bleed
pink fertile waters. I feed the landscape
with my flamboyant joy. One day, I hope,
cruel people will be hungry for what
I’ve grown. One day, I will feed them
the fruit of their violence. And they will
feel fed. They won’t yearn to hurt me at all.
In my next life I will feel fed. I won’t
hurt at all and trans people will live
just as long as everyone else.
We will build very queer sand castles
and invite everyone in. Hammocks
will hang between palm trees and all
will be well. Still just an imaginative child,
this is what I imagine for my next body.
In America, right now, trans people
are excited to die, because they
are hopeful for their next life.
I hope that breaks your heart.
I am angry. I am full of house plants,
and herbs, and rage.
I am angry. I am full of greenery
and rage. But I am still making dinner
tonight, cilantro stock boiled down—
something small to celebrate.
My partner tells me about their day,
every day. And every day I watch
their skin drink the sun’s light
with an unabashed thirst for our
life together. I wish the whole
world could see the light as it floats
through our single pane windows—could
see this particular yellow; or, touch the dust
hung in time like a perfect sequined skirt.
Such simple beauty, and we want to share.
My heart was a desert until the rain.
All of my scars, have become sails
that can be used to sail anywhere. And,
now, young as I’ll ever be, I keep my body
ready to mother those who most need it.
I promise the next sunrise will feel sweet.
Just being alive is the most important part,
and since I’ve let it, love has burnt open
my belly and planted the greenest crops.
Though I’ve only known the hammer,
I will build so much with glue. Watch me
build a life and feel fed. I’ll leave hurt
at the door. I am so painfully full of love.
I could even say my heart is simple— again
Kayleb Rae Candrilli is a 2019 Whiting Award Winner in Poetry and the author of What Runs Overwith YesYes Books, which was a 2017 finalist for the Lambda Literary Award in transgender poetry. All the Gay Saintsis their second collection, and won the 2018 Saturnalia Book Contest. Candrilli is published or forthcoming in POETRY, The American Poetry Review,TriQuarterly Review, Academy of American Poets, Boston Review and many others. They live in Philadelphia with their partner. You can read more here