Air Traffic Control
We were on the same flight,
headed back to the town we moved from together,
but traveling alone.
I couldn’t close the overhead compartment
over the awkwardness of my bag, the same way
I could never close my heart to you.
A flight attendant handed me a tiny bottle of Vodka
and a note, like an antiseptic to the wounds
stowed under the seat in front of me.
The note said, I heard
about your grandma. And I tossed back that Vodka
to keep from filling the airsick bag.
It had been five months since the concert
you took me to for my birthday
and then yelled at me for not having more fun.
Still, I felt like I had to say thank you, so I waited at the gate.
I thought I saw my spine slung over your shoulder
but it was just the straps of your carry-on.
You walked away, but I stood a little taller,
reclaimed my vertebrae, and realized
there was nothing for me to carry anymore.
For so long I wore the name
that was assigned to me
as if by computer error.
It fit me like high school gym clothes
designed to neutralize the person within
threadbare and providing no warmth.
It was a corset that did nothing
to hold me in, and there were days
I could feel my skin unravelling.
Wearing that name stitched me up
between a need to disappear
and a need to be seen.
My second name I claimed as my own.
It is not entirely separate from the other name --
does not abandon my history.
And yet as I tried this name on,
it fit like new!
Tailored like a fine suit,
hemmed or let out in just the right places,
revealing my true form
my curves / my lines,
my shadows / my light.
It grabs me by the tie and pulls me forward.
I still navigate the world in both names,
in the old I am clad in sackcloth and ashes
mourning what was and will never be.
In my new name
has come to life.
Charlie is a queer, non-binary poet born in Northern California and based in Seattle, WA. In her work, she tries to balance the transcendent and the immanent. In life, she works to dismantle dualistic simplifications of the world, primarily through her work as a therapist and recreational theologian.