Kathy Butterly, “Solid Stand” (2016), clay and glaze, 5.75” x 6.25” x 4.25” (image courtesy Kathy Butterly, Tibor de Nagy Gallery, and Asya Geisberg Gallery)


If you die in real life do you die in the dream?

Big song of love fill me.

Vision of communal bliss fill me.

All these things that don’t exist

and yet are imagined

and so do.

Opening, fluttering, windowless.

Outside of the body there is something like hope.


I am here to tell you I have failed to perform gender once again
spending another day indoors hiding from the world

choked up over the television show where the audience guesses
if subjects are men in disguise or real women.

I suppose I mean to say the word tranny, innocuous in its execution
bloodless until you read the news or live inside it

always-forever at the tip of everything’s tongue, too messy to retreat
into its bed to slumber and let us be.

My mistress is silence herself. I think she might be a god or at least
godlike in the wonder she possesses

unlike static, unlike breathing, unlike thoughts that race with the urgency
of living in a lawless body.

Who is real? Who is allowed to be real? Who speaks themselves into
existence? Who dreams? Who has words

that froth and boil over with meaning? To fail at this is to soar
twice, three times as high as any manmade structure.

So why talk shit. Why make the light hide from itself. Here I am on
the couch with my legs crossed, being alive.

Here I am absorbing the words you have for me, epoch of panic
future of a disappearing woman.

*   *   *

Joshua Jennifer Espinoza is a trans woman poet living in California. Her work has been published in PEN America, The Offing, Lambda Literary, The Feminist Wire, West Branch, and elsewhere. She is the author of two poetry collections, i’m alive / it hurts / i love it (boost house, 2014) and THERE SHOULD BE FLOWERS (Civil Coping Mechanisms, 2016).

Wendy Xu is the author of the poetry collections Phrasis (Fence, 2017), winner of the 2016 Ottoline Prize, and You Are Not Dead (Cleveland State University Poetry Center, 2013). The recipient of a Ruth...