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essa may ranapiri

passing as nonbinary

you tell me a story
all dark-haired and fingerless gloves
about how you were harassed at a supermarket
stuck in some punk-winter
he followed you
from the fresh fruit to the cleaning products
wanting to know the answer

people had their walkie talkies out
to monitor the situation
but did nothing

boy or girl
he yelped
less of a question and more an accusation

my friend said that was the only time they felt like
they were passing
when the or had just as much weight as
the he or she
but for you it was abuse

on the green
you hold the pink hoop to your ankle
and let it rotate from that
of your body
towards the clouds
it swings in an or

and as it blurs into a fluro circle we find our place at the edges
where the air doesn’t know whether to be plastic or oxygen

she thinks about killing a winged thing

She scrapes condensation off the window – taps the glass. A fly buzzes against it; a spongy thud. Again, thud, again, thud. Back and forth. She catches it as it travels back from the glass. It’s still alive. Repositioning inside her fist. She wonders what it can see – without focus of any kind through the optics of a thousand individual visual receptors. A huge mosaic to be assembled, a kaleidoscope of shards. A more accurate way to look at this light-infested place. A newspaper print blur. A stippling effect. Nothing would be red for this insect. For the best she whispers to her captive. The buzz is more a vibration now, it doesn’t have the commitment, it’s starting to settle. She doesn’t know whether to close her hand or open it.

to name a dead thing joshua

it was never a forgone conclusion / how your mother would make lucky space with the Bible embedded in the hyperlink of your name / a stone you pull from the lake and feel it / in your hands / slick with algae / it slides on your palm / you fold your fingers around it / to a ground shocking firmness / it becomes inert in your grip / you take it home with you and wash the grime off its surfaces / you add it to the pot where your large bonsai rests

                                                you live in a commercial for / minimalist design / you are washing the cutting board / getting the onion out of your eyes / detergent and water spills over the sink / gets onto the linoleum / you go to move / it makes your feet slide / you are a dancer in a whitewashed prism / your body tips / the back of your head lands on the stone in the pot / this isn’t what kills you / the rock is kissed with blood / it trips out onto the floor like god’s own murder weapon travelling a metre or so before coming to a halt / you could have drowned in the lake if you had gone swimming / the liquid thickening around the idea of a you / as the it slips between synaptic pulses

                                                                                                         the new name has all the same associations as / the old name / except for a history of murder / but you don’t die / you survive the slip utterly unnatural / animal / you awake to brutalism / firm lines / solid concrete / like a gift / like a box to think squarely in / you are packaged inside the walls of jericho / holding firm / the old name sinks as it watches a new god walk across the lake / you run around the lake to increase your ability to run around shapes / to improve your wellbeing / to map the sense of the space in your footsteps / keeping hold / you can feel the marketplace lick at your heel / changing a name is like killing yourself in the eyes of the state / and waking up in a stream of pebbles / your face engraved on each one / transitioning is picking none of them and pressing a finger into the iris to test how cold the water is

all the eastern side beheld

Tūtānekai plays the flute for his hoa takatāpui
his Tiki
all long notes for the firm chords of his body
no one has the word homosexual here
as fern twists at their feet
no one yet considers it an illness

I’m all stuck unable to do shit about it
as I watch Hinemoa become the Victorian stand-in
Tiki’s replacement
watch as her cloak is turned into corset
turned into the dress of Hero in Frederic Leighton’s painting
Last Watch
the dying sun rank on her citrus skin as she holds up a black veil thick as fur
Hinemoa is the right gender to play lover

but Hinemoa my girl
she’s a motherfucking swimmer
not the bust of Aphrodite
nor the drowning man Leander
she’s smart and
straps gourds to her body so she can rest
in lake Rotorua
while Leander squanders his strength
to sink the memory of Tiki under the cold water

all this to make the whole thing straight af
so boring
e hoa!

essa may ranapiri (takatāpui; they/them/theirs) is a poet from Kirikiriroa, Aotearoa / they have words in MayhemPoetry New ZealandBriefStarlingTHEM and Poetry Magazine / they will write until they’re dead