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1 poem
by Cai Rodrigues-Sherley

Cai Rodrigues-Sherley is a poet, teaching artist, and archivist. He is a Pushcart Prize and Best New Poets nominee and winner of Kissing Dynamite’s 2022 micro-chapbook contest for the collection MY PARENTS WOULD HAVE NAMED ME SHEFFIELD (forthcoming). Their work can be found in The Belmont Review, Brooklyn Review, Crazyhorse, and Volume Poetry, as well as My Loves: A Digital Anthology of Queer Love Poems from Ghost City Press. Cai holds an MFA in creative writing from New York University and lives in Washington, DC, where he works with young writers in the DCPS.  

[every trans boi i know looks like his mother]

every trans boi i know looks like his mother & Blake Brockington committed suicide in 2015. last week the New Yorker’s crossword puzzle said “part of some transitions, colloquially” & i thought of bridges. i told my mother i would read the bible this year & she mailed me her mother’s copy with a note – please read with/for love & slipped a green flag into the Book of Ezra & Psalm 23, where god lays me down in a green pasture & restores my soul. the answer was “HRT”, each line an arrow pressed into my soft throat. orca whales have an additional part of their brain that is just for processing complex emotions & their sons’ fins only surrender to the weight of gravity in captivity. in 1914 Ralph Kerwineo was forced to put on a dress & pay $50 to get out of jail, walked right into his girlfriend’s house & took it all off. each time i break my glasses the world has access to my whole face & every trans boi i know looks like our mother in the golden hour. in 1588 Eleno de Cespedes was paraded through the streets of Ciempozuelos & received 200 lashes for being a woman who thinks ill of the sacraments, especially that of matrimony, instigated by the devil, with her machinations and inventions. he used tinctures to seal his vagina shut & married a local girl & pulled her closer in the dark. she was 17 & he was 40. Jimmy McHarris proposed marriage to a 15-year-old girl when he was past 30. at 72 Willmer “Little Axe” Broadnax dragged his girlfriend out of another man’s car & beat her with his whole body. he died in a pool of his own violence. this is also my lineage. there are many ways to be real, violent like a hand or tender like a hand. my body is a multiverse & my father explains this to his friends by telling them my child is a star. every woman on my mother's side of the family carries an Olive in her name. my mother wanted more for her daughters than to be a symbol of somebody else’s peace & wrote Olivia into the middle of my name like a slant rhyme – i carved this ripe branch into my left calve as an apology for changing. sometimes my students use the wrong pronouns but we love each other & we make a way through. sometimes i go to sleep & dream of myself & wake up smiling. sometimes HRT makes trans bois feel more comfortable sucking dick & that too is a human right. if you leave a lobster alone, if it doesn’t get eaten or contract a disease or starve to death it can live forever & that is what it’s like to be black & trans in america. orca whales can live for hundreds of years out in the wild, which is not the wild but the world & that is all i want.

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