Misfit by Devon Balwit

catrin-welz-stein

You must be cisgender if you have to Google it, opening

yet more pages because you’re stumped by what conforming

to your birth gender means and want somebody to clarify cis

on the same side of—and now you’re truly baffled

as you’ve never conformed, walking like a pirate

in your flat-soled shoes, no makeup, always wearing

what got you laughed at, and you’ve never shared a side

with your same-gendered peers, diabolical ever-exploding

mines in the unmarked fields of every day.  Even now,

you can’t remember a single name from that time and are

gripped by PTSD panic when you enter a school building.

You are cis if you feel there is a match between your assigned

gender and your identity—A match?  You remember trying

to match, find a match, camouflage yourself, woo and be wooed

by, to feel the right thing(s) when guys (or girls) touched you,

(or when you touched yourself).  Ever-helpful, this article continues,

[The label cisgender] tells us that we all experience some kind

 of relationship between our bodies and our selves, whatever

that relationship may be—whatever—some editor slept

through that one, some kind of failure to find precision

in language, not heteronormative when there is no

norm, cisgender when there is no sameness.  Messy as it is,

there are eight billion names with eight billion stories, singular

identities in singular bodies, ever wrestling, ever at odds.

art by Catrin Welz Stein


Devon Balwit is a poet and educator from Portland, Oregon. She has a chapbook, Forms Most Marvelous, forthcoming from dancing girl press (summer 2017). Her recent poems have appeared in numerous print/on-line journals, among them: Oyez, Red Paint Hill, The Ekphrastic Review, The Basil O’Flaherty, The Literary Nest, Timberline Review, It Must Be Heartbreaking, The Journal of Applied Poetics, Serving House Journal, Anti-Heroin Chic, The Rising Phoenix Review, Rattle, and Rat’s Ass Review.

Memento Mori by Devon Balwit

Dimitry Vorsin.jpg

[Poem by Devon Balwit, Art by Dimitry Vorsin]

Memento Mori

Pain’s bastinado blanches,
makes a death’s head
of me, a grimace set
teetering on cervical spine.
In answer to students’
questions, I swivel like
a submarine spyglass
peering out at youth
from disphotic dusk.
Today’s theme
is courtship, flings,
flirting, friends with
benefits. To them
such talk from the
rictus of my mouth
must be as if a crone
pushed aside monitor
cables and IV tubes
to lifted her gown,
on a scrollwork
of varicose, crepe,
and snowy pubes.
As they talk amongst
themselves, I massage
my scapula, tilt my
jaw, trying to dislodge
by fractions the grip
of the grave. I do it, gloss
reciprocal, be attracted
to, crush, be my type,
waiting for one among
them to say “Teacher,
I am attracted to brainy,
once-beautiful women,
now in a state of
physical decline, but
with such lascivious
vocabulary. You are
my type, my unrequited
crush.” One does not.
I exhale, swivel this way
and that, watching,
discretely, the clock.

Misfit by Devon Balwit

catrin-welz-stein

[Misfit by Devon Balwit, art by  Catrin Welz Stein]

You must be cisgender if you have to Google it, opening

yet more pages because you’re stumped by what conforming

to your birth gender means and want somebody to clarify cis

on the same side of—and now you’re truly baffled

as you’ve never conformed, walking like a pirate

in your flat-soled shoes, no makeup, always wearing

what got you laughed at, and you’ve never shared a side

with your same-gendered peers, diabolical ever-exploding

mines in the unmarked fields of every day.  Even now,

you can’t remember a single name from that time and are

gripped by PTSD panic when you enter a school building.

You are cis if you feel there is a match between your assigned

gender and your identity—A match?  You remember trying

to match, find a match, camouflage yourself, woo and be wooed

by, to feel the right thing(s) when guys (or girls) touched you,

(or when you touched yourself).  Ever-helpful, this article continues,

[The label cisgender] tells us that we all experience some kind

 of relationship between our bodies and our selves, whatever

that relationship may be—whatever—some editor slept

through that one, some kind of failure to find precision

in language, not heteronormative when there is no

norm, cisgender when there is no sameness.  Messy as it is,

there are eight billion names with eight billion stories, singular

identities in singular bodies, ever wrestling, ever at odds.

[Devon Balwit is a poet and educator from Portland, Oregon. She has a chapbook, Forms Most Marvelous, forthcoming from dancing girl press (summer 2017). Her recent poems have appeared in numerous print/on-line journals, among them: Oyez, Red Paint Hill, The Ekphrastic Review, The Basil O’Flaherty, The Literary Nest, Timberline Review, It Must Be Heartbreaking, The Journal of Applied Poetics, Serving House Journal, Anti-Heroin Chic, The Rising Phoenix Review, Rattle, and Rat’s Ass Review.]