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This collection of poetry by Lila Graham ’22 reflects on her experiences as a transgender woman. Most were written before she came out, about being closeted. The exception is #5, written after Lila came out, in response to Texas Governor Greg Abbot criminalizing healthcare for trans youth. These pieces were written to be performed, and almost all of them have been read before a live audience. 



words words words 

they snap, wrap past— crack and whip 

they rush around me 

my river of thought 

i reach in and cup my hands 

but it always recedes 

i am tantalus 

grasping not for sustenance

but for comprehension 

i just want to know 

i just need to know 

what are my words 

how am i described 

what belongs to me 

the river babbles and gurgles back 

as if to deem me impossible 

out of frustration i rip my shoes from my feet and step in 

i trudge forward, fording, fighting against the current 

until soft hands, attached to soft arms 

reach up and grab me 

they pull me in 

the words begin to fill my lungs 

i am suffocating 

i try and spit them out but nothing escapes 

save for babbles and gurgles



i speak now to you

the swirling neurotic anxious energy

that comprises this campus

I’ve come to ask something from you 

let me run from myself 

let my skin unravel and tear and disappear 

let it be replaced with TV static

frantic with activity but signifying nothing 

let my bones be turned to maracas 

easily cracked but shaking as I walk

let my stomach be scooped out like ice cream

and don’t fill the hole

let me be hollow 

let the world speak into me and 

let it echo again outwards again and again

let me be saved from the tyranny of silence 

let me die without dying 

above all else, let me be busy



i want to feel it 


i want my heart to move like a spirograph and bang against the inside of my chest 

i want to make my incisors useful 

to tear into the bloody flesh of the world 

i want the chilli-honey of someone’s blood to drip down my face— anyone’s will do 


i want to dig sandpaper into my skin and drag it across the newly pulpy-red contours of my body just to soothe it with aloe and then bring the burning back with a thousand neosporin kisses 


give me the pleasure and the pain



my beloved, I write to you from a world encased in static 

i write this letter without knowing if my words will arrive or be consumed in transit

the static is growing 

it’s creeping in on me 


all i have is a few feet of space left

i’ve got my hot plate and my instant pot, though

who’d know I was eating cup ramen in my little apocalypse. I guess the sodium doesn’t matter now. 

my books have yet to fall beneath the horizon

I’ve got kant and hegel and kierkegaard to keep me company 

my laptop’s made it too

the same 2,000 songs saved on spotify 

I’m still boycotting Netflix, by the way, here at the end 


but that’s right, my beloved, this is a letter for you

I love you

I miss you

I try to say more, but

words tangle in my trachea and come up as knots, aural hairballs 

now they sit here, in my studio-palace, littering the floor in shame 


when i extend my arm it fades into the static 

i feel thousands of pinpricks dart across my fingers, 

i feel the warmth of whisper-light breaths across my knuckles 

for a while the sensation is sort of overwhelming 

but eventually, with all of my mindfulness on my fingertips, there is a ringing void 

there’s no feeling 


pure, sublime, oblivion 


these memories, they’re closing in on me

this is likely my last letter to you 

i see no pathway through the static 

but i know you’re beyond it. i think you’re the only one else who understands it 


and, don’t worry about me, my beloved

that feeling, of the static

sometimes I imagine it washing over my whole body 

at this point, it’s kind of a consoling thought 

when it comes 

probably soon

annihilation won’t be so bad


today’s reports from the warmachine weighed on me more than usual

its smog stained my lungs black

and i made the sour-patch cries of its targets my new ringtone 


i drove to go find you. 

my car’s electric heat made my face heavy

ice-ruined windshield wipers painted an impression of you 

do you know how hard it is to see the road through tears? 


only ghosts watching

i put my foot to the accelerator

i cry out, your name blocked by mucus

come closer to me 


my white-knuckle grip subsides 

i reach to grasp your turnstile heart 

and let the car drift 

my eyes close to better see you

is this how you soar? 

let me fly with you.


a lucky moment passes and i explode to life, hand to wheel, foot to air, my body twists to take the curve, my clenched teeth shift and clamp on my cheek 


an iron taste fills my mouth, light fills my eyes

i turn up the music to wash out the tinnitus of my love for you 

i feel the vestibular fluid in my head vibrate to the beat 

i begin the drive home

i scream out, my pronouncement blocked by blood but amplified by spite 


“I will not do the machine’s work!!”