i want more time, regardless of what’s next,
because i’m not ready to go. i just got here.
settling on a name took months and i was
born one way and kept part of that but it wasn’t
the whole story, and part of the story was wrong
anyway. to call me nicole isn’t deadnaming me.
i’m very much alive. and i don’t mind she because she
is as much a part of me as he and ze.
i don’t mind explaining, slowly, letting the pronouns sing
the rest. what i mind is
when you take our lives from us with words and guns
before or after our chance to live.
latinos are called macho, strong
men that crush their women and
latinas, our mamis, are called spicy,
meant to be consumed until they fight back
with their volume and their nails.
but what if you are none of these, and love loudly
with your own kind of violence and list of demands,
signature carved with an x and each name
thereafter a part of you. what if you are all, your muscles
and bright lipstick reflecting equal amounts of light.
lipstick blooming from beneath a moustache
should not be riotous. look, i want to say
to the beautiful one choosing a bra without settling
for a pronoun, i see you. i see you wanting.
to her hair growing, you are free. to his legs
long beneath that skirt, we come in all sizes. to xer
painted fingernails, i envy you. beating heart,
you are the one for at least one someone,
and one of them is me.
when one of us dies, a spark of our transness
rises to the sky, a chirping bird, and spreads out
both feathers and electricity, like us a mixed metaphor
for togetherness and quaking energy.
we have reclaimed quaking, and where there is fear
we replace it with the collective shaking
of our raised hands, the humming of our dead’s names,
and the whirring of our voices spinning into thunderbirds for all to see.
when i knew for sure i had lost 49 of you
my chest broke open,
and all my queer spilled out onto the bed.
as the number rose, all i could think of was
how many bullets it must have taken to dim your lights.
i sob now, a broken gear grief doesn’t turn
and locks instead, grinding and reversing and clicking
against the stiffness of the dead.
Nicole Oquendo is a queer, nonbinary, Latinx writer living in Central Florida. Her essays and poetry have appeared in the chapbooks some prophets, self is wolf, wringing gendered we, and Space Baby, and the hybrid memoir Telomeres. Her visual poetry collection we, animals is forthcoming from ELJ Publications in 2017. She is currently serving on the Board of Directors of Sundress Publications, and as the Nonfiction Editor of the Best of the Net anthology and The Florida Review.