Nicole Oquendo

a protest


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.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *