adrian silbernagel

species dysphoria

Sometimes, once the lights in the hall
have gone out & all is sterile

save for the half-frozen hummingbird
in my ribcage & the police cars

carving solemn couplets
into clean, white streets I steal

a glimpse of my raccoon face,
then my whole gross body

in your eyes: the only mirrors I'm
allowed near these days.

It happens suddenly,
the way most wanted

fugitives are caught, how a cot
or bed is overcome with something akin

to dread & begins trembling
when a train's whistle cuts through the dark

cocoon of drug-induced sleep.
There's no telling if I'm shrinking

or backing away or standing still as the walls
grow up around me, as words are now

more dangerous than numbers are
more dangerous than sharp

objects used to be. It's not enough,
I say. I say they still need

to grow faster, to border
on cancerous. For I am

a shrewd lab rat, am sex gone
wrong gone totemic, am mercurial,

memoryish. In this single life I've managed
to prey & be prayed on, femmely

& forcefed, butch & broke
& fixed. We have been over

this. No part of me must go unharnessed,
or if it does, I must trust you

would never let that part of me up
& run rampant. I must trust your solid

sternness the way a younger sister
trusts her elders to dress her

down when she doubts or daydreams
about silk undergarments,

or worse, men's clothing. I can't pass
through solids, but I'm pretty

certain that if there are things that can,
I evolved from those things,

or from the things that broke down
into them. Radioactive materials, say,

or the queer little prince the royal family had
buried at sea. I need to believe this arrangement

is strictly necessary; that however many
shecells I claw through I'll emerge

in a warm room wherein you are patiently
waiting, for worse & in sickness.

The motes around my reflection
will have never looked so deep,

so much like my mother's as you count
out the pills that help me pass

the night more easily. Leave me be,
I'll say, but we'll both know that I can't

mean that, & so you'll stay,
& so I'll stay.


Adrian Silbernagel’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in journals including Painted Bride Quarterly, TYPO Magazine, The Atlas Review, The Columbia Review, JuxtaProse Literary Magazine, and others. Visit Adrian’s website.