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Anthropocene Anxiety Disorder

I had the same nightmare again.

___The one where all the tattoos slough

___off my body like fresh paint

___after rain & every time, I can’t help

but to think of flowback

water, noxious with benzene,

manganese, sodium, methanol.

___It almost reminds me of fracking,

___how a tattoo needle enters the skin.

___Filthy water plunged beneath

the surface, dark rising up. A pattern

of decay. An open wound in the dirt.

Once, all the water choked inside

___my bathroom’s pipes & wouldn’t flow.

___When I pulled the shower head apart

___ants poured from the faucet as if liquid.

Hundreds. Thousands. A colony

of thirsty mouths that must have

burrowed through the lines.

___I remember this & think back

___to the tattoos we scratched into each

___other in the back of math class.

Safety pin or sewing needle.

Pen ink. Ethanol. Cigarette

ash. The XIII on Jaime’s ankle.

___Uneven crucifix on Mikey’s

___forearm. Test punctures blued

___to nothing in the fat of my thighs.

The whole summer after, I couldn’t

shower. Kept mistaking ink for insects.

A sickness. Something malignant,

___waiting just beneath my skin.


Oral History

I remember the hands. Manicured finger

-nails. Palms, creased like brown paper

around a cut of meat. Deep callus in

the bed of the thumb. The scent of overpriced

cologne, lemon-sharp. Thick tufts of hair

across his chest. Coiled silver like metal shavings.

His three-day stubble, the brilliant red

rash it left along my collar bone. I remember

the drink he mixed me. The money he paid

me. The taste of his sweat. The meal I bought

on its credit. The small & costly lie I did not tell.

How it fed me. How silence made me a man

by omission. I remember his teeth, the surgical

kind of straight. His cum, how it pooled

like quicksilver on his stomach in the blue

half-light & rivered down his thighs. I wish

I didn’t remember the discovery, years later,

his diagnosis & that I did not share it. Wish

I could forget his name, how his Grindr read

thick, cut, & clean. I don’t want to call this

memory dirty, but I once filled my mouth

with this virus’s name & was taught that it

belonged to a vulgar blood. I can’t rid myself

of the memory, a preacher on campus screaming.

His picket sign that read: Disease Begets Disease.

I wish I could forget the first time I was told

to call this sickness. Told I could be cured.

Instead, I remember my tongue was first named

dirty the day it passed between another boy’s lips.

Remember this man’s lips—chapped & pressed

to my cheek. The wilted sun tattoo across his calf.

Uneven tan line dividing his biceps. The jagged scar

behind his right ear. His favorite drink. The water

from the faucet, his hands laced with ribbons

of steam. His broad palms. Their skin flushed

a guilty red, as he scrubbed each finger clean.


TORRIN A. GREATHOUSE is a trans poet, cripple-punk, and MFA candidate at the University of Minnesota. Her work is published in Ploughshares, New England Review, TriQuarterly, & The Kenyon Review. She is the author of Wound from the Mouth of a Wound (Milkweed Editions, 2020).


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