A Family History Is Sacred
(Place the sky in glass too thick for me to bite through. Give me a void big enough
to contain what I am about to spill.)
On a full moon evening, my grandfather divided the landscape in two.
One side was sunlit, the other bathed in dark purple shadow.
He gripped my shoulder and pointed to the stars. Those aren’t enough, he said.
As we drove down a hillside blooming with faces of women I’d never be
I cried. I’ll give you something to cry about, he laughed, turning the clouds red.
He crested us through blood-rain, still laughing, laughing so hard
his head became a blur of mockery. I am him, somehow.
And yet, not at all. Not at all. I am violet but not violent. I am not regarded
as a person, but a threat. (The first time my grandfather walked into
a building where only white people worked, everyone asked him
what he was doing there.) As we pulled to the roadside, drenched
in memory, I wondered what I was doing with him. What
he was doing with me. I couldn’t possibly dream in enough color
to ever show myself. So I closed my eyes and let the landscape go fully
dark. I pressed my fingers against my eyelids and made my own stars.
I took a photograph of my father dressed as a woman (that my
mother once showed me) and I memorized it upon the skin of
my bones. Now when my sky turns purple and dark and light and blood-red
it is not memory, but song I turn to. I sing the word woman over and over
until I lose the meaning and slip backwards into my all alone body.
JOSHUA JENNIFER ESPINOZA is a trans woman poet living in California. Her work has been featured in Poetry, Poem-a-day @ poets.org, The Paris Review, The American Poetry Review, The Rumpus, and elsewhere. She is the author of There Should Be Flowers (Civil Coping Mechanisms 2016) and I’m Alive / It Hurts / I Love It (Big Lucks 2019). She teaches creative writing at Occidental College in Los Angeles, and has an MFA in creative writing from University of California, Riverside.