Body of a Poem: The Public Won’t Let Me Be Personal

Been wanting to get a haircut. Maybe clip my nails. Perhaps give away a toe or two. A hand, then the arm. Just give it all away, bit by bit. Be less body. Shrink. Who can use all these parts anyway? Certainly, some of this has gone to waste. If not some then most. If not most then more than I would like.

It’s hard to say how long it’s been since I first noticed but I did. I saw something a while back and I’ve lived with the observation ever since. Lived on it. Have become it. Have endured it. Survived the noticing. Still existing now.

Some days the world feels too small for what I am. Or is it what I’ve become? This otherself, is it the same as the oneself I was born with? Certainly, it is not what I was assigned. Prescribed. Some days, I would prefer the tabula rasa option. To be erased would be easier than to be seen. Then again, I thought we were born about as blank a slate as is possible. My apologies for how it has been filled in with a lack.

Did I do the undoing or did I do the doing? How did this become me? It wasn’t the easy option. It wasn’t the way that demands to be a highway instead of an alleyway. I’ve become a slim place. I’m a place to slide through. Slide past. I’m as close to nothing as I can be. It’s an option that nobody gave. It’s a choice nobody told me about when they said it’s either this or that.

I can’t cry anymore. I learned not to make a mess when I was just a kid. I learned how to go ignored. I was taught to drown my flamboyance in as few tears as possible and to keep the gurgling to a minimum. I was taught to suffocate my sentiments. If I give too much air to possibilities, they’ll float away. I can’t give this self too many ideas.

But there’s always been this otherself to become. Or maybe it always was. Maybe it was inherit in the beginning. Maybe it was there before the first noticing. I didn’t have to have a knowing of the first when for it was always there. And yet, I can remember, which is not something I’m a fan of doing. I prefer a good forgetting. But I remember. Parents, siblings, teachers, friends, and TV give us some notions of our potential. They also give us borders that they think are good guidelines.

When did I cross the line? Maybe never. Maybe everyday. But I can recall finding the line. I can see it. I can hear it. I didn’t know what it was like to act like a girl but my dad told me not to. Then just like that, I thought twice about some possibilities. I didn’t know what hope was but I knew that I also didn’t get to keep that Culture Club poster. I was six if I was even that but it looked like something I wanted to be. I could go for some long hair and makeup. I didn’t want to be my momma but she was closer than my brother or uncles were to where I could imagine myself being. I caught a glimpse. Then more as I saw what the folks far from my streets were doing. Prince and a word I didn’t know. New Wave and a look I couldn’t label with elementary school words.

Then I get older. Now, maybe I’m a bit of a Peter Pansy but I’m older. I look back knowing that maybe more is before me than after me. I lost a lot of time into looking and not being. I thought my choices were only for the famous. Michael Stipe said on MTV back in the 90s, “some days [he] felt more masculine and other days [he] felt more feminine,” and I was like “exactly” back in those dorm room days alone. Yet, what good were those feelings trapped in what I was forced to be? And I saw Ed Wood wearing that angora sweater back in those days too. And he was a loser too. Just like me. Nobody buying what he was selling but doing it anyway.

Further away from the laws of the hood different approaches could be approached. Let me get a new name and a new life. Find what comfort was lost in my youth.  But what comfort will be lost at work? Is the future more of the past? What will be lost for a buck? How open is open in this world? What’s our potential?

I’ve never seen somebody like me managing this place. I’ve never seen somebody like me at this place. They don’t want us here and so I attempt go unnoticed. Leave my otherself till the weekend comes. Listen to the talk. Try to let it go but not always. But sometimes it’s easier that way. I am done explaining. I’m just done. I’ll let it go but at the same time, what am I willing to lose for a self? What’s it worth? What’s this world really going to let me do? Let me be? I just need space and if the world won’t expand I guess I will I have to continue to shrink. Get small enough to go unseen. To be overlooked. Become so little as to exist openly.


Kenyatta JP Garcia is the author of Slow Living (West Vine Press), This Sentimental Education, and Enter the After-Garde. They were raised in Brooklyn, NY but currently reside in Albany which is where they spent a dozen years as cook between receiving a degree in English and then one in linguistics. These days they get paid to put boxes on shelves by night and when the sun is up, they daydream, buffer and write poetry, humor and speculative non- fiction. They are also an editor for Rigorous.


This piece is part of a series about the unique experiences in the literary world outside of the binary. As VIDA expands The VIDA Count to include marginalized genders that may not fit neatly into boxes, this series encourages writers to refuse to let our stories be left out as we fight against cispatriarchal discrimination and erasure and imagine what gender equity looks like for us.