body/language–poems by Torrin Greathouse





my lover speaks in signs / fractals
hands into language when their voice fails them

i too know language / in the failures
of my body / split syntax of fractured chest

+ how i break / on the empty of my lungs
half this language rising from the silences

in american sign language there are nearly a dozen
signs for sex / to fuck + screw + make love +

to make love to a man body or woman body
or in a body / we have made for ourselves

my lover languages their hands / into bodies
palms becoming waves of raw-slick skin

the loudest part of our bodies is whatever another
mouth will name broken / our disabilities

are waking the neighbors / they only know our speech
in a language of sweat & collision

how we fractal trauma / back into body
language + the sign for this sex is not a silent one

is palm percussion / sound like skin + cotton
+ stifled moan / even with your eyes closed


lovers with hunger & moonlight


i remember Scotland like a lesson / in the heat that three bodies can create
when they have been stripped / of home as if it were clothing
how if we press them tight enough / our bodies can quell & convert fear
damp skin to steam / a week from eviction / & homeless in a foreign city

i still remember their collarbones curves / before the names of streets / & here
is the irony: how one lover’s hunger can husk the starving / from another’s mouth
how this is the first time one of us has learned / to call this fear by its name & how
their mother is the one who first thrust us into the hard dark of this city’s night

how often sex & hunger are named as one / & perhaps both are an ache to be filled
or to take a body as flesh & consume / our bodies tangled on a cheap mattress
backs pressed to the chill / the moon a single fluorescent bulb dangling above
& hunger, moonlight, blood were rioting inside us / & we stained everything

red as dawn / slept blanketed in fear-steam / & the echo of our bodies
woke in the morning / still searching for a home without a lover’s name


bodies with alternate morphologies


our bodies spread across the sheets : naked
despite spandex taut & slick black
ice melting under fingertips : like polar
-oids : still frames handcuffed by heat &
light : soft cock wrapped in lace : boxers
damp with vinegar & honey : bound
breasts : & corset loose on hollow chest :
name these boi or grrl or streak of ash
becoming : phoenix that leaves the bed
sheets burning : bodies which are created
& destroyed : how we bite into the sweet
meat of each other’s lips : pass flesh
between us on our tongues : swallow
pieces of another : born-body we wish
we could claim : for these untethered
bones : how they remake the bed
a rip tide : salt flooded & crashing : until
our tongues are driftwood heavy : names
reborn & reborn & then : drowned &
when i moan your name you hear : nothing
but the soft pulse : waves


how to forget him, in four breaths



it is 2009 & your father is drowning / himself & everyone
is ignoring it / how his breath stinks / of arson & maybe that
is why you are here alone / still picking faggot out of your skin
like gravel / & maybe you are about to leave / but then he sits down
soldier’s son / inheritance of bruises / & mouth like a car accident
& you walk home together through the dusk


his hair hangs / waves of brass among the sparks / as he tries to light
the blunt / in the close curtained dark / sunlight catching motes
of the pills you crush into fine dust / it’s the hottest summer on record
& you’re going to forget it / forget everything / you pull smoke
into your lungs / snort the pills / & spray the room the scent of lilac & sweat
fall asleep on his narrow bed / thin face pressed tight into the hollow
curve of your chest


it is 2011 / his bedroom again / new home / different part of town
& your faces are an inch apart / he is the first boy you ever kiss
tongue like hummingbird meat / only as sweet as what it devours
you bite his lip to taste blood / lose your clothes to the floor
you are 15 / when you tell your girlfriend / you will cry / & she
will call you cocksucker / faggot / but you are still in the dark & you turn
the movie up loud / press his neck down / hide grip his hair like stolen gold
you fuck / cling to each others skin / like wreckage & in the morning
you say nothing


you haven’t seen him in five years / the last you heard he was leaving
for boot camp / mud & gunpowder / like both of your fathers / skin
your bones swore they would never grow into / you never met any
of his girlfriends / not even back then / never forgave him / for cutting his hair
imagined the whole floor flooded with it / sudden lake of starlight pooling
over the barber’s feet / how he made you first an experiment / & then a silent room
you have a boyfriend now / sleeps in your bed most nights / & sometimes his breathing reminds you of the other boy / & you never tell him



Torrin Greathouse poet The Thought Erotictorrin a. greathouse is a polyamorous, genderqueer, schizophrenic, cripple-punk from Southern California. They are the Editor and Co-Founder of Black Napkin Press. Their work has been published or is forthcoming in Assaracus, Heavy Feather Review, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, Polychrome Ink, Rabbit Catastrophe Review, Calamus Journal, Emerge Literary Journal, & The Feminist Wire. torrin’s work was nominated for the Pushcart Prize by Rust + Moth. When they are not writing or editing poetry, they are trying to survive in america long enough to earn a degree.


IMAGE: Hubert Stowitts

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