The Breath in a Boi

by Teré Fowler

Some folks see my jigsaw frame as a question mark. See me as a seamstress. See me in peace. See me in pieces. I am standing in the room and the Beatles are playing in the background. With little twist. Without shouting. When the woman insists that this song belongs to them. I think too loudly: “No, they stole this song.” She begins to look the music up to prove me wrong. I have never looked up the history of this song. I never had to. I see the truth staring her in the face. I get reparation in the way she chokes on the silence. I don’t feel guilty.

I am in a meeting. I am turned inside out. I am watching the words grow too big to rumble into this world. I know what it is before it is said. I know my manhood was bullied by a boy in a classroom. I know at least one student’s rage dragged him out the classroom door. I know it’s not my fault. I know this body still feels like the creator of chaos. I know it’s hard to be a hurricane. When I say gender fluid in a public place my lips tremble against the brick wall. The winds collect jaws, collect philosophy, collect reality, collect beautiful and turn it all upside down. I am a rush of explanation and definition at 119 kilometers per hour. I don’t know what’s worse. The denial slipping like silk. The emphasizing of Mrs. the next morning. Being called out of my skin. Being dragged out of my name. Being all of this body and being denied public access to it. I don’t know what’s worse. Watching a conversation turn in on you. Watching your identity turn in on you. Watch you turn in on you. Sometimes you choose silence. You choose vagueness. and sometimes it chooses you.

When a woman says, “that all I do is write about myself,” I spit a bullet from beneath my tongue. As if to say this language tried to murder me. Every time I speak blood builds or it boils or it sheds. This war in my mouth is not meant for her entertainment. This war is not a poem that belongs to her.

My favorite thing to do is to get dressed. Is to flatten my mountains. Is to pack the rest of me in boxer briefs. Is to stretch back in yoga strapped up. Is to pee leaning over. Is to listen to Tina Turner. Is to call myself she when I tell a story. Is to call myself he when I share a story. Is to answer to they. Is to walk my dogs around the block. Is to walk myself around the block. Is to fold her legs over these thighs and say good night. Is to make pancakes with dark chocolate in the morning. Is to sip on things until I am silly. Is to light flower leaves in hemp paper and inhale. Is to light a sheet of paper with a pen and watch the flame. Is to choose friends who have lightning in their bellies. Is to make that lightning laugh. Is to fly away from this old city in the name of poems. Is to fly back to her in the name of love. Is to call my little sister and say hello. Is to believe when she says she chooses me. Is to meet myself where I am. Is to sew myself together. Is to love stronger. Is to clap back at this world harder. Is to pour this power into poetry. Is to curl around a book on a city bus. Is to say yes baby or sure baby or hey baby or come here baby. Is to plant poems inside her mouth. Is to watch her speak of our future as ritual. Is to button my shirt up. Is to tighten my tie up. Is to walk down a street and sing. Is to introduce these students to themselves. Is to walk down a street and sing. Is to let my dreadlocks roam. Is to walk down a street and sing. Is to let myself roam. Is to walk down a street and s i n g. I s t o w a l k d o w n a s t r e e t a n d s i n g. I s t o w a l k d o w n a s t r e e t a n d s i n g.

Walking through the checkpoint of an airport, it’s my first time travelling to the big city. My mind is afloat somewhere in Brooklyn already. My body is an unfathomable prayer to the faint hearted flesh. My mind is eating a hot dog with brown mustard and learning how to rush. My body is as striking and vast and continued as a sky of constellations. My mind is bright-eyed. My body is light’s lighthouse. My body is a concrete darkness. Is solid in the silence. As they probe. As they unbind. As I feel myself unwind. Unkempt. Exposed.

It’s just a bra.

It’s just your safety you understand?

The safety and security of others.

You understand?

It’s just my temple. My sacred ground. My eyes find the ceiling of an airport for the first time. Find the ceiling bashfully looking back at me. I wish the ceiling would shut its eyes — it can’t stop staring. I begin counting backwards from the time my plane takes off. With each number I am drifting from the bone.

I can’t feel them search this body for an answer. I can’t feel them wondering if my pants will assault passengers. I don’t feel like a passenger or a human. I feel manufactured, carefully constructed, about to explode. I don’t know their God. I start picturing my seat floating in thin air. Start seeing pieces of myself floating in the river of luggage. Start picturing myself falling, half carried on and…

& I speak of my existence

& I feel like a silent film.


Words on the Avenue’s founder & Tucson Poetry’s Festival executive director Teré Fowler-Chapman is a gender fluid writer– by way of this sonoran desert | by way of the boot’s bayou. This poet is a winner of National Arts Strategies’ Creative Community Fellowship, an educator, and family man. You can find Teré’s story tellings forthcoming or published in/on: VOCA, TEDxTucson, Feminist Wire, Arizona Public Media, & Literary Orphans. Find more info at       Photo Credit : Chelsea Gleisner





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