My Mouth Is the Mouth of a River

by torrin a. greathouse

Language is a slick-tongued thing, how you can say thirst & mean instead desire. But hasn’t
language always led the mouth back to what fills it? Between the teeth, there’s a dozen paths to every meaning. Do you follow? I can say the oldest profession & mean I’ve made a living in the currency of hunger. A career of making my body into water. That I have heard so many names moaned into my ear & none of them are mine. I suck a man’s cock & it tastes of copper. He cums until empty & I feel coins clinking inside me. My body laments no guilt except for my mother’s shame, though she does not know it. At night, I’ve pulled their memories up, like pills lodged in the throat that my body will not spasm away. Each false name I’ve been fed rising on the crook of my finger, damp & dissolving, a palmful of luminous silt. Men are selfish with the truth, but each is clever as a cleaver. See, every name hinges on the J—Jeff, Jack, James—the simple sidestep from a name known best as client & baptismal. There are at least 100 words for how I have survived & so many of their names lead back to water. Call me siren, nymph of the pavement. We were taught desire is a flame, but it is instead a river. When I was starving, I opened my mouth & said drink.

torrin a. greathouse is a transgender cripple-punk & MFA candidate at the University of Minnesota. She is the author of boy/girl/ghost (TAR Chapbook Series, 2018) & winner of the Peseroff Poetry Prize, Palette Poetry Prize, & the Naugatuck River Narrative Poetry Prize. Their work is published/forthcoming in POETRY, The New York Times, Poem-a-Day, Foglifter, & The Kenyon Review. She is the assistant editor of The Shallow Ends.

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