How It Works


Nurse your hangover

with a newfound craving
for coffee and candy

that will help
pull you into

a room full of strangers.

They’ll ask if there’s new blood
and if you nervously raise your hand,

give your history a name
and a number of days
since you’ve put your addiction
to your lips

or cradled it
in your veins.

If you explain in a shaky voice
that you don’t believe in god,

listen for the loudest silent judgements,

the skepticism in everyone’s voice
who shares after you.

You may notice that

skeptical side-eyes
will creep across their faces
like a backwards sunrise,

until they teach you
that god is the only

way you’ll





Don’t ever admit if they’re successful,
their smugness
will sun beam blind your eyes.

So, when they pause for the 7th tradition

of passing around the donation basket

put in a blood-covered dollar

and, as they say,

keep coming back.



Smaller Than a Bread Box


Fifteen years
of bleeding and aching

from a womb

I once entertained
the idea
of holding life in,

its vacancy now destined

for permanence.

A fatal incision
to the bindings
that held me captive

to men
who have always been
the self-anointed deciders

of what should be done with

my inner recesses.

I jumped through hoops,
became a freakshow circus

for my insurance company,

my best act:
that I can acquire

two different letters
from two separate professionals
licensed to say
they know me better
than myself
because no one trusts trans people

in bathrooms
to wash our own hands
of all the bullshit
and to find comfort

within our own bodies
with hormones,
and surgeries,

or validity
in a lack of scars.

At long last,

it was a relief
to have left parts of myself
in the surgeon’s hands
to be incinerated,
having no funeral

for their absence.

There was no Mourner’s Kaddish prayer

recited in hushed voices

by a congregation
in a synagogue

draped in tzedakah
and grieving.

I felt no hollowness,
no echoes in their empty spaces

but rather an awakening

within myself.




James is a poet in Olympia, Washington who does his best work between the hours of up-too-late and is-it-even-worth-trying-to-sleep? His poetry focuses on his mental illnesses (anxiety, depression, ADD, and OCD), recovery from alcoholism, nature, family, and being trans. His early work can be found in The Poet’s Billow