POETRY January 6, 2023

Eumorpha Achemon; My Exoskeletal Self-Defense

testosterone thick & viscous floods my mouth 
most days my wrists are sphinx-moths pink 
hindwings glimmering between daytime moon & a feeling
my throat bubbles apples plump & sweet
unchrysalis, am I animal or tool
I spend most days picking backfeathers like pimples
the whetstone & the blade     predator & the prey 
even blood looks ugly when wet on an efficient spade
no plastic nails despite my plastic human wishes 
instead, thick skin through thick sharp skin
little viscera of me scattered around footsteps & lye
a flit of wing or slit of silken thread down the leg 
of a black dress     but cut implies blood     but blood implies
a lineage      the fittest wear their hiding well     that thin survival 
shadowed in softgreys that fur the body as part of the night 
for a handsome thing I know so little what I am 
a lifespan     a beastworm edging inches toward a meal 
my mouth never stops moving for fear of what hunger can hide 
a man leers with net intention     I pink my abdomen 
for a monstrous thing I feel so much pain
while offense makes each meal & daynight cycle a kind
of waiting      what have I to lose except a life     a safety
my mother has never killed in my name     what violent shame
my father would never kill in my name      what violent shame 
most days my bodies sleep between dying reborn leaves
I barely wanted      where have I to fly except my loom     a mirror
of skin stitched screamingly in the quiet dark      & when I wake
I’ll have changed      no     I’ll remain the same     a trembling prey

Willow James Claire (James O’Leary) is a trans poet from Arizona. Their work has been nominated for both the Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize anthologies and has appeared in such journals as Frontier, Protean, The Indianapolis Review, and Foglifter. Willow holds an MFA from Sarah Lawrence College and currently serves as a poetry reader for both Little Patuxent Review and ANMLY.