Ela Thompson

// how to read an [en]gendered equation

// in which: i am an integer
// a trans life is actually the main function
// time is a cyclical loop
// where i can actually exist where conditions are true

int main ( ) {
int a trans-experience= mine;

// this is a nested do/while loop
// a list of demands
// a list of necessities

do {
count<< “our names, our pronouns in spite of
our appearance, no matter
your cis opinion”;
do {
count<< “speaking out against those who
would reject our personhood— consider
defending our right to exist”;

do {
count<< “listen

} while ( conscious); }

while ( breathing);

} while ( safe);
count <<

// too often find hands outstretched into white void
// we trip head long into silence & oppressive vibrating dark
// my love, my love, my love, will she wake tomorrow
// into her beautiful dissonance? will i in mine?
// if she walks through my door a year from now— not a ghost—

return a portrait of a trans-person still living;


// the drought

void printmessage ( )
count << “& when I look at myself now
it’s the same— stomach
acid rises into that esophagus
& i’m already disassociating
myself from that body“;
do {
count << in the mirror loose self, dissolve
in ripples of liquid glass melt
} while (disassociating);

//how many times
//did i stretch cotton
//bandages over
//[my] chest that spring?
//attempt to divine
//gender w/ a dowsing rod
//from beneath
//caverns of flesh?

while {
count << “we weren’t speaking,
but your hair was flood water
rising murky out of your skull;
that couldn’t look away kind of
disaster beauty.

perhaps it was your willingness
to live w/ painted fingernails
& makeup & ballet flats
over your unaltered flesh
that drew me /n“;

// i forgot we lived in a flood
// plain &
// when it began to rain,
// the ground was too dry to absorb
// the water & so it welled up
// & pooled on the surface.


// dark houses

void printmessage ( )
count << “her body is a dark house,
ephemeral whisper—silhouette
of what it should be/ could be

she stretches shadow arms
through ill fitting flesh & wonders if a body can feel belonged in “;
do {warm summer sun
w/ white smiles
& hands clasped around daisy chains
& — & — billowing dress on the threshold & —
& — data corrupted — &
} while (in flashback);

int main ( )
int her words = whispered in empty rooms
count <<
“maybe i will tear that flesh open
make a void where i’m missing one

my body is a dark house,
atoms vibrating slow/ quantum shift
& slip between
d i s g u st & a c c e p t a n c e
/of shape/ “;

// unhappy unconscious, uncomfortable, unhoused
// in wild & untamed interior waste

// i once lived on a street of dark houses
// made dark by people who had once stopped by & tore out all the fixtures // some of them were well meaning:
// cultural marketing of drugs/knives/surgery as “successful remodel”

// i have seen people evict themselves from their houses
return houses that 1) didn’t fit or 2) were haunted or 3) burned down;



ELA THOMPSON is a current MFA poetry student at George Mason University, and is the poetry editor of So to Speak, a feminist literary journal. A few of their honors include: winner of the 2017 Mark Craver Poetry Award and finalist of the 2016 Jane Lumley Prize. Their work has been featured or is forthcoming in Hermeneutic Chaos, The Heavy Feather Review, Crab Fat Magazine, Spy Kids Review, and elsewhere.