greathouse & Reeman

Epigenesis: A Lineage in Two Voices

torrin a. greathouse & L.R. Bird

my mother’s interpretation of “healthy” is “alive”
once my parents tried to have a healthy baby,
but the first one died / so they got me instead

my mother tells me i cannot be bipolar because there is no
familial history           / but genes have a memory

acute trauma will pass your body’s reaction onto your children
                                                                                 and their children
                                                             until trauma is the only

my grandmother punches perfect circles
into my mother’s arm and her skin blooms a diagram of
a moon passing through the sky

                                                  the Nazi occupation of Holland starved the Dutch people
                                                                                                    until their bodies rewrote
                                                            bones that crumbled
                                                  organs that howled—

STOP. the Nazi occupation of my grandmother’s mouth
            bloomed my father           / grandchildren of the Dutch survivors are
                                                  genetically predispositioned
                                        to a myriad of medical problems
                              including heart failure

FAST FORWARD. my father moves to Holland
                                        learns Dutch
                                                  then forgets it—

FAST FORWARD. my grandfather beats
                                        a cherry tree with a length of
                                                  hose to make it           / bloom
—this is a common practice / to beat the tree
          will stimulate the production of
                    traumatin           / will force it to grow
                              / a genetic survival mechanism
                              i mean once
                    my father’s father beat him
                    until he           bloomed an unnatural shade of           moon

FAST FORWARD. in preparation for top surgery, i get an EKG
                                                            and then another
                                                            the doctors ask me if i have a
                                                  familial history of
                                        heart failure

REWIND. my father is in the hospital again
                    my mother tells me his heart is just tired from
                              loving so infinite—

FAST FORWARD.                                                                      the doctors tell me i need to relax
                                                            they tell me there might be something
                                                            wrong with me
                                                  the doctors tell me to stop crying
                                                  or they’ll give me
                                        another pill—

REWIND.                                                                      my grandmother teaches me to swim
                                                                      by throwing me into the deep end
                                                            she doesn’t save me
                                                            until i am

FAST FORWARD. now, every time i shower my skin
                              bursts                    / blooms
                              a series of fireworks           across my chest
i am diagnosed with aquagenic urticaria
which is an allergy to water
          moisture causing lesions on the skin
                    my body rejecting all survival instincts
                    my body inheriting an allergy to itself

FAST FORWARD. the EKG proves that sometimes
          my heart stutters           / i listen to myself and i sound like
                    a stick against a drum
                    a hose against a tree
                    a hand against a face

                    my body remembers a trauma it did not           muscle through
                    my muscles remember a trauma my body            should not know

REWIND. in 1941, the first gassings of Auchwitz prisoners occurred
this was justified by the creation of “eugenics”
which is the concept of perfecting inheritability
          the idea that choosing only the most desirable traits will
          make for scientifically perfect humans

FAST FORWARD.                                                  in 1965 the term “transgender” was coined
                                                                                in a journal of pathology
                                                            in 2017, the Republican party lists “transsexualism”
                                                            as a preexisting condition
                                                  when they approve the AHCA
                              i mean i am named and then gutted in the same century
          it took the american government 500 years to rule tobacco as dangerous
          to the public’s health
                    which means i am easier to burn than a pile of tobacco
                    which means i am easier to kill than a joint
                    which means even if the Republican party doesn’t say “faggot”
                              i know that’s what they smell
                    which is to say, in 2017,
          the Republican party approves a form of
                    eugenics          / the Republican party breathes and
                              a genocide           blooms from the                      gas—

                    my mother asks me again why i don’t want children
as if my own illnesses aren’t bad enough
          this country is trying to make sure i do not wish my inheritance
                    / onto someone else     / by approving the AHCA
                    the Republican party is saying
                              WEALTH IS A HERITABLE TRAIT
and by this they mean maybe poverty can be
bred    / out of the gene pool
          another imperfection                     disappearing
                    scientifically i am not worth                     saving

REWIND.            my father beats me blue moon

REWIND.           my grandfather hits my father so hard i come out
                    / flinching

REWIND. i live inside a mirror
          my trauma has a face and it looks like
          sometimes i don’t realize i am yelling until
                    a lover’s skin                     blooms                      my mouth
sometimes i don’t realize the hand-me-down
                    of my fists until i beat                     a wall
                    expecting it to                               bloom—

FAST FORWARD. mother asks me why i don’t want
                    children, and—

torrin a. greathouse is a genderqueer trans woman & cripple-punk from Southern California. She is the Editor-in-Chief of Black Napkin Press. Their work is published/forthcoming in Bettering American Poetry, Redivider, BOAAT, Waxwing, The Offing, Tinderbox, & Frontier. She is the author of two chapbooks, Therǝ is a Case That I Ɐm (Damaged Goods, 2017) & boy/girl/ghost (TAR Chapbook Series, 2018). When they are not writing, their hobbies include pursuing a bachelors degree, awkwardly drinking coffee at parties,& trying to find some goddamn size 13 heels.

L.R. Bird (they/them) exists on the internet at