Poetry: Selections from Jess Tower
gendered locker rooms
strange beautiful intelligent: an entirely too-lacking
description of trans
When people ask if I’m trans, I say no but thank you
for the compliment
Years prior, I gently iced into fluidity, then, suddenly
became dilated with fire & emerged
no fear of the cross
the thank you approach turned
the no approach
I became a fluid woman
For the cis - I’m comfortable with myself
the fact is my individuality forgot how much
superstition becomes galvanized with complex horror
until one laugh about my leg hair became far too many
& I had forgotten myself
I then forgot all too much about gender until
I found myself walking into the
women’s locker room, angry; then & only then,
the beginning of this poem happened.
discovering my father during a disability recertification phone call at age 28
how many daughters will need to be pleasantly out of frame
for the men who left them fatherless to have enough
of assessing the degree of evil within the mothers?
The evil continuing onto the hims, harshly, because
the once-fathers’ stiff spikes only wire through the uterus,
retaining the baby’s genes & unfortunately,
retaining even his scent on the baby until the daughter
is hated by the mother, too, her once-glorious she
turned mistake turned wished-for-skeleton
her(s) eyes closed, once unsuccessfully
there was no help back then I did what I had to
I don’t mean she tried to kill me, though sometimes I do wish on shooting stars
the unsuccessful-mothers bear drug-trauma formed into babies
until they no longer know who they were once sang sharply once stand-up kind
until they can’t even tell the daughter her father’s name
In Count Nine of a nine-count indictment, defendants-appellants Novia Turkette, Jr., John Vargas, and eleven others were charged with conspiring to "conduct, and participate directly and indirectly, in the conduct of the affairs of (an) enterprise, which would engage in, and the activities of which would affect interstate commerce, through a pattern of racketeering activity."
This appeal raises, for the first time..., the issue of whether Title IX… authorizes the prosecution of individuals for engaging together in a series of criminal acts unrelated in any way to any legitimate business organization.
- United States v. Novia Turkette, Jr.
This poem is for my Grandpa.
I had a choice when I was a kid: play dead or become crime itself.
Novi, your sideways glance & pursed lips are just like your dog’s,
now my dog. My hair cut just yesterday & I look like you:
Italian mobster revisioned, I see you on my fatherless face—
you were stepfather to my mother—but I was familiar
to you, always family, & you’d smack me if I said I wasn’t.
I even miss your anger. Your acts of crime were you, but not bisexual me,
though I can’t say I didn’t think of dirty money, just to have some
money, me—poor & you—rich. When you died, you had no cash,
slowly putting away for your own funeral. Or, maybe, you were
angry, petty—you were a Turkette by birth. We’ll never know.
Grandpa, I miss our silence, our slight friendship—
don’t tell me or I’ll tell—our agreement. Though I almost wish
I had joined you, just once, just for the thrill of it,
just to know those sirens, chasing me crazy.
complex post-traumatic stress disorder
I’m holding myself, mirrored, in my bed.
Sleeping or not. Heal me, heal me not.
I’m drowning myself by the neck. Pulling myself
out of its ball, leaving a bare naked thread.
They scare itself. A red scream, a calculative
dream, a wild seam, a dead stream. It pulls itself
close, it smiles like veins. It unwinds hair
from my heads & clamps them together with spit,
a far cry from healing. No no no yes no no.
Pulls lashes from its eyes like flowers
in the schoolyard. It smells like home -
cigarettes, lavender, unscented bathroom spray.
Its black hair matted with red, red blood. Smells like home!
Dead like it's supposed to be. Maybe I’m still pretend.
Maybe the sleep & wake cures fakely.
The other me slows into the other side of my bed. I see
a tan dog (oh! my dog)
on top of my white pillow (it’s soft)
& then I (the fullness of myself) slip
into bed (the fully real one) & sleep.
Jess Tower is a disabled educator & poet based in Salem, MA. Jess has been published in Soundings East, Meat for Tea: The Valley Review, District Lit, & Juked, among others. Most recently, Jess participated in Tupelo Press's 30/30 Project, writing 30 poems in 30 days during the month of September 2022.