Two Poems from an Anthology of Radical Trans Poetics

By Raquel Salas Rivera and CAConrad

November 25, 2020  By Raquel Salas Rivera and CAConrad

“soon we’ll be people again”
Raquel Salas Rivera

west philly summer 2018

so hot you want to
shave your eyebrows group ice
in a sock

and break the slick
off the glass

pour out the air that’s trapped
in all the cupboards called stores distance
the drinks from faucets divvy up the water

ride waves of some glimpsed
hell scarred backwards into its
opposing linger

you come down cussing out the sun
spitting up red through the light
leveling out the rage

hot so

you dip your face in icecream pools lap
up the cracks

ant corpses littering playgrounds dying
dried-out on jungle gyms half
crossed sliding
into dead sparrows

hot enough to harbor a grudge
head out to sea to show
up at the wrong door with a timber and a fuck you

when you see a mail truck and think

it’s a whale

carcass holding in leagues
of carved out faces you imagine ghosts

grooming plastic plants
daliesquescapes into brick-hunting insoles and
every corner store waves
a white flag called we sell ice summer is
a luxury season


going to hold it down block by
block the earworm that sweats
into sputtering a desire to spit at

every white question
every nice house with a.c. clean lawns sprinkled
dreams of buyé out in the open

i’m not from here so gimme a minute
to remember streams enough to make do locking

into the overture a chipped-toothed sun laughing
through a heavy cloud still

hot but could be rain and
stuck in a noon dodging
in to buy our way through degrees
of lessening sudden cut

and honk of a delivery gone awry from festered
flashes of a memory tank barging wood

sinister in its splintering age should be
better than metal but
only the fireflies know we
mean to leave this planet

until someone brings water

you can’t decide if beer is
what we need just to numb through yellow

discus thrown out into the trash heavens
as if we were cursed
to live this out until we can heal it or
repay winter we tremble

in thirst
as if wishing a downpour from our
bodies out into
the symmetry of water just above the road

seeing things
seething things or

broken on hubs in a park
promising relief tree-ridden
sick with green heavy onwards

trapping mosquitoes against thighs
a sacrifice for night

saying bring it down into
the insole of a bold-faced lie called
we’re cool

not today
or ever
again going to be a cold bone between us sarcophagi

we call litmus of all other hatreds the belly of the earth
much better the pig in the mud of this body cooling off
in a shade
rasping its skin off on the bark

until breaking into the flesh
of it ray by ray
the divided seconds
of day of it
unsustainable and fountain-bound

heading into the fray
holding on by dear cube shirt high or”off into the shrubs

packing corners with unused lengths

i say soon we’ll be people again i promise

we’ll order in and return
to mimicking survival to our slow declines

and handheld hopes sort of not
knowing how to wield them but still battling away

from wrist flicking out gesturing at
waterfalls pools

icebergs melted into things we can eat
or drink or dribble as if talking
but really what i say is soon we’ll be people again

and no one is listening from however we aren’t
ice arrests the usual called making it matter hot
in cages
in el yunque bald-headed
across the beach of my past stretched out

my body of water
my mountainous descent into the city
and the coast of a city hit by rivers where
swimming is ill-advised
secretly thinking

we’ll be better
than the people we were
better than summer
we’ll be scattered showers
we’ll be sun-down and broken
a headstone struck by its own force
rivulets across its cracked face
taking us over


“900 Chocolate Hearts A Minute At The Candy Factory”

estimate number of

near-misses after

interrupting the

angel prying your

father’s jaws apart

fashioned on tip of a fork

car horn at door to the birth canal

living section of dawn cooking inside the poet

today is the day we reject this vexing sell-by date worry

no guarantee we will cohere in our broken patch of garden

when you look at me you see

mostly water who will

one day hasten to

join a cloud

a thing I know for

certain is to cook

companionship into

food to taste and

become fellowship

eat a leaf with a hole

to share nourishment

with a future butterfly

you believe in sharing

at least you used to

I know you want

to shock me with

reports of enjoying

gloryholes and I can

act shocked to amuse

you yet I wonder if you

ever look up to the wall

thinking it will be his eyes


We Want It All: An Anthology of Radical Trans Poetics

Excerpted from We Want It All: An Anthology of Radical Trans Poetics, edited by Andrea Abi-Karam and Kay Gabriel. Used with permission of Nightboat Books.

Raquel Salas Rivera and CAConrad
Raquel Salas Rivera is a Puerto Rican poet, translator, and editor. He is the author of five full-length poetry books, including, lo terciario/ the tertiary, which won the Lambda Literary Award for Transgender Poetry and was longlisted for the 2018 National Book Award; while they sleep (under the bed is another country), which was longlisted for the 2020 Pen America Open Book Award and was a finalist for CLMP’s 2020 Firecracker Award; and x/ex/exis, which won the inaugural Ambroggio Prize. His sixth book, antes que isla es volcán/before island is volcano, is an imaginative leap into Puerto Rico’s decolonial future and is forthcoming from Beacon Press in 2022. Alongside Raquel Albarrán and Val Arbonéis, he is editing the first anthology of Puerto Rican trans poetry, La piel del arrecife. He currently writes and teaches in Puerto Rico.
CAConrad is the author of the forthcoming book Amanda Paradise (Wave Books, 2021). Their book While Standing in Line for Death won a 2018 Lambda Book Award. They also received a 2019 Creative Capital grant and a Pew Arts and Heritage Foundation Fellowship, the Believer Magazine Book Award, and the Gil Ott Book Award. They regularly teach at Columbia University in New York City and Sandberg Art Institute in Amsterdam. Please view their books, essays, recordings, and the documentary The Book of Conrad (Delinquent Films) online at

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