Litany for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

torrin a. greathouse


i open my mouth like a vein
i open
this story crawls out of my mouth, hermit crab curled into my jaw
this Eucharist of guilt tucked under the tongue
this trauma as distillation/ablution
this story so simple in its telling:
        boy is born & before this story begins father wishes them dead
        boy’s body becomes lusted thing before they first speak
        boy paints lips & nails, is labeled wrong
        boy speaks & is labeled wrong
        boy is wrong
        boy is broken like a wishbone, cooked too long for marrow
                to be anything but dust
        boy bleeds for weeks, snot runs black as tar
        boy discovers fists, like a familiar tongue
        boy discovers sex & fire & the good edge of a razor blade
        boy rediscovers sex, by which i mean, is raped [again]
        boy bleeds for weeks, tells no one
        boy pulls the gun from father’s mouth, learns its anatomy
        boy pulls the bottle from father’s mouth, learns their own anatomy
                in how it stains the ground
        boy becomes, at some point, not
        boy becomes me
this story a drought of metaphors
this story too simple for telling
this story a song played in a single note
the audience stands, forgets to applaud
this audience, rising like a river without ever thinking why
the audience breaking down like a cell, into its smallest units
these discussing the music on the drive home, listening to top 40
these people falling asleep
waking up to another sanitary dawn
& still forgetting to applaud


On Examination/Dereliction
after Erika Meitner

My body as radix contritum. My body as transverse fracture. My body as dissection. This waiting room in discount white. This host of bodies, distant in their completion. The slow walk to examination room disinfected by fluorescence. The echo of my cane. The nurse’s eyes on my stained lips. The lemon-sick scent of bleach that cuts through even my bone choked nose. This baseboard sprouting cracks like roots through ossified dirt. Your nurse who calls this body sir. Your doctor who calls it ma’am   but i don’t dare correct her. Your doctor who mistakes my breathing for sickness. Your doctor who lifts my shirt and loses my spine in the tight mangle of my back.   I am always first the crookedness of my body. before nail polish—calloused palm. Backless dress—a window to the choking of trees. In the cold of the examination room my fingernails bloom into wisteria. Memory of how it suffocated my childhood home. How slowly, gently, a flower can kill. How to remove it could leave a building unable to stand. She prescribes estradiol, spironolactone, offers something for the pain. The way my mother whitewashed the porch. How she knew the structure was beyond repair. How she insisted in a graceful collapsing. 



"On Examination/Dereliction" explores the complex relationship that exists between my gender and disabled body, how these seem to exist in competition with each other. And how this, of course becomes inseparable from my childhood and the trauma surrounding it. I think the piece it is written after, "By Other Means" by Erika Meitner, performs an incredibly controlled spiral out from the hospital to the bursting and splintering of solar systems. It was my hope to capture instead the feeling of collapsing inward into memory. "Litany for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder" comes from a similar place. When visiting a psychiatrist to get mood stabilizers for my Cyclothymia I was forced to recount my history of trauma to the doctor. This was when I was first diagnosed with PTSD, and I suppose there was an urge to capture in poetry the feeling of this inventory of trauma.

torrin a. greathouse is a genderqueer trans womxn & cripple-punk from Southern California. Her work is published/forthcoming in, Bettering American Poetry, Muzzle, Redivider, BOAAT, Waxwing, & The Offing. 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.