torrin a. greathouse is a genderqueer, schizophrenic, cripple-punk from Southern California. They are the Editor and Co-Founder of Black Napkin Press. Their work has been published or is forthcoming in Assaracus, Crab Fat Magazine, Heavy Feather Review, Polychrome Ink, Rabbit Catastrophe Review, Calamus Journal, Emerge Literary Journal, & The Feminist Wire. torrin's work was nominated for the Pushcart Prize by Rust + Moth. When they are not writing or editing poetry, they are trying to survive in america long enough to earn a degree.
Self-portrait as Daedalus, Writing the First Draft
of His Autobiography
every version of this story begins with you,
which is to say, this story begins with falling, or it
begins where sky ends, or with the ocean swallowing
a bird or a boy, like a lump in its throat.
let me begin again: once, your mother gave birth
to a candle, these palms carved wax, searching for
feathers inside. lesson — you cannot dig a body from
the fire, only bones.
no, let me begin again: maybe, once your mother
gave birth to me & i spent years hating birds for the
gift of wings & i was taught to labyrinth these
fractured ribs to hold my bullheaded heart.
no. let me begin again: once my mother gave
birth to a bull, then to a pair of wings or was it a fire?
or just a pile of bones? & then she labyrinthed this
into a name.
let me begin again: you or i were born a candle &
i named us with a blade, trying to carve a perfect
wing. i named us until all that was left was a sound.
maybe this is the only way to say it: boy begets
boy, teaches him — desire. teaches him the shackling
of dark, how it labyrinths into your veins. forgot to
teach him — fire or how it can kiss. fire begets fall.
boy rises from the ocean, cliff — white as bones. story
walks out my mouth in the middle of a sentence
This poem emerged during a time when I was facing one of the worst writer's blocks I've ever encountered. My friend HanaLena Fennel (a fantastic poet who constantly inspires me) suggested that the issue might be my perfectionism, and that maybe the way to write again was to attack this directly. She challenged me to write about my own perfectionism through the lens of Daedalus, whose perfectionism was often his downfall. In writing to this prompt I carved out a space where parent / child / object / animal become one and different, where memory restructures / devours itself. At a certain point it became a poem less about perfection and more about the safety this elusive perfection provides, yet ends on the refusal of a perfect ending. In a way this poem is a lesson to myself. A lesson in walking away, of finding perfection in the unfinished.