Gwen Benaway

1. Surrender

every day
I fought you,

cut words
like needles

made visible
a body you deny

called down
fire from old gods

wore a bruise
in my skin

spoke tongues
of grace and rage

shaped silence
and emptiness

created beauty
from nothing-

the record
of my resistance

is a dull wound
I carry in bone,

still I lost you,
this rough end

of your texts
blinking at 3 am,

you hate me,
upset I asked

you to listen,
you to see me,

my price is
too high,

you got more
for less from a cis girl

her no cost, easy love
her no consequence sex.

my body costs
your masculinity

still I claw back,
reply as if

anything I say
could hurt you

the way you
kill me.

2. Give

I would give
everything up-

the early rain
last Saturday,

the new shoots
in the dog park,

every white fleck
of ash on my balcony-

for a second chance
to believe in today,

your hands across
the café table top

move to mine
to stop halfway,

you aren’t brave
enough to touch me.

I wanna be new
in your eyes

how I was
our first time

under the weight
of your chest,

a different night
where I’m not

second best,
a whole girl

not a monster
like I am now,

I want faith,
to pray as if

I could be
the same

as every
other girl

if only in
your eyes,

but nothing
I have to give

is worth
what she is.

3. Breathe

I can’t breathe,
a form of dying
I’ve always feared.

asthmatic child,
I used to cry
in the ER,

oxygen mask
over my face,
my mother saying

calm down,
just breathe in,
keep breathing

the same words
you said to me,
our first time

it hurt as I flutter
with your hands
on my waist,

your voice
tells me “breathe,
relax, you’re ok”

so I breathe,
relax to let you in,
neither one of us dies.

when you left
the first time,
I smoked until

my lungs hurt.
all night, coughed
into an empty room.

you came back
and it stopped,
air returning.

now you’ve gone
a second time,
as final as death

I can’t breath,
I try to remember
your voice,

telling me
relax, breathe
as if you knew

the thing between
me and death

would be you.

Gwen Benaway is of Anishinaabe and Métis descent.  Her first collection of poetry, Ceremonies for the Dead, was published in 2013 and her second collection of poetry, Passage, was released in 2016 from Kegedonce Press. Her third collection of poetry, What I Want is Not What I Hope For, is forthcoming from Bookthug in 2017/2018. An emerging Two-Spirited Trans poet, she has been described as the spiritual love child of Thomson Highway and Anne Sexton. In 2015, she was the recipient of the inaugural Speaker’s Award for a Young Author and in 2016 she received an Dayne Ogilvie Honour of Distinction for Emerging Queer Authors from the Writer’s Trust of Canada. Her work has been published and anthologized internationally. She and her many vintage dresses can be found on Instagram and Twitter.