torrin a. greathouse’s “Abecedarian Requiring Further Examination Before a Diagnosis Can be Determined”

May 27, 2020

Abecedarian Requiring Further Examination Before a Diagnosis Can be Determined
by torrin a. greathouse

after Natalie Diaz

Antonym for me a medical
book. Replace all the punctuation—  
commas, periods, semicolons—with question marks.
Diagnosis is just apotheosis with sharper
edges. New name for a myth already lived in.
For the sake of thoroughness, I have
given until my veins cratered. Tests administered for: 
HIV, cirrhosis, glucose, cancer, creatine, albumin, iron, platelets.
I’ve slept for days, wired to machines. Had my piss filtered for stray proteins
just to be safe. Still, inside my body— 
kingdom with poisoned wells. I want anything but an elegy
lining my bones. I just want to be a question this body can answer.
My new doctor writes one referral, then another, still
no guesses. A man in a scowl & lab coat
offers yoga, more painkillers. Suggests
PTSD could be the cause—of chronic pain, my limp, of migraines, 
quickened pulse & blood-glittered coughs, of seizures
rattling me inside my skin—O, 
syndrome of my perfect & unbroken
transgender arm. They checked my hormones too. Yes.
Unfathomable—a suffering I did not choose. Must be gender, this
vacancy my body makes of its own flesh. How I vanish from myself.
We search for a beginning to this story & find only a history of breakage
x-rays cannot explain. Some girls are not made, but spring from the dirt:
yearling tree already scarred from its branch’s severance.
Zygote of red clay that rain washes into a river of blood.

Previously published in POETRY Magazine (April 2020).

Writing Prompt:
 The best formal poems often come from a marriage of content and form where the systems inherent to the form reinforce the logic of the content. If there is a poem you have been struggling to write, try shaping your draft into a form that fits the logic of the poem you’re trying to create. Want to tell a story with a sudden twist? Try a sonnet. Stuck on a particular memory? Try a sestina. Etc.


torrin a. greathouse

torrin a. greathouse is a transgender cripple-punk, MFA candidate at the University of Minnesota, & assistant editor of The Shallow Ends. Their work is published in POETRY, Ploughshares, TriQuarterly, & The Kenyon Review. Her debut collection, Wound from the Mouth of a Wound (Milkweed Editions, 2020), was the winner of the Ballard Spahr Prize for Poetry.