A POEM FOR CLARINDE AND BLANCHADRIN(E)
by Mud Howard
I didn’t know what was possible until I met myself
in a forest I became a new alive thing
in the green light of the afternoon
until the touch of an angel
gender came to me.
Wasn’t I always me?
Same sun, new sky.
Same self, new body.
Same planet, new perspective.
Retrograde is just a matter of where you are standing in orbit,
And what appears to move backwards.
Tristan, my prince. A ray of sun.
I met him in a field, but we could have been anywhere.
The forest of his eyes was on fire when we met.
My religion became his, my furious father medieval style,
Locked us in a tower. I was without hair as long as
Rapunzel’s, without a gender capable of being saved,
I shapeshifted in the way I knew how.
Shorn my hair short as his and bent my gender towards the sun.
I fit in with the rest of them, the boys, the knights.
With Tristan off to war, we lost each other.
He fulfilled the duty thrust upon him by the nature of his birth.
Men are built for war.
Women are built for waiting.
Isn’t that what they told us?
I wasn’t built for this.
I fled to Babylon, and that’s when I saw you.
Light dancing across water.
A lunar glow, I gripped with both eyes,
Both hands, gravitational on you.
Clarinde: full and consistent as the moon in her changing moods.
I couldn’t have come any closer and just like that,
I was yours. You chose me.
You looked at my arcing jaw & curved body against the ranks of the other knights
And said, “That one.”
He is mine.
You didn’t know.
The me that came before.
The soft beneath the rock, the secret between the sheaths.
Your body, a stallion next to mine, always tucked away, sleeping on my stomach,
shielding myself from you, my love.
I am a knight in your eyes, armour off, clothes on.
I am careful, as any person who shapeshifts must be.
Careful that you see only the parts of me that align, nothing else.
Our love, the size of a revolution.
But word travels fast as lightning,
Gossip strikes the city like a storm.
My love, under siege. My past life, catching up with me.
You start to doubt me.
If the me she she’s is really the man, you think me to be.
You draw us a hot bath, in the afternoon.
A glittering sea.
You coax me to undress, to join you in the water, so you can pull me my gender in,
under, on top of, all over. I feel like the ground is crumbling beneath me.
“I want you,” you say, tugging at my drawstrings. “Give your body to me.”
The walls folding in, the water rising, my shirt opening until the stag, wild as thunder,
rushes through into the room, and I can’t tell if it’s real or a device, but the tension
breaks like a neck and I slip off into the woods, green as life.
My body back into a forest of unknown light.
The trees do not know my name or care what shape the soil is between my legs.
I drop to my knees and plead.
And they arrive.
An angel of mine.
What happens next is one of two things.
I can go back to being the woman they thought I was, find Tristan who survived, who did not snap under the jaws of war, as I thought
I can become the man I know I am and be with you, Clarinde.
My gender is a galaxy in no need of taming.
I tell my angel to
make me who I am and have always been.
Right here I am transformed.
I am both completely changed and the same.
You know me, you recognize me, because I am me.
But my body below the belt is a new living thing.
I make it back to you, Clarinde.
It was a case of mistaken identity.
A soul caught between barriers, between genders, between mortal forms.
I do not hesitate now.
I undress, walk towards the bath, and you see me.
A kingdom, all yours.
I must find Tristan now, my first love, my old story.
We meet again, in a field, could have been anywhere.
Two brother linked forever now, clinging to each other and crying.
For the love lost but the bond gained,
Wringing the rag of masculinity one last time together.
Cry for us, for men, for our love one last time.
Now we walk forward together,
Lovers and brothers bearing scars, the wounds of time and war heal slowly,
But new skin forms. New love blossoms like a flower in the night,
The water drips from your lips to mine, into the basin of my sex.
We must hold each other like the kingdoms are falling,
Like gender is collapsing in on itself.
Like the earth is turning the opposite direction for once,
We don’t have to hide.
My gender changed like light through a prism,
Slipping through the hands of time like water.
Depending on where you stood, I’d catch your eye.
My name, a new shape in your mouth.
You and I, together now.
A baby boy who outlives him.
They will call him a saint,
But we will know he is a queer miracle,
A new story.
A forest that will outlive the old scripts.