One Poem by Levi Cain

Creation Story

bury your girlhood in the backyard,
underneath the lilacs and 
snap peas. say no prayers for it,
hope it is laid to rest and will
not follow you home. build the memory 
of your father teaching 
you how to shave on a sunday
morning, the way the sun filtered 
through the blinds and dust. stroke
the razor down a smooth cheek
and do not cry. do not stop
to mourn your stillborn boyhood,
you have missed enough.
walk home alone at night,
avoid the hovering streetlights,
leave the pepper spray unopened, 
laugh off the worried phone calls.
you—a boy,
impenetrable as an era,
stalking home defiantly,
will cause your own trauma 
this time. check the spread 
of your legs on buses, the
bristles of hair on your legs
and chin. when the
whitegirl on the street runs 
when you ask for directions,
say nothing. dig up the memory
of your mother showing you 
how to thread a needle and sew
your lips shut before the 
hurt escapes. re-form your body 
as a fist. re-form the part of
you that aches and cover it
with spit and menthols.
when your father says
he has never known a boy
like you, tell him you learned
your own creation myth. tell him
you cannot pull from dust 
so you have to make due with
what is leftover—the burned
easter dresses, the mustache
left in its infancy, the layers of
flannel baptized in sweat
year-around. from this you emerge 
stumbling, not a not as a man
but a mimic malformed, 
composed of pink ribs and 
plastic sinew, half-boy,
half-girl, all of you 
new and raw around
the edges, hurtling towards
whatever will have you
whatever looks like home
when you’re beaten enough
to squint.


Levi Cain is a gay Black poet who was born in California, raised in Connecticut, and currently lives in Massachusetts. Their work has been shortlisted for Brain Mill Press’ 2019 National Poetry Month contest, as well as nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net. Their first chapbook, dogteeth. will be available from Ursus Americanus Press in 2020. You can find them on Instagram and Twitter @honestlyliketbh.