Chapter 5: Handle with Care (Be Gentle, I’m Tender)

Lost Angel

(by Mya Byrne and Bethel Steele)

Have you been broken?
all shards and pieces
hands rough and bleeding
all folds and creases
Your pain is one thing
your heart’s another
Where is your sister? Where is your mother?

But your shame will leave you if you let her in
cast your guilt down
there is no sin
You swear you’ve seen her face before
Your lost angel’s at your door

She was a child, grew up beside you
A mirror hoping
that you would see through
All your days running from her sweet face
So much like yours when your finger traced

But she never left you, let her in
pull off your mask
Look true and listen
You swear you’ve heard her voice before
Your lost angel’s at your door

She knew you before you were a man
And she’ll love you, no matter where you stand

Have you heard someone in your sad mind
talks like you used to, so sweet and kind
She’s more than trinkets, more than gold
Let her cross the threshold, she’s in your soul

And your tears will leave you when you let her in
Open up, with arms embracing
And you swear you’ve heard her voice before
Your lost angel’s at your door

A Letter to my breasts

By Syd Germaine

Dear breasts,

Its been five years since I saw you. God that’s a long time. Everything is different now.

I’ve put a lot behind me and I’ve matured. Lot’s of shit has happened. Do you remember the psych ward? I ended up there again about two years ago in a different city, after having a manic episode and a 5-month period of massive hallucinations, and nightly visits from shadow people; I’m sure you’re not surprised.

Mom and I are doing well; dad and I are doing well, too. I think both of them still don’t understand why I had to get rid of you, though, but they’re trying.

What else?

I stopped testosterone because I didn’t feel like using it anymore. I graduated college, I escaped the conservative farm town in which we grew up, and I now live in Chicago. I feel good.

I’m not trying to brag or make you feel bad about yourselves. I don’t know if this is needed, but… I’m not mad at you anymore. The distance has grown so much that I’ve found myself forgetting why I was so mad at times. I wonder where you are. I also wonder… What would it be like if I still had you?

Sometimes, I wear dresses now, and I wonder how they’d fit my body with you on my chest. What kind of bras would I wear? Would I still be binding? Because I stopped hormones and never had a hysterectomy (all that shit down there and me, we’re on speaking terms again, if you can believe it) — I can technically carry a baby — and I wonder, what would I do about breastfeeding?

See? I’ve grown up a bit. I can actually talk about this shit without having a meltdown!

I don’t mean to get too personal, but I’ve had a lot of sex since I had surgery. Don’t have a lot of feeling in my chest anymore, and I wonder what sex would be like if I still had you. Seriously, though, stimulations? Orgasms? Would it be easier? I’m sure you remember how hard it was for me; this hasn’t changed. Sometimes I felt partners would like me better if I had breasts — is my hybrid body too much for them? I’m serious. It goes to my head. But you know me. I get anxious, and with that paranoid, sweaty anxiety, comes that extremely unhealthy self-consciousness. That borderline swing.

The scars on my chest are even starting to fade. People have wondered if I had open heart surgery.

Once vibrant red, you could clearly see the stitch marks, but now they are pale, peach pink.

I don’t know if you fully understand, but… when the three of us were together, I felt like I couldn’t be myself. I needed to hide; it was horribly wrong. May I wouldn’t feel that way now, but at the time I knew I had to do whatever I could to get rid of you. And I don’t mean to be rude, but you kind of just showed up without asking and took up more and more space, never checking in to see if I was OK with you being there. I wasn’t. I was fucking hurt. You needed to be more considerate.

Please understand I did what I had to. Infuriation, desperation, self-hatred, and dysphoria, I had to.

Either I cut you out of my life, or something worse would have happened, and none of us would have made it.

And I’m… sorry. I’m sorry about putting you through years and years of binding. I was asleep but I can’t imagine the pain you experiences when they were cutting you off of my body. They walked me through the steps. They pulled you apart and pieced me back together and I woke up, and you were gone. After they took the bandages off, I went walking in a button-down shirt and my chest was
freezing cold; I didn’t realize how warm you kept me. Thank you for keeping me warm for the time you did. I am truly grateful.

Breasts? Despite everything that has happened between us, sometimes… I miss you. I don’t mean to make things weird.

They never told me what happened to you, so sometimes I wonder. Where are you now? What are you doing? Are you okay? I hope you ended up on someone’s chest who really, really needed it. Or, in my fanciful imagination, you ended up in some heavenly sanctuary where unwanted breasts, or breasts that got too sick, or excess tissue, can all hang out with each other. What if you’re somewhere like Iceland? Mars? Alaska? Somewhere in the mountains? What if you’re next door and I’ll never know?

I know I’m never going to see you again. Maybe I shouldn’t be writing this letter. Whatever’s going on, wherever you are, or aren’t I hope you’re happy, and I hope you’re thriving. Sometimes you show up in my dreams, just like I was nineteen again.

All the best,

A cramp and a tilt and I’m A OK

By Shell Myers

i pluck the plants from the ground
practiced fingers thoughtlessly continue
the weeds hide within bushes and freckles
a practiced finger feels the difference
knows the sore, new sprout formed in the sweat
of a kicking night
more for the taking tomorrow when i get up
A cramp and a tilt and I’m A OK
Left side pulled up, tilted ear on shoulder
A slide
and curl
i sit with a twine of grit
a squeeze and a rub
holes dug from a decade ago dried cradle new
hauling cord and reasoning with sacrum
thirty four minutes to a standard position
thirty four minutes in the sacrum
the depressed person lives in the sacrum
pressure cooking lull
wait until tomorrow
wait until


By Shell Meyers

i believe god is a gentle reminder
to take it slow, turn the oven off
a Greyhound bus driver making ocean wave whooshes over the intercom
using intercoms static and breathing noises
on the night bus to Pittsburgh lulling the bus people to sleep

Chapter 6

Celebrating the beauty and expressive power of the human form