They, as in

Photo by  Tim Marshall  on  Unsplash    [Image: Multiple hands form together with a large red heart painted across.]

Photo by Tim Marshall on Unsplash

[Image: Multiple hands form together with a large red heart painted across.]

They, as in

you just like to go by micro labels, he says, because you are a girl, you want individuality within the community.

i say i don’t mind she—prefer they, not individuality nor singularity. no, as in, plurality—

they, as in,

they nestled into the meat between my ribcage, tendrils slipping into my aorta, through the alveoli, down into the tips of my fingernails, take control of the small movements the body makes when it is stable,

as in,

at least twenty-three different voices layered over the other every time i try to speak—we speak, the rasp of this voice through the soft petals of our lips hurting the other’s ears. we have been so many versions of ourselves, jigsawed together, fit into place.we don’t hate ourselves this way,

as in,

neither feminine nor masculine, but still: the curve of hips and thighs marked in stripes, petite feet and gentle hands that cup the rounded breast of this body we can’t connect with,

as in,

we used to be simple. easy. call us by your name. your label. whatever makes you comfortable and falls from your lips on first sight,

as in,

that time in dungeons & dragons, the boys kept saying she, and the tendrils coiled, brought fingers into fists, staggered the blood pumping through our body, and the many voices buried inside us silenced because only one of us was laughing,

as in,

a coward’s way out—call us she. but we have never been a she, not when we thought if only we could be a man or when we wrapped four sports bras around our chest until we couldn’t breathe, the air in our alveoli freezing in the chill left behind by this, whatever this is, this sensation to kill whatever vision  others have built up for us, to hope that someday we don’t have to build on speculation,

as in,

no, i say, not separate. we have been community long before you found words to name us.



Sarah Denise Johnson is a graduate student at SFASU. They've been featured in multiple journals, such as Thrice Fiction, 2River, and Fearsome Critters.