the first time my roommate sees me after i’m
released from jail, i’m drunk. so i tell her.
i know, she says. your face is all red.
during the Roaring 20’s popular rise of eugenics,
those declared feebleminded whom the local mental
institutions did not have room for were sent
to jail instead.
according to varying and often contradictory
medical definitions of the time, to be feeble
minded is to display a lack of morals, to be
a creature not energetic enough to forestall
its own expectant death. [in jail, my
cellmates tell me the week before i got there,
some girl in the next room over hung herself
like a fuckin movie, like these female guards
didn’t even flinch and they’re still making
bitches sleep there.]
in jail, everyone misses liquor. some
girl i don’t know and won’t after puts her
whole body next to mine and withdrawal
shakes and i tell her to stop apologizing.
even the toothpaste is alcohol free.
i mention it’s the same toothpaste we got
in the mental hospital. figures,
someone says. ‘sall government supplied.
the jail doctor asks me if there’s any history
of mental illness in my family. [yes.
in the beginning, there was a bottle and my grand-
father married her and so according to Mendelian
genetics, the drunkard gene can lay dormant in
my mother’s blood and still emerge in my face
// or, yes. in the beginning, my mother tried
to raise me right. but then someone asked her
what kind of creature lived in her house and
she did not have the energy to fight anymore so
she sent me to therapy instead. // or]
i ask my parents about their parents
and they can only give me names with folklore.
your grandma was raped published.
Grandpa George loved his bottle telescope.
they would’ve been so scared proud
of you. [i know my own genealogy as
a forest cut down and rotting.
if my lineage’s faults never made a sound
to me, how did i hear them anyway?
if i die by my own feeblemindblood,
who will the coroners blame?
if a trans kid drinks a bottle of wine
and still drives home, why did no-one
make a sound to stop them?
if i order three drinks in front of my
mother and she pays for them without
saying anything, who will talk when i
fall? if a forest rots,
is it the fault of the roots or the
environment? if i am in
jail for speaking up, whose
hands are over my mouth?]
during the height of the eugenics craze,
thousands of feebleminded badmorals people
were sterilized against their will by the force of
the United States government. medical records
show that perhaps the majority all of these people
were just impoverished or uneducated or other-
wise not listened to when they spoke.
the first time i hear my mother’s voice
after i’m released from jail, it’s clear
she’s been crying. just tell me the truth,
she says. just tell me you’re innocent.
[the current definition of pedigree refers to
the purebreeding of animals // or, alcoholism
was a symptom of the feebleminded’s lack of
control // or, alcoholism is a result of numerous
mental illnesses, including all the ones my mother
insists did not dirty our blood // or, there is a limit
to how pure alcohol can be. with enough heat,
ethanol dissolves faster than water suddenly
there is all our bloodmuck aired out // or]
alone in the holding cell
the creature paces
alone // in the bathroom
the transkid vomits
last night’s loose morals
out of its blood
and if no one is around
if the guards ignore its wails
if its friends invite it out again
if the jail and the mental hospital
give it the same toothpaste
and no one hears the creature
drink, then who
will remember this history?