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?


L. R. Bird (they/them pronouns) has work published or forthcoming in Blueshift Journal, Maps for Teeth, FreezeRay, Public Pool, Alien Mouth, and others. They are a multiple Pushcart Prize and Bettering American Poetry nominee, have performed for venues like The Bowery Poetry Club and Busboys & Poets, and occasionally sleep a full 8 hours. Site: