“What It Means” and “Nocturnalist” by Betsy Housten

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Still from The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari

 

WHAT IT MEANS

It means I walk the world in a shape I’ve only known
since age twenty-four. Or, by a different calculation, since
age eight, kneeling in my parents’ closet, of all places,
hunting for Christmas presents, struck by sudden terror –
what if I was gay. It means my relief was short-lived.
That I didn’t realize just how bad my heart could crack
with such heavy water until the first girl took it in her hands
and broke it. It means I feel a compulsive need to say
things like I used to love men or I’m no gold star, as if everyone
I meet is entitled to a play-by-play of my evolving life.
It means after five years single I sometimes wonder
if I still count. That’s how deep it runs – the way the thing
about me I hold closest can feel like an unending quest
for legitimacy, even in a mind that calms itself with
reason, a body that’s never understood anything more.

 

 

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Still from The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari

 

NOCTURNALIST

 

 

 

 

 

Betsy Housten is a Pushcart-nominated queer writer and massage therapist. Her work appears or is forthcoming in Cold Creek Review, Vagabond City, Bone & Ink Press, Burning House Press, Longleaf Review, Glassworks Magazine, and elsewhere. She lives in New Orleans, where she is pursuing her MFA in poetry.

 

 

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