Family Legend—Cassandra Whitaker
Great great great great uncle once wore a dress
to upend the union supplies
around the swamps of Vicksburg, what he saw
as the wolf lurking in his pasture.
When the story is told, it is/a joke, the dress, my uncle/wearing a woman to out/do and out do./ How funny the union/troops, too jacked on pride,/muscadine wine to notice/his favor. How funny, a dress, on a man/so manly the rebels holler no more/nor more you are too much/for us, your beauty, your grace,/no more. How queer,/how queer. Wearing what you will/and doing the will/of gods with a belly/full of want/the way kudzu wants./Forever.
He enjoyed it, I say
he preened, switched
and took the waist
to the bind, and stretched
long legs to move
like weather through a body
so tired of bodies’ blood;
a great happiness
rose up in the old cuss
and turned his eyes green
as kudzu clapping
the forest shut.
Did you Issac? Make love
to yourself as yourself
in your mind? Did you measure men
The swamp is hot, sticky, and wild as a mouth
devouring a mouth devouring
a mouth. Is that why
when this story is told
it is told with whispers?/We shall not queer/the memory of our hero?/ A man is only great/as his service/to manhood? Is it the secret yes/and yes and yes/ we cannot say/ out loud? That Issac loved
laying in the great swamp
of his heart, green branch touching green
branch, body of water spilling
into another body. In the swamp,
the nymphs that flower late
Cassandra Whitaker (they/them) is a trans writer from Virginia. Their work has been published in or is forthcoming in Barrelhouse, Hobart, The Little Patuxent Review, Foglifter, Evergreen Review, The Comstock Review, The Rumpus, and other places. They are a member of the National Book Critics Circle.