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

with pleasure?

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

still flower.

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.