Kayleb Rae Candrilli
You've heard this before, the only way out is through.


When my family burnt it all, we


even burnt the dolls. I write


about this all the time, but have you


ever seen anything like it? A pit


of ashes and dozens of porcelain 


hands, sprouting up like girlish 


weeds. So far in this life, I have 


heard a number of unacceptable 


apologies and they have all begun 


with “I’m sorry” and ended with 


OxyContin. It’s a shame 


the Pennsylvanian landscape 


is just waterfalls, coal, and 


pharmaceutical drugs. I wish


there were more libraries and less


violence, but I have always been so


painfully hopeful. On Facebook 


yesterday, my sister’s boyfriend 


messages “she’s abandoned me


at the airport, I don’t know what


to do” and I resist the urge 


to tell him: that’s what she does 


to all of us. Instead I write back,


“Oh no!” There are so many ways 


to be angry at just one thing.


I haven’t seen my sister in 9 years 


and sometimes I have a temper


with my hand-fruit, bite it, a little 


too hard, because chewing 


is such a frustrated act


to being with. At 7 years old 


my father said he was going


to push me all the way around


on the swing-set; I leapt off


at the peak, airborne and so


sure of his strength. Centripetal


or centrifugal, neither


matter if your face meets


the ground, alive with blood and 


mulch. At 11 my father told me 


the legend of Pope Joan, and I loved


how she hid her her-ness in plain 


sight. So invisibly woman. When she


gave birth, and was put to death,


I imagined she must have been raped.


She must have. I believe strongly


that had I known one trans person


as a child, I’d have half as many scars


as an adult. I could have come


around to this body so much sooner


and without as many cigarette burns,


my whole body a cratered and earth


bound moon. Often, when I am drunk


and alone, white men ask me


what I have against white men


if I want to look like one, and then


they follow me all the way home.


It seems every man in America 


has been taught to stalk real quiet


in a forest of dry leaves. Myself included.


I am not a man, nor do I desire to be,


but I suppose I have always been 


a hunter, armed and unwilling


to consider my own shortcomings.


After I woke from my double


mastectomy, I thought about the day


my father killed two doe with one bullet 


and we butchered them both, right


there and then. There is two 


of everything worth having two of. 


Now I am so visibly trans, I am being 


photographed in white light, my scars


lit like dogwood crowns. It’s hard 


to know what to make of this, when 


all I have ever known is blood


red and a wilderness. Recently


a new cloud was introduced 


to the atlas, known for its apocalypse 


lip color, its mouth opening dark-deep—


like a sinkhole, or your trans lover’s eager


and previously abused mouth. Nobody


wants to be lonely, least of all me. 


Maybe I am interested in clouds 


because I am one, stratus sliced post


surgery, or maybe it’s because I’m an air


sign and have been missing my family 


for years, despite all their lava, 


all their hot angry fuel. My mother 


is a better whistler than me, but 


I think we both understand air, 


and our mouths, and the best 


ways to call for help. Listen, 


there is a razor in the apple 


and the apple is the earth. Listen,


my nightmares are dreams in which


everyone walks the same direction—


that rhythmic lockstep. Both of my


grandmothers considered abortion.


And can you imagine?


Being so close to nothing.




Found In Volume 48, No. 04
Read Issue
  • candrilli kayleb rae credit jack papanier
Kayleb Rae Candrilli
About the Author

Kayleb Rae Candrilli is a 2019 Whiting Award Winner in Poetry, the author of What Runs Over  (YesYes Books, 2017), and the author of All the Gay Saints (Saturnalia Books, 2020). They live in Philadelphia with their partner.