Poetry by Benny Sisson

Magazine Clippings Scotch Taped to a Teenage Bedroom Wall of Which Some Has Been Redacted, by Benny Sisson

1.       You meet the celebrity who plays that girl from that TV show at the mall that’s bigger and farther away. You ask her to sign your shirt and take a photo. You watch another girl, a few years older than you, cry tears of happiness as she leaves with her photo. You ask your sister why she’s crying soda. Why are her tears black and chunky like that? How can she cry cola? Your sister will tell you it’s mascara. You hesitate to believe her. 

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4.       You don’t eat meat for one whole school year, then, even though it rips you into pieces of tissue paper, you eat two chili-topped hot dogs your mother prepares for you. You take a dishtowel and dab off the grease. This behavior is begging to make her proud. 

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7.       You should have made sure to shield your eyes during the party in the gray field. Instead you watched them pile their glass bottles into a haystack. More people looked on as two boys, taller than you, begin to fight. You keep your eyes glued to the scene of them, pressed up against each other, falling hard and fast into the pile of shards. You pick up a slice of green glass and cut your tongue with it. You taste beer. You don’t taste blood.

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12.   You hold back heaving as you clean the grass out of your mother’s hair as she rolls around the front yard. She’s telling you to leave it in, telling you to leave just leave fine fuck it just go. You try to wipe the dirt off of her jeans. Stand her up. Bring her inside, and then do as she says. 


Today is the day I finally ask myself: why am I never able to swallow air the same way? Why I am a big balloon without inflation? And while we are at it, what is inflation? Who gets to decide her pathway? trench? Who gets to break it to her? She is attempting to rack the leaves off the surface of a pool without touching the water. She is trying to swim without elegy.

Today is the day I finally break into song against the rain in Hudson Square. I get to beat the sides of bookcases, berate the old texts. I get to drink water with one lime wedge squeezed over the ice. I am able now to tell everyone who killed the man down the street when I was ten. Who left him there to peacefully rot under a twin bed. It was the same woman who went running down to the end of our cul-de-sac. The same woman who screamed for help and shook two Pomeranians in my face. This woman was a mirror. Her man saw too much.

Today, my brain chooses to vacate. The premises which my ass never leaves caves in, it is starting to take shape. I am starting to see stretch marks like crescent tears around my groin. I am starting to hear the muffled utterances this talking desk chair shouts to me from below: tells me he smells me from here. This, and many more seats on the train, tell me to lose my focus somewhere in Queens. To let the center of my nose (which my friends refers to as “plump,” “sudden,” “A ski-slope”) become the very reason I can’t look out the window. To be the reason I WebMD a brain tumor, and put off my response to your email.

Today, no one asks me what it is like to be transgender. No one asks me how I refer to myself, or what mind altering chromosomal attachments feel wrong. Today I exist in paint chips and marinara sauce smeared on a cheek, and dried. I am visible and lucent. I am not going to have the genitalia you prefer. At this point, we are all only what others relate us to.  

Today the conductor on the train shakes his hole punch in my face. He is asking to see my ticket. He has tattoos, and a plastic looking beard made of uncooked pasta. He does not exist. He sees that I am sleeping, my head against the cold window. He asks me for my ID. He is trying to prove I am the imposter. He is trying to prove that I don’t know how to be a writer. He is rejecting my application to your fellowship. Due to the amount of applications he receives, he is not able to give individual feedback at this time. He kicks me off the train at Jamaica. He held on to my manuscript for this long in case something else fell through.


benjamin [button]

The way Cate Blanchet said his name in the movie is the same way my grandmother        would say it when I walked in the front door. “Benjamin!” She was shocked. She wrapped me in the couch blankets, unaware of my wet clothes. She kept her eyes wide. I am always doing something shocking.

benny [the bull]

Not the Dora the Explorer character, but the mascot for the Chicago Bulls. “Look Benny, it’s you.” My father waves me over to the couch for the first time since the TV was turned on. I was to leave the room when the game came on. His fur, his face, the one time he wore a Super Mario outfit and twirled across the court for halftime, attempting a half-court shot, and trick dunks using a trampoline. I watch him flail and glow into a beautiful beast.

benny [goodman]

             Died at Manhattan House, a Chicago transplant. The way ‘sing, sing sing’ feels like a         rushing. A tipping toward a fantastic disaster. In a 1981 interview he said he was given           the clarinet in a Chicago synagogue because he was small. His bigger brother was given a             tuba. He said he had no idea, truthfully, what he would have become if he had been given          a tuba, or a trumpet.

benny [the butcher]

             “I remember when I first told my father who I was dealing with. I told him I was dealing               with Benny. He said Benny from Montana? He was like Be careful, that block is crazy.”

[miss] benny

             Sings that she wants to kiss a boy, every boy in the world. We are both ambitious fags. At 

first, I was mad that a fellow queer artist held the same name as me. Maybe I still am. But           why? Because I know she has a better chance of making it all happen?

benny [the jet Rodriguez]

was my goddamn sexual awakening. My sister and I used to rewind “The Sandlot” when he looked at Scotty Smalls with those two prepubescent eyes square in the face and said, “You gotta relax man, I bet you get straight A’s and shit, huh?” That shit. That unfamiliar naughty that my sister and I clung to. We would rewind and rewind, I hardly remember the rest of the movie, baseball is boring except for the butts. The tape eventually ran out of the VHS player. The reel made a high pitched spinning and I asked my sister why she liked it so much, so that maybe I could understand why I liked it so much.

Benny Sisson is a trans poet. She serves as the Assistant Poetry Editor for Consequence Magazine. She also reads poetry and reviews books for Up the Staircase Quarterly. Her work is forthcoming with New Delta Review, Fearsome Critters, Foglifter Press, Bellingham Review, and elsewhere. She also teaches at Adelphi University, where she earned her MFA in creative writing. She currently lives in Tacoma, WA. These poems come from an unpublished collection of poems titled “BELLY FAT,” which explores topics of queer and familial trauma.

Interview with Benny Sisson

  1. How long have you been writing?

I have several partially written short stories, plays, journal entries, poems, songs, and other ramblings from childhood, which seem to go back as far as age eleven or twelve. For much of my life, I have not considered myself a writer, but rather an indecisive creative whom can’t pick an artistic outlet to stick to and master (this seems to be the case with many). However, I began to consider myself a writer in college, when I began writing and reporting from my college newspaper. Since then, I have been a writer. It has been about five years now, and I still I have no idea what I am doing. Such is the “literary life.”

2. Is writing your full-time job? If not, what is?

I am an adjunct professor of creative writing, and an administrative assistant for a university library! I spend all my time with books and excited new writing students.

3. What inspired this work?

I would say my experience informs my work more than anything else. It seems the subject matter and form of my work always mirrors or looks towards my past in some way. At a glance, all my work explores my childhood, or my recent past, and the ways in which empathy and reflection have helped me to grow and understand all that I have gone through (both traumatic and within privilege).

4. What writers or artists inspire you and your work?

I am inspired by many contemporary writers, visual artists, and musicians, too many to name. The most recent book I read, which seemed to shake me awake, was called “Devil’s Lake” by Sarah M. Sala. It is forthcoming with Tolsun Books, and it introduced me to queer spirits and experiences that inspired me to write, and live.

5. Where can we find your recent or future work?

I have two books in the most recent editions of:

New Delta Review

Midway Journal

Lunch Ticket

and elsewhere.

I also have three poems in the upcoming anthology with Foglifter Press
“Home is Where You Queer Your Heart

6. What would you advise those interested in becoming published writers?

Establish a routine for both reading and writing. Treat them like they are a job, or a responsibility you absolutely must fulfill (for me, if I didn’t think of it this way, none of it would ever get done). Read across genres, check in with your writing community, and submit, submit, submit.