Rumpus Original Poetry: Two Poems by Zefyr Lisowski






[This is not a poem. Instead, I’d like to use my workshop
time—the approximately x minutes of it—to talk about
power, who is allowed to write, and why folks are
allowed to write.

A professor tells me in a one-on-one meeting that I write
about my rape because I have a sick fascination with
violence. Because I am like the professor. The professor
misgenders me as they say this.

What does it mean for, say, a professor to only teach, or
reference, white poets, or male poets, or straight poets,
or cisgender poets. Or to only invite to campus same.
What does it mean for multiple professors to do this.

What does it mean that this is happening everywhere.

Of course, the violences done unto white bodies are,
almost invariably, the least violences that are done at any
given time.

An institution1, one that both employed Audre Lorde and
contributed to her death by refusing to accommodate her
cancer treatment schedule, has a cohort of all white

First one year, then the following.

How does this make you feel. How does this make you
feel about each other. How does this make you feel about
me. I, of course, am complicit.

Please do not analyze the formal qualities of my writing,
including my avowals/disavows, distancing techniques,
and use of repetition.

Please do not pay attention to the shape of these letters
against the white of the page.

You’re smarter than someone I’d take to believe in
politics, says the professor.

Keep this in mind, I am writing about everywhere.]


Girl Work

An image of the same overlapping set of text, repeating and overlapping three times, readable in full only through its reflection. The text reads: "He called me. He did what he was supposed to. He smelled like lavender. He didn't call afterwards. He was polite. He wasn't my father but someday would be someone's. He said nothing. He unbuttoned his blouse. He threw me to the bed. He unbuttoned his shirt. He greeted me (the girl) in his bed. He moved his wealth (the girl, the dollar) around and around, in small piles until he grew tired. He wore a bathrobe. He wore a t shirt. He wore a pair of jeans, said he was a big man, didn't ask for it. But he moved closer to me and the girl. He was kind. He was safe. He showed me the movie about the girl at the bottom of the well. He showed me the movie about the girl at the bottom of the well. He showed me the movie about the girl at the bottom of the well.


1. “The English Department at Hunter, which recently honored Lorde with a conference 20 years after her death, rejected her proposals at the end of her life to teach on a limited residency basis that would allow her to teach poetry intensive classes for students during warm weather in New York and to live in warmer climates during the winter based on her health needs.” Alexis Pauline Gumbs, “The Shape of My Impact


Photograph of Zefyr Lisowski by Ayesha Raees.

Zefyr Lisowski is a trans Southerner, educator, and Pisces living in New York City. She's a poetry co-editor at Apogee Journal and the author of Blood Box (Black Lawrence Press 2019). Her work has appeared in Waxwing, The Offing, The Rumpus, and elsewhere; she lives online at More from this author →