“Community Theater” by Tommye Blount

Last Night, I Was Trapped in the Wrong Body Again

A downy woodpecker shakes its head the way, say, a scruffy faced
teenager might. It’s pulsing—the red streak running down
the middle of its crown. Or at least I think it’s red in the glow
of the bird-spiked Meijer sign. Then again, this late, I’m not sure
if it’s a bird at all. It could, in fact, be a teenager. A deaf 15-year-old boy—
or he’ll eventually go deaf if he doesn’t turn down his earphones.
I could be anyone walking toward him.
Not listening to anyone,
his ears are full of wax—but even that isn’t right. No one listens
to records anymore, you see. Yet his head is full of a violent song
in the same way mine could. He’s dabbing at
his phone’s screen like a reflection one of the Walled Lake townies might see
before they’ve gone too far.
In the winter months,
during the day, they walk on the lake’s ice
in a somnambulist’s lurch. Not listening to the ice,
they pitch their huts and bore their holes in the floor. And there are fish
swishing in sequined gowns—their denticulate jaws mouthing
like background singers. All those scales
mimicking knives—a soundtrack to kill by.
Last night, I was trapped
in the wrong body again. I fell asleep after jacking off to a freeze frame
of Christian Bale in American Psycho. Then I dreamed I was Christian Bale
and couldn’t stop touching myself. I was The Dark Knight.
only Christian Bale as The Dark Knight, throwing a tantrum
on set. My cowl couldn’t keep up with my pout. Then I howled myself
into myself again—big and black and terrifying. I was a monster
knocking down all of the lights. I punched someone’s lights out.
When I came to, the woodpecker
was in my hands feeding on nothing because it was dead. Or rather, the dyed teenager
who looks like a downy woodpecker is small enough to fit in my hands.
There is no music to kill. There is nothing left to hear. The red streak is no streak
but a wound. I swear, I found him, I fished the blade out.


And then a draft whistled dust
off the marionette, then knocked it down

where it had stood propped for months. The crash
sent gooseflesh along the boy’s skin;

sent him cowering under his bed.
Up until now, the boy did all he could

to avoid touching or even glancing at the new toy
of his old body. Nights, he’d tweeze new splinters

where he missed before. Sometimes the splinters
were not splinters, but new sprigs of hair. Then

there were the nightmares: the fairy returning
to help his father fold him back

inside the coffin-body. It became clear
he didn’t recognize himself,

so he’d spend hours locked in his room,
in front of the mirror, running an index finger

across the eye lashes, twisting the dark curls until
each root was close to snapping away. Now,

when he’s naked, he takes inventory
of the parts; takes his father’s whittling knife

to the inside of his thighs—only the tiniest incisions
to make sure he bleeds.