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My gender is for mothers

My mother refuses my gender in 2 different languages

I cannot comprehend the weight of both

So when I first tell you that I love you

It will be the first time I can tell someone in a way that is understood

My mother was born in a U.S. Naval base in the Philippines

She has grown up with

Old bruises,

Little wars and defeats that cannot be drowned across oceans,

I understand that to survive

She cannot keep losing

So everyday, I let my mother refuse my beauty in

Two different languages

And I understand both

So when you lay beside me and whisper,

“You are beautiful”

Letting my brown skin blend into the cradle of your arm around me

And the shoreline of my waist washes into the fit of your other palm

My sobs will soak your forearm salty with my shame

How dare I give you this

And take myself away from my own mother

She gave me everything

She has burned so much of what she was meant to become

Trying to keep me safe

So when I learn of bruises

From your past lover

That stay

Clinging to the places I will catch you

Sometimes with my hands

Open and gentle

When the world wants my body to only learn fists

And for yours to apologize for

Long hair and thick hips

My gender is for unlearning

All of the violence taught against femininity

I will honor the women whom we are taught are

“Too difficult” to love*

This gender is for my mother

And she doesn’t even know

Between you and her

I am choosing whose heart to break

“With the body I have”**

And the gender she thinks I don’t

My short hair and contradicting breasts

I just want to be good

I just want to be good

I want to tell her that on the days I feel like my body will never let me

Sometimes I want to give myself back to her

So when you tell me that you love me,

Remind me that the best thing that anyone’s ever said to me was that

I am “whom every mother would want their daughter to date”

When you remember that

This world was built against this gender on this body

And that the odds are against love and safety

I will trace the big dipper onto the soft canvas of your back

Watch constellations wrinkle gravity at the brimming outstretch of your smile

Catch curves folding under covers with my earthbound hands

And crumple the sky’s hemline to custom-fit your palms

When this world will not fit our safety

I will give you the universe with my fingertips

And the most gentle bends of my body

This is all I have to give

When gender is imperfect

When I wish they would let us love perfect

I will love you

With all my gender

*From Warsan Shire’s “For Women Who Are Difficult to Love”

**From Kavindu “Kavi” Ade’s “IT”


What does the title, “Emerging poet,” mean to you?

I actually feel like so many of us are poets when we don’t even realize it. I’ve been asked before what I would say to someone who is trying to write their first poem, and I’ve said, “This is not your first poem. You have created many poems before” - that time you cared for your struggling friend, when you found little hope sitting in your lowest of lows, times you have enjoyed basking in the heat of the sun. I think “emerging poet” can mean that you are realizing that you’ve been a poet all along.

Do you consider yourself an “emerging” poet? Why or why not?

I guess based on what I just defined as an “emerging poet,” I do consider myself one. I think it’s a continual process to believe that I am capable of voicing anything. Everyday, my confidence shakes. So everyday, I’m an “emerging poet” - someone who realizes they deserve to be heard.

What do you think it takes to be “recognized” in the poetry community?

Sometimes the recognition goes to those who deserve it, in my opinion - multiply-marginalized poets who write truths that people need to hear to create a better world. However, I think poets who have the most social capital, power and privilege, and manipulative behaviors get a lot of the recognition; systems were built to work in their favor, so of course they will benefit. I think it’s important to challenge that and uplift multiply-marginalized poets so we aren't recreating or rewriting systems that keep us all down.

How do you think power politics shape the poetry community?

I think I touched on this in the last question, so I will just mention one of the effects of power politics that I extremely hate.

I've encountered poets that seem to think that because they write about social justice that they are absolved from applying that same social justice to their lives - as in they end up being horrible people. So hypocritical! Why would you write about social justice and then treat people terribly off stage / off page?

What does community mean to you?

Plainly put - people that got your back while you got theirs.


NIC MASAGNKAY is a 25-year-old, multiply-marginalized performing artist and music producer based in Seattle. With poetry Buzzfeed claims “will leave you speechless” and music The Seattle Times reports is "synth-pop with overlaid vocals in the style of Reggie Watts," Nic is incredibly grateful that anybody wants to listen to the art that they create to survive. Embraced by Seattle’s LGBTQ writing community at 18-years-old, Nic has since gone to slam and feature locally and nationally in cities like Olympia, Tacoma, Everett, Portland, Los Angeles, and New York. Nic aspires to one day develop a nonprofit recording studio that specifically serves LGBTQ communities. In all aspects of their work, they hope to bring justice and wholeness to themselves and the people around them.


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