How to Obtain a Family

by Otto K.

resist the urge to feel guilt
if you must leave the family that named you
when they refuse the name you grew into.

when you’ve called yourself bastard for too long
when you’ve tattooed your mother’s name on your chest and called it battle scar,
realize a true family does not shrink you.

does not mistake your butch
for nuisance
your femme for damaged
and the absence of either for
not theirs.
you will soon unlearn that your queerness is a small
thing tied ‘round their finger to remember.

but expect the need to be patient.

you will still sing to their plants while they’re away
disguise yourself in the gender they raised you in
if that feels like the safe thing to do.
I promise, it will not make you any less you
despite the act.

as the years go on,
it will be easier to stop showing up.
spend thanksgiving in the west coast
take another summer semester

you may find your parent’s home
more inhabitable with every return
and departure

and when you can no longer find shelter here
it is okay
to sharpen the meanest ends of you
if it helps you finally walk

call yourself the Atlantic.

dub your travels ebb and flow.
one day the sea will drown the islands that make up new york city, after all
and one day you won’t have to go back there ever again.

while you wait,
you will grow to be resourceful.
you can find family
at your own pace.

collect people from the misfit section
of your college campus
the ones who are loud
and challenging.

find your siblings in basement shows
the corners of poetry venues
fashion yourself a bouquet of friends to call chosen family,
to call yours.
wild flowers from tropical climates
foliage that grew from cracks in the pavement

friends with needs separate from yours
friends who are the colors you didn’t know the cones in your eyes could distinguish.

they will teach you
to braid lavender stems into ropes
to pull yourself out of bed with.
will let you borrow a heart made from
their blistered hands

when your gut says you can trust them, you’ll believe it.
when they offer embrace,
you won’t doubt its warmth

chosen family
sees you invincible
does not ask you how
rather how can I help
how have you always wanted to be loved?
a family claims the space around it
and takes a little extra
in case someone needs help finding room for themselves.

this is a fierce love

a godly combination,
you should be so worthy

are so worthy.

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