who are you when you’re not performing

who are you when you're not performing

Christina Zhou

I was like this from the beginning 

falling out of the womb, 

broken and erratic and infernal 

slipping another stone into my shoes 

to share the pain of souls in purgatory 

but today I was the broken soul left behind 

molding and festering over into a cancerous being 

“Becoming a woman is a beautiful process,” 

Mother said, as I sunk my teeth into my rotting flesh 

that has already been half-eaten from temptation 

Even when I bleed from the crevices full of life 

and my skin stretches to mutilate itself 

from the tumors battling my soul. 

It was the sign of change 

but my flesh and blood stayed the same. 

The longing inside me grew 

And rage growing faster 


She was made of stubby fingers 

of fingernails scratching along her neck 

and hands bruising around scarred calves 

She was made of forgotten tanbark and bloody hangnails 

of estranged shards of glass waiting to be put back together 

sitting in the heat drying up in the sun 

She was made of the bits and pieces 

of tears of pain washing away her sins 

raining, beating down on the ground 


i met her in the shadows, and she knew my life was purely an act, but when i stepped out from behind the curtains, that’s when she said i appeared a mesmerizing wreck. where i was crisp and jagged, i was streaked and swirling, and she said it made me beguiled. i knew it was so easy to bring you into my heart, but holding your hand was a dangerous mistake, that it would be only a matter of time until you’re gone. and then through my cracked rose-colored glasses, i saw the eye bags from your lack of sleep and my face hardening to mask myself. i begged you to stay, to never let go, even though someday you will. no matter how much i say i love you, they’ll strip me away from you. i can’t escape it, and i have to lead a path without you anymore.


I lost my ladylove when I found myself 

after i took off my performance. but i can 

still see my partner in the mirror, looking 

with those eyes. it wasn’t woe or even 

disappointment but anger and regret. i 

know i am not perfect. i know you know 

that, and that the world isn’t either. humans 

are filled with sin and nothing to stop them 

from continuing to be more despicable. 

but why do you hate me? i am scared, 

and i am so ashamed. i despised both 

the disease and the body that immured it. 

but i kept the lie going. i’m a moral 

person. i promise. but my love was a lie 

because i didn’t tell the whole truth. i am 

gay. is there anyone out there listening?