Original poem published in "Queer Latinx Writers Responding to Here, Ahora: Houston, Latinx, Queer Artists Under 30 at Art League Houston," 2019

Death as a Fashion Statement

by Stalina Emmanuelle Villarreal

“I will wear death before I get killed” -Ángel Lartigue

 

 

 

At street risk of being

a victim of a hate

crime, a queer

nightclub protege

a un equipo trans.

 

La voz alta of a song

removed, an androgynous

garment drapes over

the dancer; tied petri dishes

align, covering el cuerpo.

 

Under undergarments,

private parts se esconden.

The dancer covers her face

 

with a pink organic vapor

respirator. Black sleeves without

a shoulder, black gloves and heels.

 

The amber circles exist as a 1.75

inch radius of microorganisms:

arte científico de borrego

 

blood agar, cultivated human

cadaver fungi, necro-bacteria,

maggot exoskeletons.

 

A Xoloitzcuintle leads spirits

to the underworld and takes

el equipo to the dancefloor where they

dump buckets of burial site materials.

 

Strangers dance around the powder

dust, composed of human and animal

parts. Against categorization, like trans.

 

The team collects the remains

with Operation Psychopomp gear,

gloves and covered shoes. A rite

 

documented: two

photos and a rhythmic film.

In the aftermath, an installation

 

of stillness pulls gravity

from a hanger, as the petri-

dish garment gets grounded

by vulture feathers encircled in pink.