The Operating System

6th ANNUAL NAPOMO 30/30/30 :: DAY 7 :: Denise Benavides on Joshua Jennifer Espinoza

For this, the 6th Annual iteration of our beloved Poetry Month 30/30/30 series/tradition, I asked four poets (and previous participants) to guest-curate a week of entries, highlighting folks from their communities and the poets who’ve influenced their work.
I’m happy to introduce Janice Sapigao, Johnny Damm, Phillip Ammonds, and Stephen Ross, who have done an amazing job gathering people for this years series! We’re so excited to share this new crop of tributes with you. Hear more from our four guest editors in the introduction to this year’s series.
Hungry for more? there’s 150 previous entries from past years here! You should also check out Janice’s piece on Nayyirah Waheed, Johnny’s piece on Raymond Roussel, Phillip’s piece on Essex Hemphill, and Stephen’s piece on Ronald Johnson’s Ark, while you’re at it.
This is a peer-to-peer system of collective inspiration! No matriculation required.
Enjoy, and share widely.

– Lynne DeSilva-Johnson, Managing Editor/Series Curator [/blockquote][/box]

Denise Benavides on Joshua Jennifer Espinoza

Joshua Jennifer Espinoza
[line][script_teaser]“She was a dream at the beginning of time
who never could have imagined
all this blood.
All these names for things.
All these bodies trying to forget themselves.” [/script_teaser]
I first met Joshua Jennifer Espinoza in the back of a black cargo van in Oakland, CA. We, with five other literary babes, were about to embark on two weeks of hustlin’ our hearts and words up and down the west coast on the 20th Anniversary Tour of Sister Spit.
I open up with this because this moment was nothing short of bruja magic: I was on the same lineup as this queen. 
Our first show was in Humboldt County. She was up first to read and I was almost immediately drowning in a sea of my own tears with all that humanity and vulnerability she stirred up inside me:
[blockquote]I name my body girl of my dreams
I name my body proximity
I name my body full of hope despite everything
I name my body dead girl who hasn’t died yet
From “I Dream of Horses Eating Cops”[/blockquote]
I must admit; I’ve been living under a rock because it was my first encounter with her work. Trust, I’ve been kicking myself playing catch up since then. 
When I heard her voice through the microphone I was love-struck and reminded why I am still alive: to witness her grandeur. I can’t really express how much more livable this world has become since encountering her magic.
I was also reminded why we must persist and not in that white-woman feminist bullshit way, but in the QUEER and TRANS and BROWN // BLACK type of way. In the we must hold each other tight because I refuse to let another one of my sisters slip through the floorboards type of way. (and damned if she is going to let us cis-folks forget what each one of our roles are in all of this):
[blockquote] From this moment forward, the moon is trans.
You don’t get to write about the moon anymore unless you respect that.
You don’t get to talk to the moon anymore unless you use her correct pronouns.
You don’t get to send men to the moon anymore unless their job is
to bow down before her and apologize for the sins of the earth.

From, “The Moon is Trans”

Yes, queen.
Joshua Jennifer Espinoza ruthlessly invites us into her poems with palpable lines like:
[blockquote]She was a dream at the beginning of time
who never could have imagined
all this blood.
All these names for things.
All these bodies trying to forget themselves.
allowing us the honor of taking a seat to sip truth before backing it up with a knife to your throat (and if you know me—you know how much I love women that wield knives against throats declaring dare to forget me.)
[blockquote]The time has come for me to be alive
and for you to stop speaking. Please stop speaking. Please, oh
please stop speaking.

From, “I Imagine All My Cis Friends Laughing At Tranny Jokes”[/blockquote]
Most importantly, she does not allow us the convenience of forgetting that marginalized bodies are more than bodies—that these bodies have names and souls and emotions and families and they too have a right to exist on this godforsaken planet without the threat of extinction.
first of all, i hate the phrase ‘boy mode’—
it suggests the way one appears
defines who one is—and yes, a shallow
reading of materialism might suggest
this as being the case, but that doesn’t take
into account how one interacts
with the world, how one’s socialization
within gender might conflict with
one’s outward appearance, how this
disparity might affect one’s mental,
emotional, and psychological well-being
as one drags one’s body through
each and every merciless hour—
this is all to say that today i woke up
and needed to go to the bank
to deposit a check 
when i am finished i ask for twenty
dollars cash back and i drive down the
street to the grocery store and buy a case
of beer and a bottle of wine, taking
advantage of the fact that i am briefly,
momentarily trapped in an outer vessel
that matches the image and the words
on the piece of plastic i carry around
to prove i exist—and yet how can i exist
when i am not really what it says or shows,
From “Buying Beer In Boy Mode”
This is all to say, there are so few people that can say sit up straight in my house and listen the fuck up better than she does—there are also so few people that can say it’s time to burn this house down—it has never been loyal to you better than she does.
[blockquote] […]
All the light in the world
will not save us
All the love and empathy you feel
for dying bodies
will not stop the blood
Too much has happened
and there are no words to be said about it
We must destroy this world
From “This Is a Time For Fire”  [/blockquote]
This is all to say, praise the brujas that conjured and allowed me be present to the work and light that is Joshua Jennifer Espinoza. Praise Joshua Jennifer Espinoza.
[box] Joshua Jennifer Espinoza is a trans woman poet living in California. Her work has been published in The Offing, The Feminist Wire, PEN America, Washington Square Review, and elsewhere. Her latest collection THERE SHOULD BE FLOWERS was released by Civil Coping Mechanisms in 2016. [/box]
[textwrap_image align=”left”][/textwrap_image] Denise Benavides is an Oakland based queer xicana performance artist // poet // educator. Her work can be found in The Feminist Wire, Third Woman Press, and most recently, Foglifter Journal. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing and is currently teaching at Skyline College. Her debut collection of poetry, Split, was released in 2016 by Kórima Press. She is most looking forward to becoming a LAMBDA Fellow this coming fall. For more information, please visit
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