Lisa Baird Literature Poetry

The Word for Secrets

Lisa Baird


The bleeding is supposed to stop once he goes on hormones, but it just gets worse. One doctor tells him, It’s like estrogen and testosterone are fighting inside you.

He twists and spasms, medicates far over the recommended dose, soaks every towel in the house each month.

You tiptoe, duck, and clean up.

What’s the word for the secrets that are supposed to keep you safe, but don’t?

The gynecologist won’t let you accompany him for the required pelvic exam. You sit in frayed silence, read the same page of a magazine a hundred times without remembering. The waiting room carpet is grey blue with red flecks. In seven weeks, your lease ends.

How can you leave him, how can you leave, how can you.

He has no idea that you’re moving out once he’s safely through the surgery.

When a hurt person hurts you, how much of that story is your own?

You have your second-last fake orgasm the morning before surgery. The wait list at the local hospital is months long so you borrow a friend’s car and drive to a nearby town.

He tells you, I’ve never let someone care for me like this before.

That used to make you feel magic.

What’s the word for pretending to not be afraid for someone, because Positive Thinking?

He wears his baseball cap into the operating room. Pale as the sheets, his tongue purple-black. They say he’ll be out in three days, and keep him for five. The hostile nurse looks like Leslie Feinberg in femme drag. You are the only one to notice the irony. You escape to a small hostel nearby each night. You do not sleep on the floor by his bed. He is alive, and you are alone.

You take your first real exhale in over a year.

What’s the word for pretending to not be afraid someone will die, while secretly almost wishing that they would?

You give him a letter: I love you, but I need us to live separately. He screams, sobs and drools. You rock him like an infant. He accuses you of leaving “in stages.”

You deny it.

What’s the word for things queers leave unsaid so straight people don’t think we’re irredeemably fucked?

The blood is not over. The night he coughs and the stitches burst open, you’ve just smoked a joint. You stare at the carpet.

There goes the damage deposit.

How much longer does a bleeding person wait in emergency when they’re a transman with a poorly healing abdominal incision?

What’s the word for the work a femme does for her partner to get him the health care he needs? The resident on duty is bored. It is late. You are charming, then slip into the conversation.

My friend’s bleeding in the next room. Do you have a minute?

The lease expires. You move out. A week later, you end it.

I still love you, but I can’t do this anymore.

He always said he’d kill himself if you left him.

What’s the word for the risk you take to save your own life?


Lisa Baird headshotLisa Baird is a writer, a facilitator, a community acupuncturist, and a queer white settler living on Attawandaron/Neutral territory (Guelph, Ontario). Her work appears or is forthcoming in Arc Poetry Magazine, Rattle, Winter Tangerine Review, Poetry Is Dead, PRISM, The Remedy: Queer and Trans Voices on Health and Health Care, and elsewhere. Visit her online at