Meeah Williams’s work has appeared in Otoliths, Phantom Drift, Uut, The Conium Review, Per Contra, Petrichor Review, Stone Highway Review, Dirty Chai, Shuf, *82 Review, Skin to Skin, Wilde, The Milo Review, Gone Lawn, Meat for Tea, Angry Old Man, The Ginger Collect, Former Cactus, Anti-Heroin Chic and others. She lives in Seattle with her husband, Hank, and her cat, Juliette Hattie Snowpea.
Meeah wrote “Instead I Propose a Toast” in issue 3 of Vulture Bones. Below is an interview about her poem.
This poem is hopeful, in a very melancholic way. This poem reminds me of when me and my queer and trans friends get together, and we start sharing battle scars. The road to a life of our own making has been hard-fought and bitterly-won, we’re hard-scrabble, but we’re here and we’re alive. Tell me about who the “I” in this poem is, and who the “you” they are speaking to is, and why they are telling them the things they are saying.
I transitioned relatively late and pretty much entirely on my own, outside of any community whatsoever, with no support, just sort of did it out of a post-suicidal sense of “well, what the hell I have nothing to lose.” Because of my own Asperger-spectrum personality, history of abuse & PTSD problems, I was always pretty isolated whether I was around people or not so I came to feel at home being alienated. But part of me always wished that things could’ve been different and that I could have been the type of person to reach out to others both to get help and to give it. To have had the kinds of friends that you’re talking about would have been a godsend to me. I can’t help but feel that I would have found my way to who I am a lot sooner.
All in all I was very lucky in a lot of ways once I made the decision to transition and I have subsequently disappeared into a “normal” life. Yet I feel an increasing sense of responsibility to others who find themselves at a similar juncture to the one I found myself in, namely having a life that is all wrong in a body that feels all wrong and facing the prospect of a change that seems so monumentally improbable it borders on wishing for a miracle.
I guess my sense is that miracles don’t happen until you are so fucking desperate that nothing short of a miracle will save you. After all, if things aren’t that hopeless, it wouldn’t be a miracle.
But you usually have to do *something* to make a miracle happen.
When you’re staring into the double-barreled prospect of something like suicide that’s the time to do that something. I found that one way to make the decision to keep living is to resolve to do the things that you never did because you were too scared, too cautious, or too circumspect of the consequences that doing them would have on your life. It could be something as stupid as eating a whole quart of Oreo ice cream or an entire pizza in one sitting. Maybe you’ve always wanted to parachute out of a plane or quit your job, hitchhike across the country writing a novel or take LSD. Or maybe you want to transition.
I mean, even if what you choose to do kills you it’s better than just killing yourself alone in a room strangling from a bathroom doorknob some miserable nondescript Tuesday night. If you’ve gotten to the dead end of suicide, now is the perfect time to do anything at all but die. Now is the perfect time to actually live your life. Because it seems to me that people leave a lot on the table when they decide to kill themselves and that’s the real shame of it.
In my case, it was the perfect time to transition. If it didnt work out, if it ended in disaster like everything else had ended in my life, that shoebox of pills was still waiting for me. The trap door to oblivion was never far away.
I guess that’s who I’m talking to in this poem--that person who I imagine is on the other end of the suicide hotline asking for a reason why they shouldn’t end their life right now, tonight, because it sucks so bad and hurts so much to be them. I understand that feeling all too well, my heart beats with that feeling & has all my life, but you can use it to live, to push yourself out of your comfort zone which is too often the coffin you’ve been burying yourself alive inside. What’s the worst that can happen? More humiliation, I suppose. More failure. Okay, fine. I won’t sugarcoat it. Things might not work out. But why leave even one chip on the table? Gamble everything before you walk away. That’s all I’m suggesting in this poem. And if you dig down deep enough, it seems you can always find one more chip to play.
The ending of this poem is so haunting-- “sing to yourself the only promise/ you ever need to keep:/ that ending your life/ will always be the second thing/ you ever do.”
Is this to mean that the first thing we do is live our lives, no matter how they end? That as long as we live them on our own terms, no matter how hard the world makes that, it’s still an accomplishment?
Oh yes, I think that’s definitely the sentiment at the heart of this poem. Don’t we all admire most the biographies of people who went through hell and kept going whether they ever made it to paradise or not? I know I do. I’m not a strong or courageous person at all. Just the opposite. I’m the weakest most terrified person you’ll ever meet. I’m scared of everything. So I don’t judge anyone that feels like giving up. If not for a simple miscalculation in dosage & alcohol consumption I might not have woken up the next morning either. I would simply suggest that instead of giving up you go for broke first. The bad news is that you can always lose again. The good news is that you always have a little more to lose. Yes, that’s the good news!! Don’t let the bastards & bigots win. Don’t let them say “See I told you so.” If you can think of no better reason to keep going, do it out of sheer spite. The poet Dean Young has a great line in this regard: “The error is not to fall. But to fall from no height.” So don’t just stumble off the curb in a desultory, half-assed fashion. Fall from a mountain top. Fail spectacularly. Make a big messy splash. It’s your life, dammit. Fuck that damn thing up every which way from Sunday. Live it like you stole it. Make them take it from you. Don’t just hand it over.
Where can people find more of your work? What’s coming next?
I’ve got recent poems and stories in Anti-Heroin Chic, Barren, Former Cactus, and The Ginger Collect. I have a lot of stuff on Uut. Upcoming work in Neon Mariposa. Really there’s a lot of me all over the internet. But not much of it trans-oriented until lately. I’m currently putting together a book of trans poetry tentatively titled “How (Not) to Be Trans” because I’ve sure got a lot of experience in that area. I wrote a novel called Patchwork People a couple of years ago as a kind of experiment, as if Anne Tyler had written a mainstream novel with a transwoman as a main character. I wrote it under the pseudonym Aimee Menoux. Up to now, I’ve considered myself a writer who happens to be trans rather than a trans writer and I still consider myself that way but there’s been a distinctive omission of the trans aspect of my life in my work that I feel needs to be corrected because it’s beginning to seem to me as if I’ve consciously avoided it. I’ve existed pretty much invisibly in the cisworld for 8 years, dissolved as it were, and I’ve felt increasingly guilty & disgusted with myself about that. Now, more than ever, the political/social climate being what it is, I think it important that transpeople, however well they might be passing, especially if they’re passing, stand up in solidarity wherever they find themselves to be and say Me Too!