The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Dear Herculine by Aaron Apps

This selection, chosen by Managing Editor Krista Cox, is from Dear Herculine by Aaron Apps, released by Ahsahta Press. This book is a hybrid epistolary memoir addressed to Herculine Barbin, the 19th-century French intersexual whose memoirs were discovered and republished by Michel Foucault.

Dear Herculine,

A Letter Concerning the Formation of Shame within Rooms


                Against the room, the skin is abundantly soft. The body. The body is thin and permeable. The room. The room with the vinyl bench, medical gloves, and thin replaceable paper that crinkles up into the ass crack has a dingy fluorescent glow that sneaks into all of the nooks, crannies, and deadspace. The whole place smells like broken bodies and Lysol. In the room that engulfs me with sterile smell and stiff lines of aesthetic purity, I put on a blue gown that has the texture of fluid-starched sheets, and I sit there and wait for the doctor in scrubs to come through the blue curtain.
                Like an Yves Klein painting.
                Like a blue that draws up a chord to the heavens.
                But I am animal below the blue. I am black, brown, blood red. And when she comes and she tells me to pull my gown up so she can inspect my genitals it’s the last thing in the world I want to do, it evokes a raw and bloody fear in me such that I want to grow a shell like a lobster. I want a thick exoskeleton over my sweet, translucent flesh. I want to tuck myself into my blue gown and gestate until I emerge from the blue of the hospital into the black tar of the parking lot.
                When she motions that she is going to lift off my gown, my blood boils red in my translucent muscle. When she lifts it I feel so much shame. When she touches me, my entire body flops inside in reaction to the cold of her blue, latex fingers. When she touches me I don’t move, but the blood-shivers run deep. When she finishes, she looks at me with pity. And nothing feels worse than those eyes glowing sadly like the yellow eyes of a panther.

Aaron Apps is the author of INTERSEX (Tarpaulin Sky Press, 2015) and DEAR HERCULINE, winner of the 2014 Sawtooth Poetry Prize from Ahsahta Press. He is currently a doctoral student in English Literature at Brown University where he studies poetry and poetics, sexual somatechnics, animacy, hybrid forms, and the history of intersex literature. His writing has appeared in numerous journals, including Pleiades, LIT, Washington Square Review, Puerto del Sol, Columbia Poetry Review, and Blackbird.


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