a poem by Saint Torrente
with photographs by Poppy Marriott
published in TAH VOL.2 – coming February 17, pre-order for paper copies opened until March 22.
I was looking into the mirror of the photography studio you were renting.
You handed me my heels and said “come” and I did.
They were stilettos, and they came up to my thighs.
I wear them when I perform, and I love them.
And your giggles from behind the camera, and its clicking, and the flashes of lights (that I didnʼt know were plugged in)
were the sweetest kisses .
Because they were terrifying and natural all at once.
I was being kissed and feeling myself negotiating spaces between kisses, with my breath held.
Did you see me holding my chest out as my shoulder blades turned?
Did you see me struggle with where to put my fucking hands?
Did you see me pointing my eyes at you; then at the back of the room; then at the lens,
then towards a horizon in Asilah that I saw as a child, when my mum would take me to Morocco?
(Thatʼs obtuse, but Iʼve been seeing a speech therapist and she tells me weird visual cues like that to get me to adjust my posture.)
When I was that age I was just learning “boy”
And staring into big water and seeing my reflection, and wishing I could swim,
And staring into my reflection became a pastime.
So when I get home from our shoot, and see that youʼve sent me a Dropbox folder,
I pick the eyelash glue from my face and rub the last bits of paint out of my eyebrows.
And I open the photos up, surprised.
I notice I look like some nymph.
It takes a moment, but I realise that this abstracted version of myself,
Through your camera, and covered in flowers, and gawking slack-jawed into the middle distance,
Is the most gender I have ever felt,
And I wish I could feel that much gender all the time.
Last New Yearʼs Eve I got set up with a tuxedo, and when I looked in the mirror
I hated myself,
I thought I looked like a daemon and I didnʼt know how to reconcile my mother telling me I was handsome.
And when I told my dad how I felt he furrowed his brow and scoffed.
He had just bought me a suit, to be fair (when she is ready I will get her some Judith Butler).
But these photos feel different.
And they cannot change like I can, but I can see myself changed in them.
And for the next few days I catch glances of myself in mirrors and think “beautiful?”
But probably not… still a boy…
When I show a photo to my friend Laurie he agrees that I look feminine, and maybe itʼs all for real.
SAINT TORRENTE is a singer, producer, writer and performer based in South East London. Bringing together bombastic pop music, dance, theatre and performance art, they perform at music venues and queer cabaret spaces around London. They also host and curate Nightplayer, a regular pop music and performance night at Rye Wax in Peckham. Originally from Gibraltar, their work is centred in the intersection of popular and queer culture, positioning the pop star and the drag queen as today’s foremost cultural commentators.
POPPY MARRIOTT is a non-binary film photographer & visual artist from SE london who focuses on documenting wxmen & LGBTQIA+ people in the arts. They’re a triple water sign and fascinated by witches. Their ongoing project ’tilted’ aims to provide real representation of gender-non-conforming folk by creating strong, powerful images of people who identify outside of the strict gender binaries we’ve all had forced on us from birth.