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Conversion - Grace Wagner

Cramped quarters, all of us—packed in together, two to a small room. She wasn’t mine— I knew that. Not even my roommate, but still I found ways to watch her sleep. She was my first self-proclaimed lesbian and I think I loved her. We held hands late at night—her roommate suddenly gone, sheets still on the bed, so we made a blanket nest, watched a movie as an excuse to be close— Angelina Jolie always a favorite, and films about mental illness and imprisonment—institutionalization was a new word to me. And I felt it in the concrete walls, the narrow hallways that led everyday to some new terror. I knew she would leave or I would leave or we would leave together. “Behavior is always a choice,” they said and in a way, I suppose they were right, because that night I made a choice. My hand found hers, my body moved as I willed it—her face a moon, round and flat and knowing, her lips close enough to kiss—so I did.


Grace Wagner is a queer, nonbinary, neurodivergent writer and artist living with a disability in Denver, CO. They've worked as Assistant Poetry Editor on Gulf Coast Magazine and Copper Nickel, as well as teaching literature and creative writing at the University of Houston, where they received their MFA in Creative Writing Poetry. Their work can be found in The Atlanta Review, Hayden's Ferry Review, the Offing, Palette Poetry, Salmagundi Magazine, the West Review, and elsewhere. Their art can be found in the Adroit Journal. They were awarded an Academy of American Poets Prize in 2020. For more, visit:


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