gender


don’t wanna be

a good girl anymore

don’t wanna

wake up early for work, put on nice slacks clean

button down shirt–as andro as I dare

to dress at this job where I

already have to explain words

like ‘transgender’

to co-workers.  I’m

tired of being the spokesperson

the acceptable,

approachable kind of gay

the girl next door

the one who can pass just under

your straight-line radar

Some days I wanna be the one you

wonder about on the train

Is she…? A…?

Or just a hipster? I can’t tell

which

I can’t tell sometimes whether

I wanna be a downright bitch or just

an outlaw

want to yank words like ‘sorry’ and ‘thanks’

right out of my vocabulary like weeds

from the ground

retune my socialized vocal cords to

sound tougher

sling ‘cunt’ and ‘fucker’

casual as throwing seeds

to the ground

whatever it takes

I just don’t want to be the same

as them

(more…)

Bit by bit, Mom taught me to be polite

Say please and thank you

excuse me   I’m sorry   pardon me

ma’am   sir   miss

Take off your hat, feet off chairs

elbows off tables

Wipe your shoes

She trained me

with all the trappings of a time when

these habits meant status,

elevated birth

Today this polite trellis

she wound my wild briar will around

comes in handy still: each

excuse me

could you please

yields a golden ticket to high society, social mobility

(allows me to walk neighborhoods full

of boutiques and organic raw restaurants while

wearing Target boots and secondhand clothes)

Mom gave me the magic words

pardon me  open sesame

could I please speak with you for a moment

quietly, enunciating as carefully

as I shape each hand-written thank you note

I send

(more…)

Don’t pretend

you didn’t look

you gave me that kind of lingering look we’re not supposed to

trade; we’re supposed to behave

read books by Danielle Steel, prefer touch

to sight, imagine to feel

inaction instead of want, supposed to wait

for Mr Right to come

sweep us right off our feet, but I warn you

my desires are quicker than him and not so neatly defined

they are unrefined liquor that burns your lips

from the shot glass rim down to the pit of your stomach

so admit it

while you still have the excuse of

a tongue loosed by liquid fire

I caught the corner of your eye with the tip of a smile

glimpsed the spark, a live wire within

and even though we both know the flavor

of sin, of not supposed to

of what good girls don’t do

with every drop you’re looking braver, tired of stop

and no in a voice that quavers

tired of shame instead of savor, you’ve had

enough

of good guys acting like bad guys and bad guys

always tricking the good girls and what

is so bad about looking

and feeling

about believing in something that burns, yes,

but brings

so much light and

so much warmth

Wrote this in response to the Women’s Creative Collective for Change writing prompt, “write about a misconception you had as a child”. I didn’t have a lot of misconceptions that I can remember–growing up with a sister who regularly told me I was adopted or that little gremlins with vacuum cleaners sucked up the plastic canisters at drive-through bank windows made me less than gullible.

*Also, I’m not disrespecting teachers or what they do at all. My parents are both educators, and I’ve taught kids myself; I know what a hard job it is, and I’ve been fortunate to have a few great teachers who really opened up my mind and taught me so much about the world, Henry the Eighth, and photosynthesis. That being said, I have also heard some truly dumb stuff inside of schools.

Lies I Heard from My Teachers

You can’t learn to read without doing all your phonics worksheets

Don’t color outside the lines

If you tell lies, your nose will grow (according to Pinocchio)

Good children sleep at naptime

All students must pledge allegiance to the flag

Candy ALWAYS inevitably rots your teeth

Egyptian pharaohs looked like white people–and they were all men

(more…)

I am not tough enough

my skin’s edges are not rough enough

to convince you that I will

fuck you up

if you try to mess with me. I still

put on the get-up

of a real normal girl,

I wear makeup (sometimes)

and dresses (twice a year)

and I won’t cut my hair super-short because frankly

I’d look ridiculous

but this

isn’t a beauty pageant, this is a knock-down, drag-out (drag queen drama)

brawling in the basement bar

kind of city and I’m not sure I’m rough

and ready enough to live here.

I’m not that cool kid

who’d already done the things you still wish

you were brave enough to commit

by age sixteen,

I don’t smoke or wear black-framed glasses to match

my hipster sneakers, I don’t have

a tragic past or a decent reason to be sad

anger rarely bubbles up in me

and when it does, I rage

ineloquently

against grinning bigots and blithe ignorance

I can’t even make a fist without my fingers shaking

like they always do, betraying

my inner cowardice.

Guess I’m just not sufficiently brave to make a fuss

not tough enough for this rough-and-tumble

Sinclair’s urban jungle, world about to

crumble

so instead of packing a gun

and fighting back, think I’ll

pick up a mic

and straighten my back

speak my shaking words into the black abyss

of this old silent gangster movie, make you (hear me)

sit still to listen

to the scratched record pop and hiss

as it plays back (skips and)

plays back

the history of how all this

came to be, my twitching fingers and glossed lips,

and those memories you’d prefer to forget.

Listen now, this is it…I won’t tell you again