Themself

The day I learnt self
was once spelled selbaz I realised my lexicon was full
of fickle male lyrebirds, stealing
chainsaw refrains and shutter clicks for their mates
and that warships are she’s because
they’re grand and ineffable
and let’s admit it, because captains are men and men
linguistically deserve their women, even though ships
have no genitals
nor lips to protest it.

And in class we’re told that they
is too potent to be wielded by a person alone
because sacrosanct subject-verb
agreement doesn’t care for pronominal liberty of self
and you’re either he or she or error
and errors make people uncomfortable

And then we are taught to squirm
when such errors are made.

Because my card says F
and my body lies, she, she, she
spelled somehow from G A T C
and they answer, she, she, she, she
as if words in libraries could orchestrate the building of cities
as if Alexandria were a weapons hold
as if I were a ship.

Are you a girl or a boy? asks a pair of bright
pink lips. “I am a girl
a girl,” I parrot
“and I like dolls
because of my karyotype”

And I’m standing in sneakers and self-hatred
at the washroom door as I slide into a she
because I have not been able to bring myself
to wear a dress
to wear my double X
for a decade

and I’m just a liar
liar
lyrebird
speaking stolen words
but the one that lays the eggs
without his pharyngeal virtuosity.

Springwood Height, Singapore

Their genealogies are manifold: there is no record of where
they were sewn, or sutured, as with a wound.

Dismember their home as they may, they eat from
the same tarnished pot, the same boiled grain and though
they may spit and rinse the taste from their mouths afterwards
they return to the pot, and it reminds them that they share their seed.

I do not think they severed their own roots
merely lost them in transplant: trees and rivers
do not bear the names of raindrops that fed them.

They are afraid to admit
that when they open their mouths to speak, they hear
their siblings’ voices. And this is not a theft but a becoming
as grasses become each other, as rains become each other
seeping into foreign soil and calling it their own.