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 the nature 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 an armoury
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 another she
though 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
speaking stolen words
but the one that lays the eggs
without his pharyngeal virtuosity.


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