After Adrienne Rich's "Snapshots of a Daughter-in-law"
1. "You, once a belle in Shreveport"
The tallest of your secondary one class,
you posed against the older boys, front
double biceps, back lat spread, side chest,
taut postures you studied in magazines
while stroking your little flared cock.
You were only half surprised when you won.
Though the other boys had more to show,
you threw your hardest punch into the hand
you raised. You crushed your abdominals
as if jumping on a soda can you tossed.
You were still flushed the next morning
when an older boy, the one with strawberry lips,
grabbed and congratulated you, Muscleman!
Your arm jerked back before you could smile,
quicker, stronger, than you could catch.
2. "she hears the angels chiding, and looks out"
The angels fell silent after you left the church,
the boxy Baptist church converted from a cinema,
where you learned the parts of sinner and saint
with a cast of ten thousand. The drama was epic.
The stern trumpets died. You were on your own, outside.
Afraid of being seen by someone you knew, a student,
his parent, your colleague, your boss, the world,
you shuffled past the gay bar in Chinatown, shuttered
and safe in the day. You hung round in deadbeat malls.
You collapsed back into the couch and flicked the TV on.
From where I sit, looking out into drizzly New York,
the boyfriend sleeping in on Sunday, I could hardly
tell your desperate boredom, the two-for-one jingle.
I call out to you, but a small figure on the big screen
you thought you heard your name and slipped away.
3. “The beak that grips her, she becomes”
The monstrous, wrote Montaigne, is monstrous
only because we don’t know the whole universe.
The two headed child, the lady long with beard,
the man who screeches for joy when ass fucked
are unremarkable phenomena on another planet.
Stuck on an island of belief, washed by disbelief,
you worked and kept your head down, terrified
that your second head would burst your shirt collar
and demand a view of the cubbies. You dreamed
of a cock fat as a soda can and woke in phantom pain.
Change scene, another island. Montaigne’s planet,
where men want to marry and raise kids with men,
where every person can be both equal and special.
Here I want to be normal as much as the next man,
but there are nights I hear the bearded lady speak.