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The Girl Notebooks—Stephen Whitaker

I am not a girl

I am not

 

nor a boy or a man or a woman

but a knot of them,

my heart like a tangle of arms, elbows, breasts, and thighs

 

there is nothing so bare as the beginning of a dream

or the beginning of a death

 

a cough, a bright pane of moonlight, the short flame of a night light,

a dull pain in the bottom of the belly.

 

With death, like dreams, it’s hard to figure out where the itch began.

 

I am not a girl, I am not a not. I am am

and a wife

and a thane who plays the fife.

 

Those pressing nights when the walls drooped and the ceiling stared back

and all I wanted to do was wake up in a different body

 

A: “A wife?”

 

B: “A wife.”

 

A: “That’s not a job for a boy.”

 

B: “I am not a boy.”

 

A: “I don’t like it when you say that.”

 

B: “There is no other way to say this.”

 

It is a kind of black magic,

these witching clothes,

the late hours where I watch the night

and prowl in heels,

my cigarettes beacons in the dark

that must be lit, lit, lit.

 

Oh, these spells of wishing I was well in another skin

with a higher voice rolling my tongue.

 

There are lookbooks and magic mascara and polish the color of suns.

 

My secret hands like small galaxies,

their varied colors,

their varied nails—the hume and spume of a cosmic mix

and what of love?

 

Does it save? Can it keep me clapped to my bones?

 

The answer is unknown.

 

The answer is a puzzle, a box, and riddle spoken by a fox

 

with my long red hair, my long lean legs.

What’s a girl to do?

 

But I am not a girl, am not a girl, am not.

 

So my black magic in the end is only black magic paper hats,

a card trick packed in a box,

 

my sold out luck.

 

My brain’s scrambled like a rubix cube,

like a squirrel’s brain in a hunter’s pan in early spring.

The grease popping and licking back on the walnut rolls,

before being mashed with onion and pepper

and served as a side.

 

I need my magic tricks and backyard broomstick,

my orphans and their newspaper flowers,

my rags, and pearls, and the old eye.

 

Shall I cast my luck?

Shall I roll the bones?

What is I is I is I?

 

I do not wish to confuse, or terrify, or amuse

but rather fix my skin to course, to direct my sail

and strike drum a new voice, a new timbre.

 

For nearly a decade I gave up on lipstick

only to find my fingers fiddling their slick shells

as I collect their sheen, their silk, thunder beaches in their hollow tubes.

 

And what of men? I know their triggers as well as any woman’s,

their itches not so far apart,

it’s really only the amount of pressure one places on the skin

before one fires off.

 

Why can’t one love without a frame,

a guide, a white painted bride?

 

Once there was a man whose testes turned against him

and the good country doctor cut them out

and replaced them with beans.

 

A sack, a sack, a sack of beans.

 

Many are those who awake to find themselves in another room,

in another country.

 

And this man woke to find himself stripped of his sex,

his penis like a forgotten rubber toy

at the bottom of a child’s playbox.

 

The sack of beans between his legs

keep him swinging

but the pills, pills, pills,

and patches, patches, patches

failed him

 

and his breasts swelled like a plump bride

and his body hair thinned, and his thighs grew juicy as spring chicken.

 

What to do, do, do

 

when your body repels you? Do you cut off the warts,

and make soap of the fat? Do you turn inside out

to escape your reflection?

 

And our man in Amsterdam

slipped into the wood,

his wife was shagging the butcher,

and had plenty of bloody bones,

and his children had already neutered him with their credit cards

and their independent pods, and ear-buds,

so he did the only sensible thing there was to do…

 

listen to the woods, the low drum of a hummingbird in flight,

allow the body to be the body

to be itself

and always

and all.

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