h o m e........
p a s t   i s s u e s....
s u b m i s s i o n s....
l i n k s






           One is not born a woman, but becomes one.                                                                                                  --Simone de Beauvoir


Plastic purses and tutus.  Pink binkies and blankets.  Dolls.  Dollhouses and tea sets.  Nail polish.  Sit like a lady.  Bows.  Curls.  Patent leather.  Earrings, bracelets, headbands.  Glitter.  Shine.  High heels.  Bras.  Bows on bras.  Thongs.  Razors.  Shame.  Lipstick, blush.  Shush.  You shouldn’t say that.

           Men love war because it allows them to look serious. Because they imagine it is the  
           only thing that stops women from laughing at them.
                    --John Fowles

Guns. Purpose. Meaning.  I just have to get out of the house.  I love you more, darling, when you are shrunk to a headshot in my wallet and I stare into your eyes as I lay on my bunk.  I am bloody.  I am brave.  I’m doing this for you.  I’m doing this for freedom. They need me, damn it.  I knew you wouldn’t understand.

           I find it ridiculous to assign a gender to an inanimate object incapable of disrobing
           and making an occasional fool of itself.
                        --David Sedaris

Le purse.  La gun.  Les tutus.  La bunk.   Le doll.  La toy soldier.  Le ladybug.  La pickup truck. 
           As far as I’m concerned, being any gender is a drag.       
                       --Patti Smith
Drag queen, drag king, drag race. 

James Byrd, Jr. was murdered in 1998, dragged behind a pickup on an asphalt road.  Byrd’s body ripped apart.  The three killers, white supremacists, went to a BBQ to celebrate.  This led to the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act.  Dennis Rodman, the basketball star who loved to dress up like a woman, paid for Byrd’s funeral.






Calling all brides
from the courthouse, the cruise ship, the church,
brides in pantsuits, brides in short shorts,
brides in gowns made of glass ornaments,
brides in arranged marriages, brides of Frankenstein,
trophy wives, chain-smoking balls-and-chains,
mail order brides, green card brides, brides taken for a ride,
brides who can’t legally marry, brides who are partners in crime,
fake brides posing in Bride and Martha Stewart Weddings,
brides on reality TV shows like Say Yes to the Dress,
unfaithful brides, reluctant brides,
brides with updos, brides with braids,
bridled brides, entitled brides, brides with business cards,
children playing dress-up in white sequined veils,
pregnant brides, hide-and-seek brides,
shy brides, people-pleasing brides, brides on Facebook,
Bridezillas, third-time’s-a-charm brides,
a charm of a bride for your charm bracelet,
brides biding their time, the plastic bride on top of the cake,
brides with five o’clock shadows,
brides who’ve been bribed, brides who are in it for the ritual,
brides marrying for self-esteem,
brides marrying to get out of the house,
brides in bowler hats, brides in birds’ nests,
brides in the spotlight, brides in the hot seat,
military brides, destination brides, skydiving brides,
a doll bride in the bathroom with a toilette paper skirt,
flapper brides, unflappable brides, Botox brides,
child brides, elderly brides, brides who tell lies,
brides on bicycles, brides eating popsicles,
runaway brides, fugitive brides, bankrupt brides,
brides in the backyard, in the state park,
brides on the mountain top, barefoot on the beach,
take heed the wisdom of Emma Goldman—
the most vital right is the right to love and be loved.





            I am the homecoming queen. 
            Then it was winter.  We lost the war, so I couldn’t be the hero I’d hoped.              
            I am in the womb again where I am the sperm and I am the egg, clapping like a set of hands.  You could say I am plural, a bit more of a “we” than an “I”. 
            My great grandchildren don’t want to hear about my past.  Or anyone else’s.                                         Suburbia hums with secrets I’ll never know.  I sit in a tree spying.  My mother sits in the clouds. I am really a football player under that helmet.  I am really a maiden under that straw hat. 
            “What’s under my clothes is none of your business,” the telemarketer says, hanging up.
            My father tried to beat the “we” out of me.  He sat in the clouds too, the clouds shaped like La-Z-Boys and bleachers and toilet seats. Though my father had a bit of my mother in him, he would never admit that now, would he?
            Maybe I am talking to you from the dead. 
            Maybe I am French.                                                                                                  
            I save up for a used car and get the hell out of there.  Several “theres,” to be a bit more precise.            
            Pompoms. Grenades. Lemonade.                                                                              
            I fell in love then out, in and out, each romance more passionate and painful than the last.  I threw a pot full of hot soup, the splashes burning us both.  I hurled expletives, then apologized.  One lover bought me a carnival glass bowl.  One lover smashed a rented Fiat into a tree, a note in the glove compartment meant to destroy me.             
            My children have put me in a nursing home, but I’m getting out.                                  
            The war was awful.  The war—well, those were some of the best days of my life.
            I sang in a choir once upon a time.     
            I was infatuated with trains and buses.                                                                     
            I worked for the cause, but now I feel like a chump.  So many hours marching and holding up signs when I could have been planting a garden.                              
            When I step on stage in that sash and rock that bouquet like a baby, a rose thorn pierces the underside of my left arm.  Only the spies in the clouds can see the mark, the spies with their curious cumulous binoculars.




BIO: Denise Duhamel’s most recent books of poetry are Blowout (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2013); Ka-Ching! (Pittsburgh, 2009); Two and Two (Pittsburgh, 2005); and Queen for a Day: Selected and New Poems (Pittsburgh, 2001).  The guest editor for The Best American Poetry 2013, she teahes at Florida International University in Miami.


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