By: Cheryl Snell
Today you must choose your pronouns. It should be a simple task but you are complex. Full of partial truths, once you were a stickler for grammar. Remember the “Surrender Dorothy” graffiti painted across the Beltway overpass? Who did they mean─ the public or the girl? A comma changes everything.
When Women were Birds
After she forgot their names, she called everyone Dear.
Even the parrot. No, dear, no! she’d plead whenever he flew
into her bedside basin, splashing. Her crisscrossed skin
had become so thin that the droplets felt like hail to her.
She’d lift her arms against the spray, trying to protect herself.
She’d never understood violence, so it was only natural,
once her hand had fluttered back down to her lap,
she would open it again for the bird. He trailed wet wings
across her blue wrist, and settling into her palm, squawked
dear, dear, dear. It was the only word he knew.
The man with doomsday eyes stands in the station
as a train flows past the point where he can see
his family waving beyond the scratched glass.
In his mind he follows them, surfing
on the shoulders of the desperate crowd.
Over trenches and fire, through no-fly zones
shredded with the debris of alternate lives,
he soars. His nerves vibrate like colors on the map
just now being re-drawn, and he knows he is one
burst bomb away from his own worst-case scenario.
When they parted, his son had given him a toy
ambulance. He holds it now, tightly, in his fist