Sometimes, Gender

Girls are quick to turn sour
like milk or lemons. Boys grow antlers.
At recess in the cold, I scuffed the edges
of both circles, played team sports
& the piano. Sometimes gender
needs a new winter coat, or a blowtorch
& homemade mixtape. We ate Twizzlers
at Titanic, taped Leo to our doors.
I watched the wallpaper peel, figured
action was overrated. In order of importance
I saved my Day-Glo diary & Latin books,
while boy bands bloomed like anthills
on my mother’s lawn. I wanted to be
popular, then smart, then someone’s
favorite, instead got a laptop & back-page
editorial in the yearbook. I wrote Action
is impractical if the war is faceless.
I had a crush on every girl who smoked
in the gymnasium basement. At night
every star looked like a pearl, but close up
each one was faithless, close up my body
ruthless. I cried when my best friend
got a real boyfriend, the water polo captain.
Sex was temporary, tenuous. Our tenth-
grade history teacher—we called him Heath—
was born Heather. We didn’t know
until later. Imperceptible the difference
between phenotype & Photoshop, pronouns
& antecedents, my body, its fixed uses.

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fight coverJen Levitt first collection of poems, The Off-Season, is forthcoming this fall.

“Sometimes, Gender” originally appeared in FIGHT (TLR, Spring 2016)