Why I Can’t Say the Word Lesbian Without Thinking of My Therapist
At Sarah’s thirteenth birthday party, someone
said Your mom is—what
Your mom is—sinner
is abomination is
the thing God warned us about.
There must be something
in the blood insoluble—
how it turns red when touched by oxygen,
we, too, turn from God
by someone like her.
. . .
Prom night, after dancing, someone said
Your sister is—what
Your sister is—acting different
cut her beautiful brown hair
down to the root,
pruned it back
so far it might not grow again,
acting less feminine, more
. . .
My first year at college
someone said You are—what
descendant of dyke,
divergence in a long lineage
of choice. Tainted bloodline.
Desire never matters here.
These are the choices passed down to us. To be
or to become
or to have always been.
These are what we call signs only
smell of bubblegum chapstick sharing a sleeping bag
tasting a drop of her sweat after a scuffle on the court
wanting to hold her hand yes but what
Emily Holland is a lesbian poet pursuing her MFA at American University. Her poems have been nominated for Best of the Net and two Pushcart Prizes. She has work appearing or forthcoming in publications including bedfellows, Screen Door Review, FOLIO, and Nat. Brut. Her poems explore themes of queerness, place, familial lineage, and investigate the Southern pastoral. She works at The Writer’s Center, where she is currently the managing editor for Poet Lore.
Natalie Giarratano is the author of Big Thicket Blues (Sundress Publications, 2017) and Leaving Clean, winner of the 2013 Liam Rector First Book Prize in Poetry (Briery Creek Press, 2013). Her poems have appeared in Beltway Poetry, Tupelo Quarterly, Tinderbox, and American Literary Review, among others. She edits and lives in Fort Collins, Colorado, with her partner and daughter and is the city’s poet laureate.