Between The Sexes
This piece is about 5 printed pages long.
It is copyright © Andrew Steinmetz and Jacket magazine 2007.
Seventeen letters across.
Draw it on paper,
write it down. Caterpillar,
centipede. See, it moves
off the page, and
drops, a soft tractor
under leaf or tissue.
Now expand the tree,
find your terminology–
on a lower branch
crawling with information
like cells appear well-defined,
compact, and rounded.
Macroscopically, a pinkish smear.
Imaging studies show, how
they grow outwards from
white matter into grey matter.
Median age at diagnosis,
40-50 years. Either
sex. Shave your hair.
In a week or so.
Depends on size,
location. Ordinarily, no.
She wanted everything I had
You come home for lunch
and we go upstairs
to the bedroom
or after, usually straightaway.
We stand on the rug, feet apart
Your arms drain out of the sleeves,
lithe as the last ones to know.
Already I am in my socks, beside myself.
Here we pause, packed solid
for breathing. Then like statues
brought together for love,
off our pedestals
in the resplendent daylight of the second floor.
What can you want from me, everything
is yours. Granted permission,
I twist the ring, a gold band,
same as mine, sliding it
off without prying.
Now we feel identical,
the blood from fingers.
We hold each other
and smile, reaching around
back for bunches of anything.
We grew up
using the one bathroom
on the second floor.
My parents and siblings
stood at the same sink
waist deep in the mirror image.
For years, we were alike
though we didn’t know how.
On winter mornings, window cracked
open, my father shaved in the mist
unbeknownst, shaped like a gorilla.
My mother and sister showered
separately, and intangibly.
During the rush before breakfast,
we three boys brushed
and spat, furiously
the white animal scat,
the drippings, lips
afoam, my brothers
would interrogate me
about my habits, posing
questions that were tricks:
Do you hold ‘it’ when you go?
Little pricks, they never showed me right.
So in defence of the years to come,
with sore, obvious teats
I started to train: push-ups and isometrics.
One day, the curtains parted,
plastically. Towelling off, my father
emerged and nodded
to my reflection
from somewhere behind me.
‘You’re strong’, he said
as though favourably
impressed I was becoming someone else.
Do you how hard I worked
on my upper body?
To the point, when I stopped
my chest would grow, for hours
out of vanity.
Between The Sexes
What is the chance
on this rivalry declared
in the unspoken
as chivalry, even one
in the glass, while
ahead he waits holding
the door half-open, half-closed.
Like having egg cauterized to the pan,
we’re not amused by plagiarism.
Your eye rolls into its own field
of vision, your head on writer’s block.
Your mother’s home cooking, dad’s
enormous voice, anxiety of influence.
Crying over spilt milk before any
milk spills, the absence of, objective correlative.
Impersonal, yet more interesting than
you’ll ever be, or understand, literary criticism.
Dante, Dickinson, Eliot, Plath, Akhmatova,
Inyourdreams, individual talent.
In the beginning there were only men,
and these men, apparently, made the canon.
More than anything, including a regular naptime
and sex, every writer wants, a close reading.
Andrew Steinmetz was born in Montreal in 1965. He is the author of a memoir, Wardlife: The Apprenticeship of a Young Writer as a Hospital Clerk (1999) and two collections of poetry, Histories (2001), and Hurt Thyself (2005). He is the editor of Esplanade Books, the fiction imprint at Vehicule Press.
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