Saturday, 12 April 2014

NaPoWriMo Catch-up 7: Dear Mum,

you’ll get no cards or chocolate from your son
next Mothers’ Day,
and I’m sorry that you have to hear this way,
but there never seemed to be a fitting time to say this;
and I know I may have left this far too late,
and I know that some might say that I should wait
until you’re finished this, your latest stay
in hospital – and maybe should delay
until you’re safely finished your recovery phase...

But this can’t wait, and shouldn’t be a secret,
it shouldn’t be the kind of news
you need strong booze to deal with.
I shouldn’t have to worry
that it might disrupt your healing,
that you might become distressed
if I should get this off my chest,

and for all I know you might even have guessed
but never said, because we don’t talk in this family:
we never really talked about how I was anorexic
in my teens and early twenties.
We all knew that I was starving but we mentioned it
obliquely, if at all, my slow withdrawal
behind the blandest front, the baggiest of jumpers,
was something that we never openly confronted,
so we never got a chance to name the cause.

The cause was girls. The ones on Johnny’s wall,
their jutting hips just hangers for bikinis
that I couldn’t wear. But I could ape their leanness,
train my body to enjoy the taste of hunger
until my hips, too, stood out; ‘til I was lighter
than the bigger girls on Gladiators – Panther,
never Jet – I crashed

before I reached that marker. Flew
as far as Hartlepool
before admitting that I had no clue
what I was doing.
That would be my first, though not my only,
Summer as a ruin,
but I convinced you I was doing better,
got a string of letters I could put after my name:

BA, MA, PGCE; and, when I abandoned teaching
one year after NQT, a postgraduate diploma
in Psychology: during which, obsessively,
I’d read and reread the entry in the DSM-IV
On GID: Gender Identity

                        I’m your daughter,
not your son: I’ve read the diagnostics
and conform to every one.
And – while I may not have done
My PhD, that’s also
the opinion of the local GIC
that I’ve been under for a year now,
in the city where I live

as who I’ve always been,
through all the years I hid
behind a mask of ersatz manhood,
clichéd codes of masculinity,
all the armour that I tightened until it was killing me,
until a year ago, I looked up,
and the sky above my head
had turned the colour of my armour,
and my future looked like lead.

And I decided that if that was it
I might as well be dead.

And I knew how I’d do it: find a car park or a bridge,
sit with my back to the drop, lean out and simply give
myself to river, concrete, or wherever I should fall.
If my body was a prison, that was how I’d seek parole

– and I would’ve, if I hadn’t talked to those I told,
and then to others, who suggested I should twist
instead of sticking:
Move out. Attend the GIC. Arrange a paid prescription
for Propecia, to decrease my levels of testosterone,
so I was starting somewhere, even if I wasn’t
on full hormones: then, to use the money

I got paid for poems to build a wardrobe,
come out to the people that I work with in my day job,
and, yes: I should have told you,
but I never got ‘round to it,
and, like I say, I think in some way
I thought that  you knew it:
but time is running out now and it’s too late
for excuses.

So this message is belated
while the card I sent was early,
although it at least explains
 why that card did look kinda girly,
and I wrote this poem to say
you’ll get no more cards from your son:

but, if you like, for your next birthday,

your daughter could send one.

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