SPOTLIGHT: How to Sit Like a Lesbian by Rae Theodore

Shadow Rae

Shadow Rae eats nachos for breakfast
Nom noms a hunk of hijacked birthday cake for lunch
Speaks in third person, uses words like “nom nom”

Shadow Rae talks too loudly,
drinks too much, slurs
her words to make new animals

Shadow Rae stays up too late,
Sleeps too long, steals the last breath mint,
lies about it to her cats

Shadow Rae is smoke and mirrors
and onion tears, too much I’m here and queer
but mostly sweaty palms, the stench of fear

Shadow Rae knows everything,
has been everywhere, watched the movie,
but more importantly, read the book

Tells everyone she saw Led Zep back in the day,
forgets to say it was in 1985 at Live Aid
after John Bonham had died

Shadow Rae is all fun or no fun,
depending on your mood
or how much alcohol you have consumed

She is all hot, no sauce
A bomb but no shelter
Neither party nor hat

Shadow Rae has penned twenty-two memoirs
and counting, bedazzles self-portraits
on the sides of historic buildings

She is one part weasel,
two parts booze, can only be purchased
in the pride aisle at Spencer’s Gifts

Shadow Rae is mostly black
light and gag gift, hot pepper gum,
a can of exploding snakes

I will always

Drink too much at an open bar
Give a friend the benefit of doubt
Worry too much
Sleep too little
Say something stupid when I meet a famous author
I will always try my best
Until I don’t
Then I will try again
Once my dad told me he was proud
of how I had turned my life around
and risen from the ashes of my past
like a fiery phoenix
What choice did I have? I asked
I will always hold the door for old ladies
who say I look like their grandsons
I will always smile and tip my cap
Messengers come in many forms
Sometimes I am an overeager cub scout
Sometimes I am a joker
Sometimes I am a carton and a half of eggs,
more than you bargained for
I will always try to see the good in others
but not always in myself
It is hard to see things the way they are
when you are too close
I will always write my story
I will always give my life three thousand different endings

Mug shot

In middle school after you move one more time,
you lose your voice in the bottom of a U-haul box.

It’s not that you can’t speak but that you’re unsure
of everything you thought you knew.

In high school, you eat lunch in the library
because books speak the only words you believe.

When you try to express your thoughts,
no one hears what you’re saying.

When you’re alone, you pinch yourself
to prove you’re real and not some ethereal being.

People think you’re stuck up and odd
because you’re smart and quiet.

You wonder if that’s what they said
about Virginia Woolf and Sylvia Plath.

John Yaglenski, a boy in your grade who lives down the street,
has his mother call your mother to say you should be more

outgoing. This is the first time but not the last time
a boy will try to mold you into who

he wants you to be. At your first real job
a co-worker gifts you and some others mugs

with drawings of famous authors on them.
You think you’re one of the gang until

you overhear him say he paired you with Emily Dickinson
because you’re both so weird.

There’s another editor who always walks down the hall
facing the wall like he’s reading a story hidden inside.

You look at your mug and wonder
who should be crowned King of the Office Weirdos.

No one can wound you by calling you what you are.
You’re strange magic. You’re a fantastic beast.

Your heart is a shooting star, your tears holy
water, your brain a dream-weaving machine.

You are one in a snaking line of millions
of mystical living things. Did you know

ghost crabs growl using teeth in their stomachs?
There’s a kind of ant that only lives in Manhattan.

A snail can sleep for three entire years.
Giraffes have no vocal cords

but tell tales by twisting and turning
their delicate elongated necks.

If people don’t understand your silence
they will never understand your words.

They will always paint self-portraits
in the spaces in between. Oh, and that mug

will become one of your prized possessions. The moral is
anyone can walk down a hallway in a conventional way,

but you, shy, queer wonderful you,
are going to choose to live your life against the grain.

Because let’s be real, you’ve always known that fairytales
hidden behind walls are the only ones worth hearing.

In your quiet not-quiet life, you’re going to transform
libraries into sanctuaries, poems into bibles.

You’re going to build a house with your favorite words,
take it on the road so you can always be home.

You’re going to love women so hard you’ll leave a trail of light
for other lovers to gaze upon on starry nights.

You’re going to crown yourself queen
of your own heart.

They’re going to say you need to speak up to be heard.
They’re going to hand you a copy of Dale Carnegie.

You’re going to tell your story
with only the curve of your body.

An insider’s guide on how to stop liking girls

Ignore the sweet curve of her hip,
the way it has more dip
than any pitch Nolan Ryan ever hurled.

Disregard the seductive curve of her lip,
the sacred swell of her breast,
the way she’s all rose petals and Roman vase.

Just to be safe, ignore all of her curves.
Don’t compare her azure eyes to a summer sky
or her celestial skin to the forever shine of the moon.

Call the fire department to shut off your hydrant
heart. Tell them it’s a public safety emergency.
Pretend you like boys.

Their short hair, curt ways,
sandpaper roughness that grinds
you down into someone you were never

meant to be. Make believe
her lips weren’t painted by Van Gogh
in a shade you like to call Bowl of Cherries red.

Try not to get lost climbing
her long leg song. Draw a map
so you can always find your way back

not home but someplace else
where you can erect a fence
and call this away place Home for Now.

Pretend she isn’t electric. Blame the buzzing
in your body to your own faulty wiring. Pretend
she smells like wet dog

and not licorice whips and lilac blooms.
Immerse yourself in the study of other beautiful creatures:
white tigers, leafy sea dragons, mandarin fish.

Predict the heaviness of your parents’ shame.
An adult heart weighs about 10 ounces.
Decide it’s a fair trade.

Marry your high school boyfriend.
Make “I don’t like girls” your new mantra.
Build a cage with your secret silver desires.

Remove the word “girl” from your favorite songs
so “Cinnamon Girl” is just a spice
“Uptown Girl,” a place you go at night

and “Girls, Girls, Girls” is nothing
but a hive of bees
humming in your chest.


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