Dyke by Robin Becker
The word came after me, then hid each time
I turned to look at it.
It breathed in the hedge. I could hear it bite
and snap the air.
I feared the woman with slicked-back hair
sitting on a bar stool,
her back to the dance floor, a beer in her hands.
Disco drove the word away
but it came back: Bulldyke, Bulldagger.
What did the word want
with me, and why this dread, this desire, this
striding through Kenmore Square
Dyke had a spike in it, a cleated surge.
In leathers, the word leapt
18th century grillwork
on the Boston Common and led the parade
around the city,
the slow, snaking, joyful, motorcade
of a new millennium. First
I had to hate her;
then I had to hurt her; the rest of my life,
I ate from her hand.
I read this poem today from a current copy of APR. I was floored by this poem for two reasons; its pure familiarity, in that I see myself in this poem. And the pure familiar ABC list Becker concludes with at the poems end. A different familiar, because while it isnt my Butch experience, as a Butch I have heard that list ticked off by Femme friends, lovers and acquaintances. A list of which at my age would now probably number (due to internet Femme friends/acquaintances) into the hundreds.
This poem makes me want to hug every Femme who has went through this, who WILL go through this. Who very early on was shamed right out of loving her baby Butch interest. Who felt she had to go along with her friends about how "gross" or "dykey" her baby Butch interest was, even though alone she can think of nothing else. And then hates herself for thinking of nothing else. I want to hug her.
That 18 or 19 or 20 year old Femme who falls madly in love at college or her first job with a Butch woman. Who feels so wonderful, cherished and just plain happy in her Butch's arms or bed. But apart who edits edits edits edits to her friends, her family, her job. Till she cannot edit any more, cannot live lies or half truths and walk straight away from her Butch, her love, her happiness and leaving a grieving Butch who does understand. I want to hold her!
And then that turning point, where she says a big FUCK YOU friends, FUCK YOU family and society be damned! And she runs with tear filled eyes to her Butch, and she never looks back. Her, I want to kiss.