Your mom was the kind of person
who forgot the leftovers on the stove—
she didn’t even flinch opening the door,
my hands twist-tangled in your long, girl
hair, your striped, Target t-shirt crumpled
beside us on the floor—a small monument
to matching bodies, to holding pinkies
in school halls, to me: queer homecoming queen
royalty. You wore slacks, a terrified grin
and slouching ruffle socks as we walked
in a fluorescent gymnasium—hypervisible—a sea
of eyeballs shaping us. That day after school,
your mom sang along to the Fun Home songs
we liked, our worlds steeped in the freedom
of Bechdel. I galloped the thirty seconds
to my house, told my mom The Plan—cut
my hair short, take the Girl with Beautiful
Long Red Hair and slice her into tiny bits
to scatter, fit better with another girl.
My mom is not like yours.
My mom said, “do you want to look
like a dyke?” and laughed like jingle bells
rolling around on the oakwood floors,
tripping me, making my ears ring.
For Debbie Morissey McHale, 1951-2016
My Great Aunt Debbie leads
my older sister and me up a path
on the Rocky Mountains.
She is our magical adventure guide
from Loveland, hard gardening
hands of Larimer Park.
I watch her legs like oak tree stumps,
her strength like a horse
pulsing through her calves.
I have never seen a beautiful woman
with such sturdy legs.
My ears pop and Debbie
gives me spearmint gum.
She knows the mountains.
My dad is on the phone,
my mother stays in the car.
We laugh, we race, we turn
our small red faces up
to the peaks capped with white.
Our legs tire, our shoes are too weak
but we bask in the geography
of Grandma’s sister like girls
discovering the word “woman”
has different definitions—
not mother or sister,
dainty or delicate or dancer
or dreamer, not silent or obedient,
not product of father.
She contained sapwood and oak,
with maps grafted to her soul
and guidebooks in her eyes.
The higher we climbed
the further we were from what we knew.
She picked me up in one easy swipe
to show me what she could see.
Dana (she/her) is a queer, Syrian-American poet from Chicago who is currently an MFA candidate at Emerson College in Boston. She is the assistant poetry editor at Redivider and senior editorial assistant at Ploughshares. Dana's poems are published or forthcoming in Hooligan Mag, After Hours Chicago, L'Ephemere Review, Daphne Mag, Blood Orange Review, Bad Pony Mag and others. She recently won third prize in the Ledbury Poetry Competition 2017. Twitter & Instagram @DanaAlsamsam