ALICIA KEYS TEACHES ME HOW TO BE A (SUPER)WOMAN
Do not be gentle with what you want Alicia instructs from the hallways
of my teenage closet. It’s 2009 & I’m on the edge of becoming
another pastel girl—all Hollister, all high school. She flings
scoop sweaters, blouses with thick, zippered tongues across the room.
She is, as she says, assessing the damage. I am still lost
in the hollow, alabaster spaces—dresser drawers, sure,
but mostly my wallpaper skin. Alicia knows how to re-claim.
Her Brooklyn braids twist into a knot, hoop earrings jamming
against her jawline like indestructible, miniature worlds.
The media calls her not feminine enough, too hard, a lesbian.
It will be years before anyone calls me anything,
before that woman will roll down her car window
& scream faggot so fiercely I’ll swear the Pittsburgh street caught fire.
For now, I have Alicia in my bedroom, ripping skirts,
screwing ties from the sleeves of dresses. I cup the strips
of clothing like torn limbs & follow her eyelids.
Without make-up, without costume: tired & perfectly human.