The National Poetry Review
A BELATED APOLOGY TO A TRANSGENDER COLLEAGUE
who was halfway through
physically becoming a woman
and even said something terribly
heteromasculine like Right on, dude!
in answer to her praise
of a book we both loved. I meant it
to sound friendly and supportive,
so secure in my Midwestern liberality
that I almost missed the hesitation
in her eyes before she returned
the gesture—our bare palms
touching like shadows, the digits mirrored—
not to mention the scowls
of other colleagues at the table.
Then, a month later, attending a gala
alongside her and her wife, I walked up
and said, Hello, ladies,
thinking that would absolve me,
though even in my ears the words
sounded off kilter, due not
to insincerity but nerves, my own inability
to stand anyone thinking badly of me.
True, this isn’t about my own
rotten childhood, but I seem
unable to speak as anybody but myself.
There’s one other moment I return to:
walking by her office a few days
after my latest verbal idiocy
to ask how she’d been. She mentioned
a forthcoming operation, a little
catch in her voice, and in my haste
to commiserate, I said, Oh, I have one of those
coming up, too, merely referring
to a bit of dental work,
though her eyes widened
a split second before she said,
Well, man, good luck, and meant it.
MICHAEL MEYERHOFER’s fifth book, Ragged Eden, is forthcoming from Glass Lyre Press. He is also the author of a fantasy series and the Poetry Editor of Atticus Review. His work has appeared in Hayden’s Ferry, Rattle, Brevity, Tupelo Quarterly, Ploughshares, and many other journals. For more information and an embarrassing childhood photo, visit http://www.troublewithhammers.com.