What Is the Sisterhood to Me?


Do you know yourself? I thought I did
at 19 when my boyfriend called
from the hospital to say he’d been hit
over the head with a fire extinguisher
and got kicked out of school because
of some dumb bitch. Who’d predict
I’d drive to Westchester General
that night, four hours, to see how bad
it was, like a bus accident localized
to his face? Maybe I already knew a girl
did it, not a coked-out male friend,
not a band of Yonkers thugs, but I wanted
to hear, in person, why a woman tries
to split the skull of a man like the seam
on a baseball. He knew what so many
men know: if you don’t admit it,
it’s not true. That in a year I would still
bake cookies for him, wrapping them
in a coffee can bound for Fort Jackson,
and see her in the faces of women
at school, where we spun pots and talked
about Plath like we weren’t talking
around it. I thought I didn’t know myself
at 13, when the softball team captain
cornered me in the bathroom, held
my face in her hands and spit in it,
sneering Why don’t you talk? Or when
my father told me in the car one day
it was okay, with him, if I never got married. I
am the stringy teenager who picked out
“Stand by Your Man” on the guitar
and just fucking got that song, its notes
already vibrating in me, the woman
who lives in the queasy strobe light
of the lie. Don’t say you know yourself
while I am holding a fire extinguisher.
You don’t know what either of us will do.