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By Ely Shipley

The neck of the guitar stretches
out, every other fret painted with a sharp
dot or dash, flash after flash

of reflected light, marble or pearl, the shape
of a fingerprint, the measure of each
note trapped inside
the instrument’s dark.

Outside, a hailstorm
and the sound of crumpled up
grade-school exams once
smacking against

my skull, paper fists thrown angry
in torrents, and six-year-old
laughter that fell
all around me as I sat inside

a classroom, in a warm pool
of my own urine. I’d been ashamed
to go to the girl’s room at recess,
because I was a boy,

they’d said. But the recess lady made me
stay away from the boys’ room: You are
a girl. And later, my teacher: No,

no hall pass for the rest
of the year. So my body couldn’t stop
secreting in class. Even my eyes and nose
seeped with the stuff. Out of control,

I heaved sobs between sharply phrased
taunts of what, what are you?
But tonight, I only want to be
the mouth

of a guitar, hollowed out
and bodiless
except for that balloon
of sound resonating invisibly

through air, and go on
pressing my fingers deeper in
to the neck, as if I could find
a shape inside

its voice as I choke
out its notes, its high-pitched
scream, its pop.




Listen as Ely Shipley reads, "Six."

Added: Tuesday, October 30, 2018  /  From "Troubling the Line: Trans and Genderqueer Poetry and Poetics," (Nightboat Books, 2013.) Used with permission.
Ely Shipley
Photo by Selena Simmons-Duffin.

Ely Shipley is the author of Some Animal (Nightboat Books); Boy with Flowers (Barrow Street Books, 2007), winner of the Barrow Street Press Book Prize judged by Carl Phillips, and the Thom Gunn Award, and finalist for a Lambda Literary Award; and On Beards: A Memoir of Passing, a letterpress chapbook from speCt! Books.His poems and cross-genre work appear in Seneca Review, Western Humanities Review, Prairie Schooner, Crazyhorse, Interim, Greensboro Review, Painted Bride Quarterly, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Witness, Diagram, Gulf Coast, Fugue, Third Coast, and elsewhere. He holds an MFA from Purdue University and a PhD from the University of Utah.

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