stubble (n.)

            c. 1300, "stumps of grain stalks left in the ground after reaping," from Old       

            French estuble  "stubble" (Modern French éteule), from Vulgar Latin stupla, 

            reduced form of Latin stipula "stalk, straw" stipule).

 

The line “Every hair on my body is a man” is originally from Jamie Mortara.

 

Every hair on my body is a man

the choice is whether to raise them

 

or raze them. When the blade gathers

the men like dust in a clean home, I revel

 

in how I feel a cool river when my legs brush

up against each other, dousing the small flint-born fires

 

when the forest grows dry. In 6th grade, my neighbor lectured

we would not kill the weeds unless we got to the root,

 

that simply cutting the tops would let the creeping charlie

grow back heartier and with a vendetta. I’m unsure

 

I can be unearthed from this sick dirt.  I still insist

on dragging the small scythe across my skin. Which is crueler

 

that they grow or that I forbid them? I can tolerate them as boys:

after a single day of barrenness and quiet, they erupt, yes,

 

but they learn to soften under a gentle touch. When they grow tall

I realize I no longer recognize them.

 

They talk back to their mother.

They wish to be as tall as their father.

 

If every hair on my body is a man,

then I am a ruthless parent who eats

 

their young in the name of survival. Learn

how I say, not how I do. But the men don’t

 

fear me. They know this morning I shaved my legs

and ran out of both time and hot water

 

to rid myself

of anyone else.

Levi Todd is a queer poet and lifelong Chicagoan. They serve as Poetry Editor for Tinderbox Poetry Journal and as a relationship health educator with youth. Levi’s work is published in Pinwheel, Cotton Xenomorph, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, and elsewhere. You can read more of their work at www.levitodd.com or say hi on Twitter @levicitodd.