I Was Very Prolific
Legislators say they want women to have second thoughts.
—headline from The New York Times, January 28, 1998
I was very prolific in my generating qualities.
I was sprouting here and there.
They said I was developing.
They said my heterosexual adjustment
was quantitatively well above average.
Of course, they said, there is always the possibility
she won’t cooperate. But I did my best to acclimate.
I said to them: Just don’t rip my nylons.
I said to myself: This is not my self.
Afterward, no matter how much I gargled
or apologized, I couldn’t get that force field
out of my head: it sucked and dragged.
It depleted most of the memory banks,
then installed my functions in the outskirts
of a category called unknown or other.
Basically, I was subletting a very unlisted condition.
I signed up for Public Resistance,
for Confessional Help, for Social Insecurity.
At headquarters, the police said: Welcome to our favorite prefab events.
The doctors said: Let’s make a deal.
The technicians said: The Traumatic Image Resource Room is now out of order.
After the treatments and a brief dreamy episode
involving armed forces, a parasite shaped like a subway system
built its home in my lungs. No matter how precisely
I cross-referenced, no matter how many official reports
I downloaded, I was still not clear. I was vaporware.
I was the pre-data part of a package deal.
And so I have learned to distrust
the blinking signs, the free-floating quotations.
I have learned that my gender is still a risky situation
marred by sexuality, like those B movies, dominated
by chase scenes and ending in predictable disasters.
And, despite the best of intentions, it is not true
that groups of humans behave in an aimless,
non-goal-directed manner. Nor is it true
that being stripped and strapped down,
flown like a flag and projected onto the big screen,
is without reward: just look
at the audience turning its one gigantic head,
from left to right, then back again.
I Was Very Prolific is reprinted with permission from The Kingdom of the Subjunctive (Alice James Books, 2000).