from by Beth May

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When I was 14, my mom told me that had I been a boy, she would have named me Stephen with a PH.
I thought, Jesus H, I’m glad the 50% fell in my favor
You know alls well that ends with an extra X chromosome
Until I was in the checkout zone at Walgreens with a box of tampons, staring at my 8th grade crush.
Jimmy Chavez
Saw me with my Tampex Pearl Lights, because I couldn’t handle the regulars
Never asked me in English how many S’s were in Embarrassment again
I doubted that Stephen with a PH would have that problem

And I asked Mom, do you think that Stephen would have cried over a broken bone skiing that one February? Right arm jarred and crooked after a tumble on the bunny slope?
I guess you’d hope boys
Would be on the double black by now
But I think things would have turned out differently
If I got blue balloons –not pink the 10th of January.
Like say the keychain on my belt weren’t all that dangled off me.
I guess I never wonder how much prouder Mom would be
if I were captain of the football team instead of writing poetry.

But Stephen could do ‘em both
And maybe people would question it
Say that poetry’s for pussies
They’d be wrong, but they don’t live like us
See the thing you wouldn’t hear
The thing that girls hear all the time—
“Man, you’re great at writing, especially for a guy”

See that extra X chromosome it gives us
Child bearing hips
that fit perfectly into every pair of jeans we cannot remember buying
I mean we’ve got less muscle mass
But more grouchy days
See that’s where evolution starts to get a little hazy but
The extra X gives us breasts like the gods
I wasn’t blessed with this, but then, what are the odds

When 50-50 I could have been Stephen with the PH
Judged not for my heart but what’s below my waist
And in middle school, they gave me grief
Because I had pale cheeks and didn’t wear lipstick
I had nothing to hold up my low-cut top
I will have nothing to hold up my low cut tops
Will I ever make it to the top
Will they say I slept my way to the top

Not if I was Stephen with a PH
With a genetic guarantee of domination
And of course I know it’s not that simple
But I’d like to think it’d be easier to be him

So Mom, you think Stephen would be a nice white boy
Vote for white boy things, ignore the rest of us
Do you think he’d be kind, would he help the helpless
Because I don’t want to put words in his mouth
I don’t want to ride ponyboys just to make the gold stay
Not when everyone’s so keen to tell you what you are
Putting on nametags, looking for places to stick it
Like hello my name is tired of the bullshit

But mostly I go by Stephen with the PH
The son that mother always wanted
The daughter that realized this too late
When folks in college started asking what my major was
“Writing huh? Better get yourself a wealthy husband”
And I get compliments on a dress with hands already on my thigh
As if I’m already claimed as property before a man says hi

Because all Stephens are asses
And all Beths are whores
Pass this poem around on paper and forget the sound of my voice
Make the author anonymous
And lose the shes and hes
Maybe then I’ll remember who I was really supposed to be.

Whether it was Stephen with the PH
Or Beth with the Th
Someone lost in irrelevance
Out to change the world
Invent discrete tampons for girls, be the president, solve hunger, be stronger
I don’t cry over broken bones and I don’t fret jobs that don’t fly
Yet I talk about Stephen like we’re two different people,
But I’m just jealous mom, because in the womb we were equal.


from the family arsonist, released February 10, 2015



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Beth May Phoenix, Arizona

I'm a writer/actor living in Phoenix, AZ with an additional poetry habit...Sorry that my voice creaks.

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