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Masculine/Feminine

by Katherine Larson


The material suggests . . . that many, if not all, of the personality traits which we have called masculine or feminine are as lightly linked to sex as are the clothing, the manners, and the form of head-dress that a society at a given period assigns to either sex.
—Margaret Mead

In a dream, Baudelaire comes to me as a blue-faced baboon.
He is skinny and wearing a look of such intensity it could make stars

sprout antennae. I tell him about M. Mead, but he interrupts me.
Yes, he says impatiently. Forget the flawed anthropologist. 

Can’t the cat be both animal and mistress with its pelt of electric fur?
I say that my mother wakes each morning a red-tailed hawk.

My father, a purple urchin on a silver dish. We hear the cactus whisper
pollinate me furry moth. The rattlesnake at our feet reminds us that he sees

the world in infrared. And then the clouds, which in my language
are neither male nor female, come to pin up my hair with their tiny torn tufts.

Katherine Larson’s first collection, Radial Symmetry, was recently selected by Louise Glück as winner of the Yale Series of Younger Poets and will be published in 2011 by Yale University Press. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Poetry, Notre Dame Review, and The Massachusetts Review, among other places. (10/2010)


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