by Em Taylor
She pops the hood and gestures
to a twist of grey vines
and tells me the problem
and the solution.
I can’t even tell
what she’s pointing to.
All of it is grey
and looks like it could reach out
and break my hands.
I had a car phase in high school.
I wanted to know more than the boys did.
I wanted to be more of a boy than the boys were.
Or, no, I’m projecting.
I just wanted to save myself if I were stuck
on the side of the road in an unfamiliar area.
Either way, I didn’t get far–
I could name the make and model
of the expensive cars that picked
the other kids up from school,
until the day I got a flat tire
after jazz band and shut down,
everything I’d learned flying out
of a puncture in my brain,
and I ran crying toward the school.
Mr. Ives, fresh out of track coaching,
changed it for me, with the help of
my grade’s track star, a man
who harassed women in the hallways
and dominated any classroom conversation
his wide wingspan could grasp.
I think he just wanted to prove that he could,
the same way I wanted to prove that I could.
But what is masculinity but giving up
on anything you can’t fit one hand around easily?
Rachel has one hand in the thicket of grey
and another on her phone,
double-checking the amount of oil to put in.
I think about trying to talk
my way into this mass of pipes.
I think about all of the times I have talked
over Rachel on things we are both good at.
I think about all of the femmes
I have talked over like a hand
trying to pop its wrist socket
and take flight.
I turn around to realize
the New England chill has finally subsided
enough to let the dandelions grow,
her front yard a field I understand,
and I remember when I was a girl
and learned to make flower crowns
to bide my time waiting for my dad
to pick me up from school. So,
I park myself in the greenery
and give up being a man for the moment.
In a world without gender, this scene
would not be a poem.
This would not be a story
This would just be two friends
doing what they are good at.
Which is, creating things with our hands.
Hands have no gender.
Nothing that can be created
by a pair of hands has a gender.
When the car is ready to run again,
she joins me on the grass
with my soft crown,
brushes some pollen off my forehead
with her thumb. And we stand together,
admiring all that we have made.