Her Governess yawned
and spoke of threes,
and squeaked through her trebling sneezes:  

“This symposium Plato’d imputed
to glib Aristophanes pealing,
proud, impertinent, peerless, parlous:
molds of men immemorially split
and women stripped from men
and women.  

Like a witch tree, grown inexplicably seamless,
soulmates sealed sans scabs or sutures,
so were the wonderfully whilom wights;  

no need for the pointed conceits of Donne
nor woebegone love songs shot across sizzling seas
and tumultuous oceans’ trammeling
troughs still slopped with splintered ships
or blown along lips of toppled bottles,
aping those dour dirges stirred from
deafening, dolorous, dun-colored doves.  

And thereby wise and emulous gods
conspired to cripple and split them.  

And then there was man and
woman alone, and man alone,
and woman and, yes, and
sprawled and luxuriant paddocks between them.  

And man then swoln to an ox’s horn,
a blundering claymore bluntly clumsed,
and woman, a scabbard bedazzled and strapped
to a wrinkling leather’s cinching lip.  

But now, by God, the blade is blurred,
some scumbled steel left limp as a dry-rotted strop.
And so, what slopping slag strange smithies turn,
some syphilis-eaten welder’s wild-eyed
passion pushed by illustrious interests—  

to braid a trombone with a sinuous french horn.  

Forms perfected, perfectly selfless,
metal untangled and mangled to furnish the folgerphone.
Fie— is flesh or metal more malleable, Mavis?
Or lustrous flesh and illumining mettle, then,
maybe much more our muddling  measure…   

Mettle, Mavis.

Nettling meddlers mucking around with mettle, now;
mettle the metal of character’s ribs
upon which gender’s skin is yanked,
or sex’s skin, the more, as gender’s a word
for a social role, really.

Is there inveterate mettle in men
or inveterate mettle in women, Mavis?
Why this hand-dug dyke, this ancient,
schismic rift, this old and oily, well-honed knife
between them?  

‘Twas more than a chink ‘twixt Bottom and Thisbe?
And I, but Thisne’s sister snipped from a Pyramus,
though no Pyramus in me—  

Must I, too, dismantle a horn, and
should its remnants seem some malformed thing,
no more than a mess of molten brass or silver
split to some thirty bits;
uncoiling miserably twisted valves
that honeycombed harmonies hurriedly round
to brush along bells that, tingling,
suckle inserted hands, some slipshod mutes
(that even emblazoned blowers of coiling horns employ),
blushed paunches piqued to but eke around wriggling
hands inserted in dampened bells, such unsoundable
breaths that a tortuous cage of umbrageous
ribs (aligned in dressage’s sharpest
knots) upends and clips to melodious throatsong;

whale’s ribs cribbing at crunching chests,
frail breasts exposed by a broken bodice
or bilboing ulus’ coy and careless slits
some emulous urge seduces darkly—  

Although I’m a woman at heart, encoiled,
still splinted betwixt my milquetoast stilts
is a slippery personage flaccidly guilty,
plastered in sticky posterities strangled,
glued amid rueful fjords where
tickling echoes tease at tireless terms
that tweak still, wiring urging limbs,
rawed limbs of a sycamore’s slithering whims’
sussurant stocks, like locks of a termagant
pinned and twisted long past festering
bladders blotted, bloating, brooding,
burning, bleating, bleeding, blurting, burst
and bunged—  

far cries from the fairer sex unsung.”  

Then Mavis raged,
unpinning her frenzying frisson
(frank as a thrashing shark),
her trundling quern of cacophonous congers
cribbing at cravenly riffling riddles:  

“My horoscope spoke of a frazzled flower’s
strangely invidious form unfixed
from moorings of moribund ugliness ushered and
touted by terse and fastidious luthiers’
itchily twitching fingers
fitting a finicky bridge on a fiddles’ unfinished and piebald chin;  

what emollient rosin rubbed around rigidly
rose-racked strips of broken roans
to chafe of some staid and exquisite tension
shrilly disquieting screeches
scraped from the chillingly tightened tresses
twisted backwards bent and bound on balsa
posts, unfellable poles of a deathly day bed
foaming fanatical fathers forged from tortured trees,
from Rapunzel’s clipped and uncoiling pinions
wound on a bilboed winch, wanned topknot
of a tower teased from slouching slag and sickening rabble;
just bell jars drawn and cravenly quartered, crazing,
gas lit, scintillant, sapped to a vaporous specter,
gashed and sacred, vapid, sapid, clucked, then plucked
like a blue-footed chicken a cock-eyed farmer’d—  

or pick at a dulcimer hewn from a creaking crate
or a clothesline clipped to a bucket and broomstick
scumbling rumbling figures
fun as a glibber rendition of Lysistrata
beat about bean tins, cast iron kettles, and pie-colored pyrex
bludgeoned and pummeled with dung-filled dildos’ pendulous plummets
pulsed across crackling glass;  

what feminist missives lost to a louring limbo,
leering, lickerish riggers of rigorous trials
and wall-eyed glazier’s wryly dissembling gaffes,
slumgullion scullions scour, scrubbing at scurrilous scullery still—  

Should you evermore dare to pinch me pink
or cinch up a swain in a seaman’s bib
or sex the unbearable brass that strictly stretches
estranged and belaboring breaths,
the blinding blots some bastard pinned about strangled staffs—  

Fie on you. Fie.
And, finally, fie on you, ma’am or mister.
Know that I need not gnosh your notes,
some pianola gargling scored and studded tongues.
I need not piaffe before your morbid hem,
cocked swaddled in caustic colors that gleefully scream who rides me.
Fine! should you not know you’re more than merest
man or merest woman, merest mortal’s gnarled and marlorous bones
exposed to unsettling airs and upsetting stars—”