May 11, 2015

the lesbian mother
in Chapel Hill
knew her daughter
was exploring gender
used my visit
to open a conversation
“Laura writes about transgender stuff,”
she said
looking at her daughter
one morning
“she knows a lot about it.”
making space
for the words to come
coaxing them out
through the hardest parts
of the conversation
“talk to me,”
the mother cajoles
“don’t shut me out.”
her daughter cries
admits she doesn’t feel comfortable
in dresses
doesn’t like the pressure
to wear them
but also wants the kids at school
to stop calling her
the mother asks her daughter
if she would prefer
a gender-neutral pronoun
the girl’s eyes well up again
“but thanks for asking.”

the smartest parents
know they have a lot to learn
from their children.

Virginia is for lovers
exclaims the welcome sign
a black man stands on 360
wearing an American flag
on his bandana and t-shirt
stands amid a sea of
American flags
and a “God Bless America” sign
his right hand
clasped over a cane
his left hand
waving at the cars racing by
a mile down the road
on the other side
a Confederate flag waves
above a Culpeper Minutemen flag
which warns

the signs in Richmond
look old
look like they’ve been around
for a long time
the streets are riddled
with cracks and potholes
an old man sitting on a corner
holds a sign
Newports cost $5.20

“you have to ride back”
says a man named Silver
on the Maryland border
I feel guilty
thinking I don’t have enough time
to do the return trip

I drive across streets named
“Good Luck”
Maryland is the first state
where men roll down their windows
to shout at me
whistle at me
on the road

“riding by yourself?
… girls on bikes are HOT”
says the idiot from Waldorf

feels surreal
this last stretch
before I find myself
once more among
the familiar.