My father hands me gifts he bought Christmas Eve:
an extra-large broadcloth and thirty-four waist khakis.
I dress different from the boys at school. My shirts fall
at my navel; my jeans are skintight.
I am to wear the outfit or my clothes will be ripped apart--
the neighbors are talking. No deals, no exceptions.
We are all there: my mother, my sister on the couch, my father
urging, Put them on. Put them on.
I strip in the bathroom with my back to the mirror.
The shirt hangs to my knees, the pants slide on buttoned.
My face is hollow. My skin--deaf, as the audience,
the family await me outside, my mother knocking,
Put them on for your father.
When I step out my mother will be silent. My sister--gone.
My father will clap his hands. He will look me in the eye, ask me:
Do you feel like a man?
Used by permission.
Stephen Zerance is a recent MFA graduate of American University. He has previously appeared or is forthcoming in journals such as Prairie Schooner, Bloom, Knockout, Chelsea Station, Gay and Lesbian Review Worldwide, Lambda Literary Review, and MiPOesias. He resides in Baltimore, Maryland and is at work on his first book.
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