a poem in which the word “fingernails” is replaced by “gender”

By Nico Wilkinson

it’s the day before i start testosterone
and i am buying press-on gender online
rose gold
blue crystal
mirror chrome

genders that come off easy
without pulling layers of me away.
that soften and fall away
under warm water.
that you can store away in a box
for another day. 

x

i used to get my gender done
every month
but after a lifetime of nervously picking, pulling
and biting
my gender grows in too weak
to stay long. would keep breaking under
the strain of hard work. dirty gender 
always edged with soil. the women would scrutinize it
under the light, would shake their heads and tsk,
would say i should take better care
of my gender as they filed, buffed,
painted a color i would be tired of
the next day. 

x

finally, i’ve found a gender
i can take off in the half-light
sitting on the edge of the bed
smiling at my lover
a flirtatious suggestion of what 
these hands can do 


one hand with gender to raise red lines down her spine. 
the other with gender to beckon smooth an ebbing tide of breath and muscle 
without tearing at her soft.

x

gender i can put on for a night out to match my dress.
gender i can remove when i dig in the dirt.
gender that can pick up a sewing needle.
gender that can scratch a cat behind the ears. 

x

i once knew someone
who collected slivers of their gender
in a jar

the world is littered with the remains
of the gender that i have pulled apart
with my teeth. 

x

with gender this fragile
constantly breaking, leaving
skin raw and red and aching
i thought about what it would have been like
to just not have gender at all

but this world is so full of hard edges
and this body is so soft
i can only imagine
without it, it would eventually hurt
too much
to touch anything
or anyone

x

i resent the idea
of gender that has so often failed me
persisting when i am dead, growing larger
while the rest of me
shrinks away into nothing. 

perhaps cremation
could burn my gender away.
I could be as soft as dirt.
the hard edges of my gender left
in the fire.
anything heavy as gender left behind.

what would be left of me
is only what the wind could carry.


Photo by Kaitlyn Marie Mercy

Nico Wilkinson is a poet, printmaker, farmer, and organizer based in Colorado Springs. They are the 2017 champion of the Capturing Fire International Queer Poetry Slam and the co-founder of Prickly Pear Printing and the founder of The Quaill Club, a living community for queer artists working toward cooperative sustainability.


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