I didn’t really learn what bisexual was
until college, part Intro to Women’s Studies
textbooks, part kissing girls with boyfriends.
The books spit out words like fluid
& continuum, & the girls were the kind
who wavered between me & their boyfriends,
between my bedroom & the homecoming court,
wanting so badly to be queen.
I crowned every single one.

Those girls never claimed it
but I did, told my friends I was bi
knowing I wasn’t,
just wanting some shot at normalcy,
though I knew it was a half-court shot
at the buzzer, one that could only
end with a groan from the crowd
when the ball ended up nowhere near the basket.

I went out with boys sometimes,
feminist boys, boys who loved
books, boys who could cook, to make sure
I wouldn’t learn to like them.
I never more than made out with a few of them,
awkward movie theater & backseat events
always ending in thank yous,
brisk walks up to my bedroom,
& never texting them back.

After I moved out of my parents’ house
I wrote my dad a letter
as a twenty-first birthday gift to myself,
not saying bisexual but gay,
a more correct word then.
I left it on his desk but felt obligated
to call him in the dark twist of my panic,
to warn him what he’d come home to.

When he answered, I said it, gay
& he said Jesus, said Merry Christmas, asked me
why it couldn’t wait, why I needed
to tell him right then, while he was driving home
from work in a snowstorm, but all I could do
was listen to him breathe into the phone
relieved I had a father who answered when I called.
I let our silence sit there, my refusal,
for once, to apologize.

Image credit:Sharon McCutcheon

Lisa Summe was born and raised in Cincinnati, OH, earned a BA and MA in literature at the University of Cincinnati, and an MFA in poetry from Virginia Tech. Her poems have appeared in Juked, bedfellows, Waxwing, Salt Hill, and elsewhere. Her first book, Say It Hurts, is forthcoming from YesYes Books in June 2020. You can find her running, playing baseball, or eating vegan pastries in Pittsburgh, PA and on Instagram and Twitter @lisasumme.