The problem with being a dyke
is standing in front of your mirror, naked,
feeling both admiration & shame
for the woman in front of you,

who locks eyes with you, looks you up & down,
& walks away. The problem
with being a dyke is the glances you get
in the women’s room on a Monday morning

in your office building, or on a Friday night
at the local bar, your local bar, where you drink vodka sodas,
play “Cowboy Take Me Away” on repeat
because you’re too tender

for your own good, throw darts. The problem
is the double takes you catch sight of
while you wash your hands, your eyes darting
like a pinball—you do not want women to feel unsafe,

to feel like you’re looking at them
the way men look at them, because they can tell
you’re a dyke, which is much different than a man
but you can see it in their faces like a headline,

as strangers consider Should I be afraid?
Do you belong here? You do.
You tell yourself you do because you do.
Your girlfriend shaves your head,

& though you are sometimes mistaken for a boy,
you are still a woman, just a different kind,
a dyke. Your friend helped you get comfortable
with the word by calling herself one so often.

Dyke. The problem with being a dyke is men,
is your father, who you text once in a while
because he’s your father & you want to like him,
so you try to talk about “safe” topics with him,

the weather in Pittsburgh vs. the weather in Cincinnati,
your promotion at work, but then he’ll say something
unrelated to the rain or your administrative responsibilities,
tell you to vote for T***p, that you’re a challenge

but he won’t give up on trying
to undo what your liberal arts education did to you,
because you still come from a Good Catholic Family,
& you still have Good Catholic Parents,

& it is at this point you realize
here is another poem
about your father, his mouth still
unable to say the word daughter.

Image credit:Karina Carvalho

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.