After Margot Canaday’s The Straight State
At Ellis Island
they found the immigrant’s body
also a small, atrophied penis,
“Now,” the interrogators asked, “back home,
“did you sleep in the room with your brothers
or the room with your sisters?”
I always slept alone.
The interrogators stamped the folder:
They sent for the father,
who made the crossing.
Meanwhile, this determination was
reached: “He is male.”
They shaved the head,
gave the immigrant
ratty trousers, cinched with string.
The father arrived
and did not recognize
her, stranded before him
awaiting either official
entry or deportation.
“If you took him home,”
they asked the old man,
“how would you treat him?”
As I always have.
undid the string
and let the ratty trousers fall.
They showed the man the small,
atrophied penis, the undescended
testicle. And asked him to explain.
(Their mouths glowed like incinerators.)
It is true,
she becomes a man for a day or two
each month, when the moon is full.
They asked, “How could you tell?”
At those times, there is always deep sorrow in her eyes.