After Margot Canaday’s The Straight State




At Ellis Island

they found the immigrant’s body



Protuberant breasts;

also a small, atrophied penis,

testicle undescended.


“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.



Justin Vicari


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