Errant | L. A. L. Friedman

O to be king

To cast off this heavy garden of petticoats

To wear a sword in my belt
Its hilt twined with roses
Its blade milk-white

As I run
Thistles trail behind me through the grass

I live in a castle on a cloud
My hair reaches to the ground like an autumn beanstalk
O to cut myself loose
Like a ship from its moorings
And leap through the window
Through cloud and cloud
And land on my feet like a cat

I am a tomcat without whiskers
I am a king wearing someone else’s crown

O to be true

My laugh is girlish
My body belongs to the moon my mother
But my heart is a king’s heart
And my eye is a tiger’s eye
And my stride is rakish
And my breast is gallant

O for a friend to make the adventure merrier
O for a damsel to save

I would let her fall into my arms
If she would let me be her Don Quixote
Her knight without a name
Her cavalier without a cock


Writer’s Commentary

This poem is an attempt to work out some of my feelings about gender; I used a historical setting and fairytale imagery because I find I relate more to those things than to modernity, and because  questioning one’s gender identity sometimes feels like living in a fantasy. The title refers both to the romantic “knight-errant” trope in medieval literature and to the pervasive misconception that to be transgender is somehow wrong or an error.

L. A. L. Friedman once went on a blind date with a marble statue in Vienna. They live in New England.

The Hermaphrodite | L. A. L. Friedman

Half a man, I bleed when the moon bleeds.
My cycle waits to synchronize with hers:
the woman whose reputation I’ll wolf into,
whose husband’s money shall one day sustain
my opium habit. We’ll be each other’s open
secret: she the showgirl of my pain,
I of her lust the inconnu. Polite
society will hang us – thief & slut.
Well, let the wide world seethe, I say. Let God
blush at the sick cruelties I inflict
upon my broken self. I’ll be your clown,
madame. I’ll juggle all my selves for you.
But even I can’t lift the mask that cloaks
my female sorrow with a boyish pride.


Writer’s Commentary

This poem, vaguely inspired by Charles Baudelaire, is a little fantasy about being nonbinary in nineteenth-century France.


L. A. L. Friedman once went on a blind date with a marble statue in Vienna. They live in New England.