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A Poem by Elaina Ellis

A Poem by Elaina Ellis

Author: Poetry Editor

August 15, 2017

This week, a poem by Elaina Ellis.


My Other Shirt Is Chest Hair


My other shirt is chest hair.

This is not true. I am not even wearing a shirt. This is true. Though—if I were a gay bear, which I am not, and if I were wearing a shirt, which I am not, the shirt might say MY OTHER SHIRT IS CHEST HAIR and this would most likely be true.

I dreamt one night of a bear who spooned me in the corner of my writing room, on the doggy bed reserved for a dog I hadn’t met yet. In the dream I curled onto my right side and felt this giant creature and his heavy breath. Felt the furnace of him against the spine of my writer’s block, and knew that even if winter came right now, I would be warm and I would have something alive to write about.

Sometimes we dream so hard, we forget what’s true.

Once I got drunk and peed in the parking lot behind the bear bar on the corner of 15th and Madison, even though I was only a few blocks from home. It was after hours for the bears and cubs and wolves and leather daddies, so I marked my corner of their corner of the forest and some part of me wondered if they’d know by the unfamiliar smell of my puddle that I’d been there. Some animal part of me hoped that they would.

Most nights now I sleep next to a lover who is smooth, petite, and perfectly breasted; she is more girl than bear. This is true. But in the tender years between 25 and 29, I lived in a studio apartment perched between pine trees and city. I was never lonely when I lived alone. This is not true.

Every day I walked my boots past the lively dive bar on the corner of 15th and Madison, where dozens of bears and boys leaned over the edge of the deck to smoke, to flirt, to growl at each other. These were looming, bearded, homo-masculine mammals spilling over and out of their den.

I believe Goldilocks knew exactly what she had wandered into. It’s cold out here for a girl on her own. Speaking of true—

The dive bar on 15th and Madison is no longer. We’ve gentrified ourselves right out of the neighborhood. Condominiums are now stacked on top of poets, cigarette butts swept under the bamboo decks, and the paw prints still stuck in the mud are called Public Art Installations.

Said Goldilocks to Papa Bear:

I’m full of shivers and can no longer pay my rent. Do you mind if I call you Daddy?

One who didn’t know better might believe that the slick reflections of hipster hairdos in the darkened windows of the brand-new restaurant on the corner of 15th and Madison had always shimmered at just this spot, just right, since the beginning of time.

This is not true. This is how we forget where we come from. But you know and I know the men who could rip those skinny jeans to shreds with the sharp of their homegrown teeth. We know the bears with bellies, the boys with bears, the flannel and the leather, the boots, the belts. Here’s where they found each other, where they burned rough rashes into necks with the brash of their happy-hour shadows, above those well worn tank tops and T’s reading MY OTHER SHIRT IS CHEST HAIR.

I woke up last night from the warmest dream. Said me to my hairy apparition: We’ve been wandering through the same woods all these years. Now they’ve cut down our trees. Do you mind if we stick together? Because—

If I were a gay bear, which I am not, I would want you like we both want that pot of honey. Instead, Papa Bear, Grizzly Fag, meanest of all hibernations, Do you mind if I call you Daddy?

When you crawled in through the window of my writing room, eight feet tall with that strong jaw and all that heat in your eyes, from deep in my loneliest dream I knew.

I must be your long lost daughter. This is true.


ELAINA ELLIS lives in Bellingham, Washington. Her poems appear in Vinyl Poetry, Muzzle Magazine, The Iowa Review, Poetry Northwest, and elsewhere. She is a proud Lambda Literary Fellow and author of the poetry collection Write About an Empty Birdcage from Write Bloody Publishing. She holds an MFA from Antioch University Los Angeles, and works as an editor at Copper Canyon Press.

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