The Poet’s Eye: Summer ’09

The Poet’s Eye: Summer ’09

In our Summer ’09 edition, THE POET’S EYE features Julie Enszer, Judith Barrington and Toi Derricotte;
from Poetry Co-Editor Judith Arcana.


Three people are working on old, American cars.
One man with a white van—his mobile mechanic’s shop—
has pulled the engine out of a black Monte Carlo.
Another crawls from under a Sunbird
rusted and battered tail pipe in hand.
The third, an Escort, hood open, unattended.
Owners ostensibly inside the auto supply
searching for the proper replacement part.

Although I don’t need one, I’ve brought a man.
Newly minted. Nine months ago, breasts removed—
scars from the surgical drains healed quickly
now the only skin rupture from needles
delivering daily hormones he refers to as T,
and the resulting faux-adolescent acne pimpling his face.
He’s more of a man than me. Still, it takes us two tries
with a return in between to find wiper blades that fit.

©Sca Shilova

Julie Enszer, is enrolled currently in the Ph.D. program in Women’s Studies at the University of Maryland. Her poetry has been published in Iris: A Journal About Women, Room of One’s Own, Long Shot, Feminist Studies and the Jewish Women’s Literary Annual; she is a regular book reviewer for the Lambda Book Report and Calyx. “Absolutely No Cars…” was originally published in So to Speak. You can read more of her work at

LOOKING FOR GENDER by Judith Barrington, OTI Summer 2009

Certain scientists examined the brains of rats
and the brains of humans, fine-slicing each one
with a machine like the steel that shaves off ham at the deli.
They searched and searched for the sweet spot

that tells the rat or the person which side they’re on—
the spot that beams out certain knowledge,
certain ways of sitting in a chair. The blade
sliced rhythmically, layer upon layer

thinner than even the papery kind of ham—
transparent sheets of brain
folding themselves neatly into a pile
concertina style, and next to each, a stacked

brain of another gender. Once in a while
a scientist lifted the layers with tweezers
comparing them, male to female. This is how
some humans spend their time. The rest of us

just sit in our chairs, crossing our legs the way
our brains dictate. Sometimes it seems as if
our female or male legs are getting the wrong message.
It’s that sweet spot again. Doing its mysterious thing.

©Sca Shilova

Judith Barrington has published three collections of poetry including Horses and the Human Soul. Lifesaving: A Memoir won the Lambda Book Award and was a finalist for the PEN/Martha Albrand Award. She is a faculty member of the University of Alaska’s MFA Program. “Looking for Gender” was previously published in Manzanita Quarterly.

on a picture of the buddhist monk Pema Chodron by Toi Derricotte

do i want to look like this? women

with that playfulness in their faces not

childish but elfin as if they have learned

how to shift the world slightly and let it

slip down the ice of its own melting women

who have been lost but not

hidden clear—skinned

wide—awake their unmade selves

neither genderless nor fixed i don’t know where

their genitals are if here

is the center do they feel the tug

of longing there? what blossoms?

in the brain? belly button? where?

is the clitoris throbbing?

©Sca Shilova

Toi Derricotte is the author of four books of poetry and a memoir. She is the co-founder of Cave Canem, and a Professor at University of Pittsburgh.


Merle Hoffman's Choices: A Post-Roe Abortion Rights Manifesto

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“Merle Hoffman has always known that in a democracy, we each have decision-making power over the fate of our own bodies. She is a national hero for us all.” —Gloria Steinem

In the wake of the Supreme Court overturning Roe V. Wade and a country divided, Merle Hoffman, a pioneer in the pro-choice movement and women’s healthcare, offers an unapologetic and authoritative take on abortion calling it “the front line and the bottom line of women’s freedom and liberty.” 

Merle Hoffman has been at the forefront of the reproductive freedom movement since the 1970s. Three years before the Supreme Court legalized abortion through Roe v. Wade, she helped to establish one of the United States’ first abortion centers in Flushing, Queens, and later went on to found Choices, one of the nation’s largest and most comprehensive women’s medical facilities. For the last five decades, Hoffman has been a steadfast warrior and fierce advocate for every woman’s right to choose when and whether or not to be a mother.