First Date


What if I told you I was a cannibal,
born right next to Donner Pass.
I’ve lived along this path since 1846,
when many of my ancestors perished.
My body emerged 150 years later
as a parasitic fungus in the shape
of a human. Biologists call my birth
parthenogenesis, like the Komodo
dragon, a something sprouting
from nothing: me, the unfertilized egg
of fossilized nails & teeth. Sarap.
All this I’d say on our first date,
a chunk of rare bison steak gracing
the tip of my knife. Because I don’t
care about my mental well-being,
I opt for truth: a not-boy transcribed
from DNA stuck in a centuries-long
imperial takeover, skin glowing
like the shine in a eugenicist’s eyes.
I’m his experiment gone right to keep
Asia’s skin-whitening market deep
in the black. I exist because a white
man willed it. I tell you I wake up
every morning ashamed to be what
two people across the globe wanted:
mestizo, a word vouchsafed to me
by generations of Spanish rapists
& a father who cut out my second
tongue to fit my mouth around his
legacy of Mid-Atlantic marlstone.
I’m the ultimate possibility, by which
I mean I wither beside my family tree,
hoping an apple or a coconut cracks
my skull to make me real. Can you
help me understand why I’m alive?
No, I get it, you prefer the creature
risen from mountainside detritus,
my birth strange but definable, origin
manifest in your US history textbook:
Hello again, I’m Georgie, named after
my great-great-grandpa who braved
the Sierra before dying in a blizzard.

Dani Putney