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Julie Marie Wade
Ronaldo V. Wilson

Issue 21 Guest Artist:
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Click to enlarge picture Click to enlarge picture. 5 Poems from When I Was Straight: Poems (A Midsummer Night's Press, 2014).
Julie Marie Wade


When I Was Straight


There was a man in the moon
& a man at the head of the table.
There was a woman with a dishrag

draped across her narrow shoulder.
Sometimes they were on television,
& the laugh track softened their features,

made me long for them like a summer’s cool rain.

In that first world, the man always drove,
& the woman always read a magazine—
Good Housekeeping or Better Homes & Gardens.

The woman did not know how to work
the lawnmower, & the man did not know
how to work the microwave. They were hesitant

& grateful in the presence of each other’s bodies.

When I see them now, I am too old to be mistaken
for their daughter. The women no longer smile,
pat my hand, promise the right man is soon to

come along. The men do not whistle or nod.
Even the sky grows distant, the new moon turns charcoal
against gray. “It’s getting dark out,” the couples say,

& draw the doors closed, leading to the master bedroom.


It was a shame. It was a phase.
It was a secret.

I wanted every man I met.
I courted danger on the dance floor.

I was insatiable.
I was indiscriminate.

My lifestyle was visible in my hair cut,
my choice of shoes, the tattoos I didn’t have.

I was insatiable.
I was flamboyant.

I couldn’t get enough—lipstick,
laundry detergent, sexy lingerie.

I bought in bulk. I stocked my shelves.
Some thought me unnatural.

I was insatiable.
I was derelict.

At times, I found myself unable to stop
talking about it. Flaunting.

I was insatiable.
I was reckless.

The doctor felt certain I would outgrow it.
The pastor worried for my soul.

What shall I do in the meantime? I wondered.

For some, it was the most interesting thing
about me.


It was like a game of Red Rover, &
someone was always being sent over,
flung out into the field of un-belonging
& struggling to break back in.

The team that called you didn’t want
you, & the team that had you
couldn’t keep you. No one was
content to run or stay put.

So was it any surprise that when
they shouted, “Red Rover! Red Rover!
Send Julie right over,” my feelings were
mixed? Relief split hairs with regret.

Pumping my legs as hard as I could,
I broke clean through their tightly knit line.
The trouble was, I never stopped running.
I never turned back & joined hands.


I could tell my mother how
I wanted her to brush my hair
& braid it through with ribbons.

I could tell my father how
I loved baking cookies &
pinning damp clothes on the line.
That I liked folding napkins & saying grace
& dressing my dolls for dinner.

But I could not tell them I was also
the kind of girl who walked up slides
in muddy sneakers, who threw stones

at the slats of neighbors’ fences,
& spit through the lattice when she thought
no one was looking.

That when I saw a NO TRESPASSING sign,
I thought of it more as an invitation.

In other words, I learned early on
about the double life. How you could
smile brightly into someone’s face,

saying “Yes” when you meant “No,”
“True” when you meant “False,”
your sticky fingers crossed behind your back.


A ruler was called a straightedge

Straight talk was smart talk

A straight man was funny by proxy

Sober people walked straight lines

A straight face was useful for poker

Straight-laced was superior to rash

Straight As were the standard for achievement

The righteous path was called The Straight & Narrow

Good girls were always straight as an arrow

With a straight bat was the way to play sport

A straight-shooter never minced words

Peter told Wendy straight on till morning

Do you follow me? Did you get it all straight?