The Gir- That Lost Its L

It didn’t happen all at once, but in chunks. The L’s first cut the parents scissoring the long hair. The Gir- started to be mistaken. The face not enough to carry its sex. No wonder the Gir- started to hate it—the hair. The face. The body with its brown trousers and striped shirts. At ballet, asked if they were someone’s brother. Elle n’est pas belle. Oh, the shame. But the parents would not give back the L. It was leaving, leaving like teeth from a scurvvied mouth. What a mess of letters, ending in the Gir- pinioned between an F and M like a car and a brick wall or the two bookcases where someone who didn’t think the Gir- was pretty asked them to take down their pants anyway. The Gir- could smell when they weren’t liked, like the scent of shit under Lysol. Understood that some people have an aversion to something chronically missing. The Gir- saw it in others—the fingerless classmate, the coworker’s glass eye, the friend who had dentures at age twenty-five. Elle n’est pas belle. Oh, the shame. The L like the old woman’s leg the Gir- held later in a surgery. Sweetness had already taken the toes, then the foot. Now just a blunt saw above the knee. That shank came off heavy in the Gir-’s arms like a child that never asked to be born. The Gir- knew something of that hurt.





Morrow Dowdle’s work has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, including Baltimore Review, Dandelion Review, Panoply, and Poetry South, and was nominated for a Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net. They edit poetry for Sunspot Literary Journal and host Weave & Spin, a performance series featuring marginalized voices in their hometown of Hillsborough, NC. They teach workshops on healing trauma through poetry. When not writing, they work as a physician assistant in the mental healthcare field.

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