“Gender Studies” by Sue Howell

Sue Howell


Her husband says, when women get old
they come to be more like men. And old men
come to be more like women.
What does that mean

Old men are precise. They holiday in the bathroom,
scraping dry skin, plucking nose hairs. No longer
taking pleasure in pissing from the balcony.
Polite as Renaissance princes, they talk in high voices
about woman things.
What are woman things

The lives of others. Who has failed to make
the cut. Who deserves to be shunned. Country
gardens. These men have hobbies, collect
small objects to store in ivory cabinets. They zip
and fasten, carry handkerchiefs.
And the old women

They fill their purses with knives, brass knuckles.
Begin to wear steel-tipped boots, don’t wipe their feet.
They crowd on street corners, speaking in strange tongues.
With dripping brushes, they paint old scars red. Their eyes
snake across a room, seeking out weakness.
What will happen then?

In another time the two may join again,
crush like linebackers or melt like snow on skin.

from Rattle #66, Winter 2019
Rattle Poetry Prize Finalist


Sue Howell: “I’ve been writing poetry since 2nd grade. But I got serious when I was asked to help out at our local library, which sponsored a writing event for children. Fourth graders. I was amazed by the intensity and clarity of their writing, and I saw what I wanted in my own writing … a fresh eye.”

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