Volume 33, Number 2

The Closest Traitor

I disavow the patriarchy but my beard is a member
Some nights I know it goes out to the warehouse district
Meeting with other products of testosterone probably
Jockeying for a leadership position with the alienated probably
Proposing action that ought not be spoken of publicly
Coming back at the hour of stray cats and renegades
Not disclosing its allegiance or the secret sign
I have lost much through hegemony, not just equanimity
But these mean nothing to my fringe of facial hair
After all we have endured patiently as close comrades
The patriarchy is a construct, I have been told and believe
It clings to iron core meteorites from who knows where
Perhaps from the pre-oxygen Earth, pre-gender
Even though this sounds like a hysteric confabulation
To strike, to subjugate, above all never to yield ground
In just the same way stubble always returns each night
The chemicals that would kill it would destroy me too
Which is only what the patriarchy wants to have happen
Crocodiles are not afraid of beards; they ignore debate
And might be our allies in the fitful noonday struggle
But not too soon, not while clouds cover the sun
I didn't go to school to be a counterinsurgent like this
Smooth of face, ignorant of how low I might sink
I have to live with this provocateur on my face
Until the day when the revolution comes to our door
Until the day I stand to vindicate my life without whiskers

—Richard Magahiz