Carnegie Mellon University

"I Am Not Wrong: Wrong is Not My Name" by Elsa Eckenrode

Second Place for High School Poetry


When I cut my hair
my mother asks if I want to be a boy,
as if this new haircut has transformed my entire being,
and imagine this: the day after,
me, hunched over my kitchen table,
hair short and bleach blond,
my body in an XL black shirt, formless,
not angular or curved, she asks,
is this your butch pose?


How do I tell her I learned a while ago
to hate my body for what others see?
I learned to cover myself up
because when it’s 9 pm and I’m walking home by myself

I am: all skinny jeans and body outlined,
I’m nothing more to the man outside than
some dyke he’d love to see in bed,
but how do I tell him
I am more than just a body?


What does it matter
if my mom sees me as a butch
and men see me as a fetish
when at the end of the day I’m still thinking
about the first time a guy called me
a faggot for not flirting with him.
Why couldn’t I tell him he was wrong?
I was 14.
Will he ever know how scary
it is to be told you’re unnatural?


And one night 3 years later, at 17,
my dad’s girlfriend sits me down for girl talk
and asks me why I don’t like men,
but doesn’t she understand
we are so much more than bodies?
Why can’t I tell her she’s wrong?
It’s like I’m 14 again,
numb and speechless, breathless.
Does she know how much
my chest hurts to feel so ungodly?


I try to forget the sinking feeling
but it starts eating me alive
and I tell my mom the next day,
broken down and sobbing in her car,
and my dad promises she isn’t homophobic
but how can he tell me I’m wrong
when he wasn’t there? Why wasn’t he there for me?
How do I tell him how hard it is to feel right
when I’ve spent years learning I was wrong,
but this isn’t who I am, I swear I’m so much more.
I am not wrong: Wrong is not my name.

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