Nature doesn’t draw straight lines,
although it feels like that sometimes.
I don’t end where you begin.
Myths of blood and myths of skin
serve to help us reproduce
but they’re open to abuse.
Borders set with a ruler
make us stupider and crueler
because that’s how we organise
ourselves into warring tribes.
Our biology’s the same,
it creates a two-team game,
a you and I out of a we,
so male and female’s all we see
when we’re gradients of both,
the ratios changing with growth
The point is language,
the tool we use to manage
our affairs, such a primitive
weapon, allows us to live
in this bewildering forest
only by slicing as it must
through impenetrable tangles
our brains’ geometry must lop),
otherwise, we come to a stop.
Or we might take the birds-eye view
as gods and politicians do,
and see a certain tract of land
with a river in the sand
twisting out a natural border
between two states. There’s order
in this meandering split,
‘I know where I live, this is it,
you’re on your side and I’m on mine’
we say. But people near the line,
where there’s some kind of bow or bend,
may be closer where they stand
to the centre of the other
state than their sister or brother
on the river’s farther shore.
There’s no universal law
or diktat of clear division –
that’s a human imposition.
All the problems which arise
from this (the almost-truths, pure lies
and inconvenient facts
around feminism) detract
nothing from this central theme
that contrary to how it seems
we construct ourselves from words,
make boundaries, more or less absurd,
just so we can understand
some small part of this strange land
called existence we’re walking through.
Accepting we in place of you
and I is one part of the work
(the slow, careful, magical work)
we do as writers and readers –
outside of social media’s
toxic, real-time, hunting ground –
of listening to the startling sound
that plays in our one human voice.
We might not know we make a choice
but we do, each time we engage
in this enterprise called language,
which frees even as it restricts
and allows within its edicts
us to see a little further
than the biology of other.
Maybe one day you’ll see these lines,
or else you never will, that’s fine –
an amateur with time to spare
has no claim on a billionaire
whose own is no doubt dearly bought
and likely has already thought
through everything addressed above;
but I will post them here with love,
as evidence of my refrain
to all who find them in their brain:
it’s not true that we stand apart –
one doesn’t stop where others start.