There was a time I was
by Em Dial
In 1990, a study by Judith Langlois and Lori Roggman found that computer-generated composite faces were more attractive when combining images of 32 faces, compared to those that combined 4, 8, or 16 faces.
At the farmer’s market, I spread perfectly emulsified
hummus across my tongue like a depressor at the
doctor’s office. It brings me to such a space of
teasing goodness, that cream on my tongue, I nearly miss
the man asking me what I am, what my parents were.
Though he truncates his line of questioning there,
it stands that he means, as warranted, I must lay
all of my greats & great-greats, out, like wares, right there,
on the table. A tree branching its way through tubs of
tasters. You’re just so beautiful, he says, I need to know how come.
During the course of our conversation, I may have spent
a quarter of a calorie on taking in his words, spitting
out ones of my own. There’s a calculus to things ugly
and gleaming. I wasn’t supposed to be here yet. I’m one
generation too soon, one continent too many. I jumped
the line to exotic erection, tantalizing like a prototype
of an apple, despite the years of genetic tinkering
bringing it to our palms. In the 6th grade, and then the 12th,
my picture stamped the pages of the yearbook above the phrase
Best All Around Girl. Between those years, I cut myself
out of the pages with Venus brand razor blades. Wiped myself
off the face of the earth so many times in my mind.
I didn’t desire the Best All Around Boys at all, so how could I be
what they wanted: a face of 16, a waiting room for 32.
They wanted a well-rounded womb, I turned out a sharp edge
laying next to another, bright pills in both our squared palms.
I’m sorry sociologists & Class of 2006 & of 2013 & Time Magazine—
forgive my resignation from my position as Head of Shrunken
Ocean, Ambassador to Sexed Mediums and Modes. I otherwise
am playing the part like a broken sauce, a tip of hair split all the way
to the root.
Em Dial is a queer, Black, Taiwanese, Japanese, and White, chronically ill poet, grower, and educator born and raised on Ohlone land in the Bay Area of California. A 2022 Kundiman Fellow and recipient of the 2020 PEN Canada New Voices Award and the 2019 Mary C. Mohr Poetry Award, their work also appears in or is forthcoming from the Literary Review of Canada, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, Sonora Review, and elsewhere.