Despy Boutris

My mouth is full
of riverwater.

And my name always comes out
like an apology.

Years ago,
before my brother’s baptism,

I pulled back
my hair and pretended

to be a boy—
chest flat, hips narrow

with girlhood. Then
my mother rouged my lips

and brushed out my hair,
let it curl around my neck

like a noose.
Now I christen myself

in the river. I duck underwater
and become water,

not woman. I become

and fail to drown.

Despy Boutris‘s writing has been published or is forthcoming in American Poetry Review, American Literary Review, Copper Nickel, Colorado Review, The Journal, Prairie Schooner, and elsewhere. Currently, she teaches at the University of Houston, works as Assistant Poetry Editor for Gulf Coast, and serves as Editor-in-Chief of The West Review.