the femme poem by pat califia

I have this very bad habit of

Falling in love with women 

I’m sexually attracted to.

If I could just rid myself of this vice,

I’m sure happiness would be

Just around the corner.

All of you 

Are so damned expensive—

Oh, not in terms of money.

I don’t mind the money.

If I minded it,

I’d have some.

But you cost me time.

The kind of time spent in tears

By the telephone,

Knowing if you don’t call

I’m worth nothing.

That’s something I never did

In high school, for chris’ sake,

I’m a sucker for all of you:

Little boys who need their mother

(A sinister, seductive, strict older woman).

Tough street fighters who need somebody

To keep them from getting their noses broken again

(I hang on to your belt, saying fiercely,

"Don’t you dare, it’s not worth your spit!").

Cocksmen with dicks too big

For most women to take

(And I can, and I love it).

Broad-shouldered women who need somebody

To lean on them

(So take care of me).

And women who can never have what they want

Because the world will not allow them

To be complete human beings — that is, men.

(So shout at me, frighten me, blame me, humiliate me.

I’ll shout back, but I won’t break you.

The next day, you’ll wear me on your arm

And every man who makes more money than you do

Will see me and be jealous of you.)

Being a successful femme

Means making a butch desire you

And then enduring when that lust

Turns into suspicion.

"If you want me," she sneers,

"You must really want a man."

Nobody knows how much it hurts

When you go out on the street

And straight men tell you

The same damned thing.

But what I want is you, a woman.


The muscles in your forearms and thighs

When you hold yourself over me,

Between my legs,

Filling me.

The accurate and vulgar terms

With which you dissect and label me. 

The smell of your cologne,

Your suits in my closet,

Your leather,

Your boots and ties and hats and uniforms

And men’s handkerchief’s and men’s underwear

Your dangerous jobs and all that endless

Bitter shop-talk.

And the way you buck under my mouth

Or around my hand

Or inside my ropes

When I make love to you. 

I want that to.

I know how to make love to 

Your woman’s body

Without taking your masculinity away.

It’s just our secret.

Nobody else needs to know

How it’s done

Or even that I do it at all.

The lipstick, the perfume, the garter belts,

The high heels, the dresses, the long hair.

The sidelong looks, the requests for a chair,

A light,

What do you think I should do?

Why don’t you order, dear?

Honey, would you drive?

Zip me up, please.

Unzip me now, now, hurry,

What I really need is a good, hard fuck

And a strong shoulder to sleep on—

All that’s for you.

Not for my father or my husband or my boss.

Because you know what it means

On your good days, 

When you don’t hate yourself or me

And you aren’t out of work or sick or drunk.

Because with you it’s finally safe

To be a woman.

The feminine qualities

That win me the world’s contempt

Put a light in your eyes,

Make you feel like you’re finally

Getting a little of what you deserve.

That’s why I keep coming back.

To all of you, dammit,

No matter how many times you try to

Take my fights away from me

And take my power tools away from me

And take my job away from me

And take my Levis and boots away from me

And even take my cock away from me.

Because in your arms

I am valuable. 

You aren’t sorry I wasn’t born a boy.

I’m your gift, your prize, your treasure,

Not a disappointment,

A simpleton, 

A voracious black hole in lesbian space.

Because I know what you want

Without even thinking,

Even when I’m mad at you

Just to deny some aid and comfort

To the man.

So treat me like a lady

A whore

A lover

Your lover 

The woman who loves you

Who could not love you

If you were not a woman,

Who could not love you

If you weren’t virile.

Tell me it will be different this time.

No broken windows, no black eyes,

No jealous rages, no dirty dishes. 

You don’t even have to make it be different.

Just tell me it will be and I’ll stay

As long as your kisses

Can make me hope.