Conor Bracken

Gender Reveal Party

The gender emerges

          as colored smoke from a glowing paper skull
          as fire from the chains of a luxury SUV time-trialing the Nürburgring
          as water from the tallest non-fatal waterslide at Schlitterbahn
          as dyed earth erupting from a pumpkin exploding against the flank of a schoolbus in a                     cornfield

now that the forest is blanketed with colorful ash
now that the concussion wave from the grenade blast has subsided and the shields have
          come down
                    and the great apes are plucking glitter from each other’s fur

the slender eel’s assigned its lent feel

now that the balloons have lost buoyancy and have begun to confuse the sealife
          let’s have a selfie with the ticking backhoe
                    a panorama of the hysteria sweeping the bandshell

a group shot of the semipro paintballers hired
          to pepper the laughing attendees
          who all came to see what kind of steel will brace the tender

what will render Pangeal
          the dispersant mounds of a life
                    incoming like mortars or storm
                              to cleanse the sordid land before it

                                                  up the esophageal stent
                                        shins gender
so it can say which heel to slide under
                    and which monster repeal

every pelt arranged now
          the net graveyard repelled
                    and the graveled pear enters

though the anagram machine reminds us
though we down cup after cup of phosphorescent punch
the grey antler pervades




Unlike the universe, its reckless
blossoming, its stretching and stretching
over oblivion’s stiff lip its fabric
of billowing gaseous nurseries

of stars strewn like nickels and absence-
latticed lingerie from the mouth
of a crowbarred coin-op dryer,
I end. I have even begun

to shrink, the nurse the life
insurance company has sent
informs me as she packs up
her scale and measuring tape, done

now slimming my surplus
to numbers. This gift
of knowing now it’s started
is like any gift—a backrub

from a pickpocket. A heart
transplant performed by a crack team
of vampire bats. I read
the headlines to get a sense of how

to feel about it—KING BUCKS

and all I get is silence. I macramé
the silence into a hammock
and string it from my panic to my apathy
where I swing between my choices.

Now that I’m eroding down
to the stub of a golf pencil
with a single sentence left in it
what will my final sentence be?

No like all the men before me? Oh
in faux surprise? Or, in
recognition of the miracle—O!



Conor Bracken is the author of The Enemy of My Enemy is Me (Diode Editions, 2021), as well as the translator of Mohammed Khaïr-Eddine's Scorpionic Sun (CSU Poetry Center, 2019) and Jean D'Amérique's No Way in the Skin Without This Bloody Embrace (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2022), a finalist for the 2023 PEN Award for Poetry in Translation. He teaches at the Cleveland Institute of Art.