Alex Bishop

Winner of the Louise Louis / Emily F. Bourne Student Award in 2017

Ever Met a Human Spork?

It's having short hair after private school; it's hiding tubes of mascara atop bathroom cupboards; it's two dollar razors; it's not singing happy birthday when you turn thirteen because of thicker vocal chords; it's waiting for people to walk out of the restroom before walking in and then rushing through your makeup; it's the fear of gaining weight; it's the fear of losing weight; it's gaining five pounds on your stomach not your hips; it's dressing androgynous because you can't fill out the tops, and then claiming it's that you just have an avant-garde fashion sense; it's spending too much on makeup because it feminizes, even though you're supposed to be a feminist; it's not being a slutty anything for Halloween; it's thinking about what underwear you're wearing before going to a fitting; it's leaving a group of friends and thinking they're just taking pity on you; it's disliking this handbag because it is wider than your hips; it's not leaving the house unless everything is perfect: scent, look, clothes, and then hating everything that's not; it's not wearing nail polish because your fingernails are too wide; it's wearing glasses because of your rhinoceros horn, even though you have the loveliest eyes; it's checking into school and being called sir; it's going to boarding school, and being asked if you are allowed in the dorm you live in; it's not wearing heels because you're far too tall; it's wearing tiny gloves because it looks like you don't have large hands; it's always being the big spoon; it's wearing crop tops because your stomach is the only part of yourself you like, and yet still feel bloated; it's deleting Instagram comments from people who think you're disgusting; it's associating duct tape with pain; it's having a life expectancy of twenty-eight.

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Ari Banias on Alex Bishop

The title's odd question anticipates the reader's inevitable reply (what's a human spork?) and this smartly vulnerable poem itself is an answer. I love the surprise of a spork as the entry point for a poem that catalogues the self-conscious calibrations of a gender nonconforming body, of concerns that might seem surface but are in fact matters of life and death. The list of calculations and compressed scenes here represent a struggle to see, value, and actualize a self that one's environment does not affirm. A spork's proneness to being ridiculed alongside (or perhaps because of) its "both/and" ambiguity as a figure is so spot-on. Though the speaker claims "it's hiding…it's not singing…it's waiting," this voice is bold and direct throughout, and enacts a refusal to hide. The title figure's more complex and subtle work happens in tandem with the poem's final sentence, which names what's haunted this poem all along: the speaker's keen awareness of the disposeability of their life – because who keeps a spork? For all the alienation this poem describes, the end connects its speaker to others who, like them, live near the possibility of violence and death – but who'd also instantly understand the association of duct tape with pain. Though this is where the poem is closest to mortality, it's also, for me, closest here to hope – through a sense of shared experience the opposite of alienation, that which enables us to survive.

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