All the men want to be Neruda but none are, no one Chilean enough, none unself-serious enough to compare their lovers’ breasts to the twin beating hearts of frogs on opposite sides of the lagoon. All the poems are about breasts, even the ones about the moon and its reflection, even the ones about sibling mountains. Even the ones that are about dicks sound like the ones about breasts, mooning about all sullen over the drawn curtain that hides two neighboring street lamps from view.

All the men want to be Palahniuk, want to use the word fuck in every fucking sentence, to spit every line of dialogue, to visit graphic, nuclear vengeance on the twin fawns that refuse to emerge from behind the trees at their beckoning. They shop pale imitations packaged as reboots of a gritty reboot, now with even more grit.

All the women bring just a little something they scribbled down, nothing very good, needs a lot of work, still just an eighth draft. They bring stories that they’re sure won’t make sense to anyone but them (and their six beta readers), a world of socialized insecurity crystallizing into a perfect microcosm.

All the women are—

because they were just trying to—

and they noticed—

it’s unlikely a real woman would—

but that doesn’t make any—

and if they could just—

like they were saying—

they thought it was clear—

why is she naked the whole—

that doesn’t explain—

All the women are limiting themselves, say the men, to the banal domestic world. The women are looking through the microscope at children and bodies, the interlocking atomic orbits of families. The men say writing is for big ideas: for sex and death and the deaths that follow sex. The women see the Great Chain of Being reflected at every stage, see the hierarchies of royal scale recreated in the schoolyard and living room. The men see ten pages of story without a single description of the character’s body.

When the women stop coming, all the men shrug and sigh. It’s a shame that writing is not for the faint of heart. Some people are so easily offended.


Frances Klein (she/her) is a poet and teacher writing at the intersection of disability and gender. She is the 2022 winner of the Robert Golden Poetry Prize, and the author of the chapbooks New and Permanent (Blanket Sea 2022) and The Best Secret (Bottlecap Press 2022). Klein currently serves as assistant editor of Southern Humanities Review. Readers can find more of her work at