Dad It's Me, Your Son: I Want to Be A Woman, or a Portrait of the Artist as V. Pugh

were you loved as a child
did your parents imagine
that you hung the moon?
or did your father beat
the livin’ devil out of you
when he caught you
tap-dancing in your mother’s shoes?
tanned your hide and mama said

he does it because he loves you

(but who told me that you hurt the ones you love? that's how you know it's real love as the man whispered i will always love you as he crushed my nose under the anger of his palm I have a thing for fat boys, he said and i'd been grateful because no one should have to love a fat boy, could i break your nose)

(then the man at the grocery store whispers to his children, Look at that fucking crazies doo-dah doo-dah doo-dah and twirling his fingers round his temple)

only does it because he loves you
your father does a lot for you

Dinner’s ready
be quiet no singing at the dinner table
and sometimes at the dinner table when the air hung around us
thick with tension and unease,
where inexplicably no one could speak,
as though we never knew what language was,
and had no clue how to use it

i can see my father is preoccupied with sunday meeting
a minister
he had dreams once i suppose
my father does not push me to be anything
instead he says nothing
about who i am
or what am i

your father does a lot for you
hi dad i want to be a woman
he only does it because
(dad i want to be a woman)
because he loves you

dad i want to be a woman are you there dad it’s me your son

cause baby im only a woman
only a woman can’t you see
my hearts not made of stone

And once upon a time
little fat boy only wanted
to be a beautiful woman
who wore her hair big
and played love songs on a pink guitar

just follow the stairway to this lonely world of mine

poor tammy
and that damn cowboy
who loved the bottle
more than he loved her

so many ways to love a man
and why you crying fat boy? why you crying at my show? I've been kidnapped and the press is saying somethin awful about george somethin awful please can you tell me what you’ve heard somethin awful

I'm a huge fan, miss wynette

Go tell Georgette I'm just out past the field where she can't see me and she can’t find me and — can’t you hear her screaming? go tell Georgette I'm just out past the field and i'll be home soon don’t let george get to her don’t let george cut her hair i’m the only one knows how

my father watches me dance around at home

miss wynette have you ever seen god

four daughters and not one of em brought me a lick of trouble

but he won't come to see me perform
in my first play

off to see the wizard i'm alice in wonderland
i play two parts for you — both the little girl
and the queen who tries to behead her

(kills self violently on stage)

and now they have four daughters
you're not a real little girl are you
i didn't think so

and i long to tell her that, very often,
neither do i

swaddling my head with my mother's hose
flaxen blond hair
a smear of makeup
blood red lipstick
and violet eyeshadow
purple like a bruise
(Tammy can't cover the bruises from the kidnapping jesus fucking christ tammy)

Well for so long my parents called me Virginia they’d say Virginia come in from the field and set right there and sing us a song and I’d sing for them and my brothers and sisters and my aunts and uncles and sometimes I’d sing while I was cooking Mama’d have me in the kitchen and she’d say Virginia sing me a song while you set there snapping them peas so I’ve always been singing and I kept on singing but now they call me Tammy

(jesus fucking christ tammy can’t cover the bruises and she’s out there looking like she lost a fight to a linebacker good god go fetch georgette go tell her tell her about momma she’s got to be on in five four three two one)

(waiting for you on stage miz wynette!)

do i look okay?

you look beautiful miss wynette

weeping like a saint yet
smiling like a doll under layers of clay
her face disappears
i’ve never understood what she looked like
know her face intimately and then sometimes
couldn’t pick it out of a crowd

(Tammy makes up the little boy garishly, the audience her mirror)

Makeup to cover the bruise — purple-violet and ochre and amber —

is god beautiful miss wynette

and why do men want to hurt their lovers why do daddies want to hurt their babies
and my mother says plainly,
as if to make things better,
the corners of her mouth folded in

he doesn’t understand
he does it because he loves you

is god beautiful miss wynette

god is dead

You keep dressing him like that, he's going to be a fag!

as if that were the worst thing in the world to be

now folks we have a special little boy with us tonight
let's give her a grande ole opry welcome! she’s a real girl!
I wanted to perform a special song from my new album,
it’s called womanhood y’all know i know little something
about womanhood

(He gets a wig like Tammy; she cuts his hair)

TAMMY WYNETTE, weeping, smears makeup
Go tell Georgette I'm just out past the field where she can't see me and she can’t find me and — can’t you hear her screaming? go tell Georgette I'm just out past the field and i'll be home soon don’t let george get to her don’t let george cut her hair i’m the only one knows how

(and later, long after the grocery, I feel the palm of another man, heavy with the weight of embarrassed masculinity, eager with something to prove, some score to settle, crushing against the side of my head — I have a thing about trannies, he’d said then and I was flattered)

I am a Christian, Lord, (i have a thing about trannies)
But I'm a woman too. (always trying to trick someone)

(but then later angered his fist splitting apart my skull right under the eye y’all always tricking someone, it’s fucking sick, he says now)
(but i’m a woman—)
(I am expected to make amends and i feel the butt of his gun in that fleshy part behind my chin)

If you are listening, Lord please show me what to do

(my father tearing my mother’s beige hose from my head stripping me of my crown of flaxen blonde hair)

I've tried hard to be what mama says is good

stop please no one has to know
(heaves, sobs, spits blood)

As i step into my womanhood

please no one i won’t say a word

ENTER a choir boy: knees bent, palms folded!—

be merciful to me, O God,
quoniam iniquitatem meam ego cognosco
et peccatum meum contra me est semper

miss wynette your makeup is running

The TV told me today: TAMMY WYNETTE DEAD AT 55
(and i only 8)

son the bible warns about sodomy
in the book of leviticus
and son sex is like a fire, it can warm a house or burn it down

Eight year old fat boy watches television as music fades.

JUDE DEXTER lives in the South. Their work has appeared elsewhere. They are currently at work on their first short film.