A bird, a bee, a sycamore tree,

I’ve never been as strong
as anyone thinks—there were times
when, of course, I cried—at movies
mostly, at television shows, those fictive

lion’s ribs and honey,

releases, built to house feeling
so it is shameless. I am
shameless as in I've run out of it.
I always pictured Delilah as a man—

combs alchemized to a gold

men tempt me—
and I understood Samson as a fiction—
unconvinced of masculinity—
so I felt him, I felt him as Delilah did.

lung, unbreathing, sweet.

Copyright © 2018 by Trevor Ketner. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 14, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“As someone raised in the fundamentalist Christian church, I am, and my poems are, still haunted by Biblical images. (The question I posed to myself as I learned to understand my gender: Am I Delilah or Samson?) As an assigned-male-at-birth, non-binary person who chooses not to shave, I have to deal with the legacy of masculinity my religious upbringing conditioned me to feel entitled to and expected me to perform, as well as the privilege I experience as someone often read as a man. How do I reconcile these inheritances with who I am at this moment, especially when I've come to realize there's no killing the place you come from? Like Delilah, who couldn’t kill Samson outright but brought about the conditions of his death, I left the moment of writing this poem with Samson's hair in my hand.”
—Trevor Ketner