Published on Academy of American Poets (

September 23, 2016

When did you first know you were bisexual?

I will never know how the pleasure I give feels as a body receives it. 

I fear strangers, Naomi, even the ones I love. I count their turned backs on the subway.

Some nights I fear even the subway itself—or is it my reflection in the yellowed glass, how I cannot see the city moving beyond me?

I want each round mirror to open as a window might.

Perhaps I always knew, but I mistrusted my knowing. I once stacked my journals to the height of a beloved and embraced them.

Every poem I’ve read to you has been written in this direction. Each word a line on the map I haven’t yet finished that leads me to you.

In college, I got ready for a party with two women I loved who loved each other.

I watched Diana flip Jean’s hair from her freckled shoulders before zipping her into her dress: 

the same gesture I’d made in the mirror, alone, before I arrived at their apartment.

I watched them pass Jean’s mascara wand fluently between them, one’s licked fingers curling the other’s lashes, and a question split me at my spine—

like a hand gently cracking a new book’s cover, ready to understand.


Copyright © 2021 by Rachel Mennies. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 28, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“I wrote this poem as a B-side to the poems that appear in The Naomi Letters: a collection of epistles written from the speaker to Naomi, the woman she loves. The poems' date-titles track the progression of their relationship, and September 23, 2016 arrives early in that span. As a form, the epistle allows for powerfully intimate disclosures and admissions, conferring a shared interiority that pauses time and zooms in close. I wrote ‘September 23, 2016’ to disclose to ‘Naomi’ a fleeting, but forever-imprinted moment that led to life-altering interior discovery: the sort that reveals who we are, or in this case, whom and how we love.”
Rachel Mennies


Rachel Mennies

Rachel Mennies is the author of The Naomi Letters (BOA Editions, 2021). She lives in Chicago, where she works as a writer, editor, and adjunct professor.

Date Published: 2021-05-28

Source URL: