Coming Out as Polyamorous to
“You will emasculate him,” my mother said,
her gold cross lying tilted on her chest like a paperclip.
My father, still as noble in tucked plaid
as in his black satin robe with gaping sleeves,
sat quietly next to her.
“All this time your husband will wonder
if your other lover is bigger. If he thrusts harder.”
We have strayed from the topic.
The late morning’s canary rays slant through,
a square on the floor where our cat would lay if he were still
I’m not sure if I should make eye contact, but I do.
Every TV Christian mother gets one thing right:
The war between untamable love for children
and anxious hellscapes of all things unknown
tumbling out of her in crass sexual imagery.
“They’ll call you a whore. They’ll put your boobs on display.”
—grabbing her own for visual effect.
I advise my students, wait to drop bombs on your parents
until after you’ve moved out.
When they need you more than you need them.
When your parents ask, “Why now? After ten years,
why be honest now?” use the passive-aggressive redirect
you learned from watching them argue. See if they catch it.
“I didn’t know you would take it so well.”
The clean-wiped table is bookended by soggy tissues.
We’re lost in role reversal. Agony seethes from her bowels.
I can’t be gracious without patronizing.
“I can’t hear about him anymore,” she surrenders.
The door crosses my mother’s face as it closes.
I realize how tightly woven the world must look
as its roots push away the old, as young people
seek strange, uncharted mixtures of love and sex.
I realize honesty can be a consensual lie.
My suitcase does not have a lot to repack. In two days
my students discuss erotic slavery in Brave New World.
“Monogamy is the true rebellion
in this world full of instant pleasures,”
I hear my own voice say.
“The closing question, eager minds, is this:
are you brave enough to love only one person?”
I will drive that message
from my closet to theirs
and we’ll all agree to the comfortable lie
that none of us have ever had sex.
Elisabeth Sharber is a 12th grade English and Etymology teacher in Frankfort, Indiana. When she’s not grading, she writes poems and jokes while her cat scoffs at her sense of importance. She enjoys sharing her writing in open mics and has been published in The American Aesthetic, FLARE, and Driftwood Press.