There is an elegance in saying “Lady.”
I like pronouncing the word
as if it were a chocolate
ready to melt, gum your
fingers, and chemically change
your mood.

Lady has a dignity,
and it is allowed to eat
ice cream in front of Matlock
while sweats wearing if it
wants to.

Some people say the word “woman,”
and they mean it like
some lemon lozenge in your throat

stopping you from coughing: *girlgirlgirl*
Or sometimes woman is prescribed in italics:
woman. It can be
a migraine itself, woman.
Said like “get behind me nurse.”
Then there is “female.”
That prickly-clean paper crumpling
of the doctor’s chairbed creasing

your thigh and that notcovering gown.
Female is ready to see you now,
It peers over a clipboard and looks
about to give diagnosis.

It’s here fast: the word “chick.”
It skips the stomach and goes
straight to synapses; narcotic
and yellow. Like a bro needed
a way to call your name
with more testicles, chick.

“Gal” is partway there, like Flintstone vitamins.
But it wants to be more than

To this I say, Lady, take thy noble Kleenex!
The word Lady has a chutzpah,
able to throw
both party and tantrum. Like alcohol, but
not the sterile swab kind.
Lady can

and will keep you stitched. Lady
puts pressure on the bleeding
and changes your gauze.
In the ambulance, Lady is
scolding you with raised eyebrows.

Graceful Lady yanks off
band-aids with handmouth laughs
when you scream. Lady is untreatable
by the medical metaphor of my poem.
Lady defines its own.