Esse Quam Videri

By Christina Kapp

When I was young, our school motto

was esse quam videri.

To be, rather than to seem.

I was I am I will be

to be, rather than to seem.

I wore blue tunics with the belt around my

ass and a billow of fabric around my belly.

You could be nine months under there—

that’s what we used to say—

no one would ever know.

Lips dry, pressed tight together,

I wore my hair in a ponytail and my

socks rolled down around my ankles.

I smoked cigarettes and pierced other

girls’ ears with ice and a safety pin.

What to be, what to be?

Cogito ergo sum and all but I

thought and thought and thought

because I was I am and would be

a D student who could not seem

to see the meaning in the words

stacked like bricks across

page after page after page.

Can you seem to understand?

Can you seem to be smarter than

that, please, woman?

Will you ever be a real woman?

Will you ever grow to be a real womb man?

How will you live?

How will you ever live like that

with your mouth sealed shut, and

your eyes so open?

It will come at you, woman,

with your black eyes and baby powder face.

It will come at you, woman,

in your skinny flower regalia

and the bong over your mouth.

It will come at you, woman,

with your pressed flat hair and

drugstore lipsticks. Be don’t seem

be don’t seem be don’t seem to be

trying to seem until you can no longer

be anything but fortunate that you

seem enough to be. Woman.

Keep your mouth closed. Keep your lips together.

Fortes fortuna adiuvat.


Christina Kapp has published her short fiction, poetry, and essays in numerous publications includingBarn Owl Review, Gargoyle, DOGZPLOT, Pindeldyboz, PANK,, and apt. She has a M.A. in writing from Johns Hopkins University and is working toward her second M.A. in literature at Rutgers University-Newark. She leads the Franklin Chapter of the New Jersey Writers Society and is currently working on her first novel. 

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