lee majors
Gentlemen, we can rebuild her
by Lee Parpart

Like most American kids I thrilled to the
suave heroics of Lee Majors’ primetime astronaut
“A man barely alive” when he crashed to earth
rebuilt in cyborg form to rescue whole cities and
fend off Sasquatch foes.

Hunched in prayer on our red shag carpet
my heart beat to the staccato synth motif
that announced Steve Austin’s every
jump and roll with all the subtlety of a
cartoon “Kapow!”

No one had the husky former football star in mind
when I was born in ’65.

Dad wanted a boy and a nautical reference
(a nod to smooth sailing, a possible
edge on the knockabout course)
whereas Mom, nascent 60s feminist,
enjoyed the name’s unisex appeal.

I was the one who assigned that Lee
a place in my genealogy.

And yet a six-million-dollar question hovered over
this unlikely attachment:
Did I want to date Lee Majors or be him?
At twelve-and-a-half it was hard to tell.

In 1977 when his star was brightest
I remember floating down Main Street in Andover, Mass.
femaleness trailing behind me like a vapor
replaced by a strutting sense of my own importance
a borrowed bionics of boy flesh and boy bone

Head crowded with robot dreams
I replayed paternal plotlines and
savoured the frisson of being
Better. Stronger. Faster.
than the awkward girl I was.

Eventually, of course, I lowered my guard
and changed the channel. Austin bounded off
screen and both Lees fell into a
shallow cryogenic sleep.

But here’s the thing: I must have stolen a few
bits of extra equipment that day and
stashed them around the genie bottle or
blinked them under the bed.

Because he is clearly still in there
patchwork version of a silly 70s icon
connecting me to my own circuitry
spurring me to run and jump
disarm opponents and
dance without care.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This wonderful prompt got me thinking about the links between my trashy TV watching habits in the 70s and my experience of gender. I had no idea until I finished this poem how intricately connected my love of the Six Million Dollar Man was to my flirtation with masculine subjectivity in my teens and beyond. At around the same time I discovered a passion for Steve Austin, I also sprouted a kind of inner boy, separate from the tomboy that had animated me throughout grade school. I had just moved back to the U.S. after three years in Africa with my PhD student mother, and the feminist theory she was talking about at home seemed to trickle into my media consumption, suspending me between cyborg stories and tales of bottled genies and housebound witches. Although I eventually migrated over to Sabrina and Genie, this poem was more than a surface exercise and got me wondering about the role played by my non-namesake, Lee Majors, in depositing a few bits of foreign wiring throughout my evolving DNA.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Lee Parpart is a Toronto-based poet and media studies writer. Her essays and articles on Canadian, American, and Irish cinema and television and visual art have appeared in POV, Take One, Modern Fuel, C Magazine, Canadian Art, The Journal of Canadian Film Studies, Short Film Studies, North of Everything, Athena’s Daughters, Gendering the Nation, Masculinity: Bodies, Movies, Culture, Essays on Canadian Writing and The Gendered Screen, among other publications. She has taught film studies at the University of Toronto and York University, served as a visual arts and video columnist for two major Canadian dailies, and recently returned to a daily poetry writing practice that fell away amid teaching and childrearing. Her older poems appeared in the tiny, non-digitized literary magazine Hegira, and her newer work is waiting to move out of its cramped Mac folder and into the world.

PHOTO: Lee Parpart, 2015, Toronto.