Alternate Genders
Mary Soon Lee

Sun Tzu, 544-496 BC

“The supreme art of war is to subdue
the enemy without fighting.”

Sun Ying, 544-507 BC

Subdued by her husband
without a fight.


Galileo Galilei, 1564-1642

“And yet it moves.”

Giulia Galilei, 1564-1646

Giulia became a nun,
spent her life in thought.
In confession,
told the priest
she doubted that God
would oppose the notion
that the Earth went round the Sun,
that Holy Scripture should shape
our morals, not our science.
Unconcerned, the priest
merely condemned Giulia
to a dozen Hail Marys,
the heresies of middle-aged nuns


Jane Austen, 1775-1817

“It is a truth universally acknowledged,
that a single man in possession of a good fortune,
must be in want of a wife.”

John Austen, 1775-1805

Joined the navy as a boy of ten.
Rose to command a ship of the line.
Died of gangrene,
three weeks after the Battle of Trafalgar,
his official dispatches
notable for an irony
little appreciated
by his superiors.


Alan Turing, 1912-1954

“I shall shortly be pleading guilty
to a charge of sexual offences
with a young man.”

Alanna Turing, 1912-1991

Alanna’s early brilliance
steered by her teachers
away from mathematics.
Never went to university.
Found a partner in Christina,
their love neither rebuked
nor acknowledged;
a private joy.


Nyack Phiri, 2169-2411

“In understanding the aliens,
I understood myself.”

Diplomat, philosopher,
student of the history of music.
Renowned on two worlds
for the breakthrough
in interspecies communication
achieved by playing a hand drum.

Nyaqa Phiri, 2169-2411


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Mary Soon Lee
Mary Soon Lee was born and raised in London, but now lives in Pittsburgh. She writes both fiction and poetry, and has won the Rhysling Award and the Elgin Award. Her book "Elemental Haiku," containing haiku for each element of the periodic table, has just been published by Ten Speed Press. Her website is and she tweets at @MarySoonLee.