Posts Tagged ‘puberty’





We were 10-year-old girls

huddled around the book

that Stacia’s mother had given to her,

and we read in chorus the names of the body parts,

penis, vagina, labia, testicles,

the words tasted like foreign food on our tongues—

so strange they made us giggle—

and there was something else,

a pull in my belly, a breathlessness

inside my voice

as I read out loud for the others

all about how the act was done.

There was nothing in the book

about love or even the violet crush

of lust. Just the facts about

how the bodies fit and the science

of what might happen then

when the sperm fertilized the egg.

The authors did not mention

how diamonds might explode

through your toes, did not mention

gasping or humming or moans—

no, mostly we wondered why

anyone would ever want

to do what they showed

on page 29, that page we

couldn’t quite stop

our hands from returning to

so we could stare

at those bodies

so impossibly joined

again, again.


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And I am again thirteen and ripening.
It is the summer my record player breaks
and plays “Winter into Spring” over and over
for months. Outside my bedroom window,
the hollyhocks grow from stubs to blooming staves,
and the garden snakes braid in the tall grass and my window
is always open. At night I read ten-cent paperback novels
with a flashlight beneath my sheets. There is a curious
feeling unfurling in me, something that quickens and trembles,
as if I also have strings to be played and strummed and plucked,
oh sweet strange chords of pink and red, taut and then slack.
The arm raises the needle, then sets it down again into
the vinyl grooves, and the summer spins and spins.

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It was Sam who,
that summer before fourth grade,
danced with me
at the church camp dance
and asked me to walk
outside with him.
“It’s hot,” he said.
“Let’s go look at the stars.”
And I, who did not yet
understand the sweet cramping
that tendrilled deep in my gut when
Sam held my hand, said yes.
We stood there a long time,
me looking out at the stars
because that is what
we were there to do.
The night was the color
of Wisconsin violets, crushed,
and Sam, still holding
my hand murmured low, “Oh,
look over there,”
and, when I turned
my feathered head, he leaned
in quick and close
and kissed my astonished lips.
Even thirty-five years later,
I am still somewhat
unprepared as I write
what happened next,
how he sprinted away,
a gleesome hart,
how I stood there, still,
my lips apart, the soft
hands of the night
still holding the most tender
parts of me as they spilled
like fruit no one knew
was yet ripe, and the sharp
stitch of longing
so new to me
sewed itself
into my breath.

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