PLAY LIKE A BOY
The summer before I started
seventh grade I shaved my head and never showered.
I ran barefoot through Osage orange trees, tried my callouses
against their thorns and rained hedge apples down
on groundhog holes, yellow flesh exploding
in sour fireworks against dirt.
The summer before seventh grade I played
parking lot soccer, neatly threaded the smooth rubber ball
through the keeper’s legs, between the yellow windbreaker
and watery pothole—you play like a boy
he said, and we both knew
it was the best compliment
he could give, then—
his late slide tackle on hard pea gravel
and my crushed coke can arm bone
shone in the x-ray’s relief.
My cast was neon yellow, and I made him sign first,
black initials on my elbow.
I wore that fiberglass sleeve
like a stinking trophy,
pushed it into people’s faces for them to sign.
The fall after I started seventh grade,
my hair grew back in tufts.
I rested my trumpet’s bell on
grandma’s cursive, spit notes into my fist, silently
took the extra hours to wrestle
my left hand into forming letters.
On team picture day
the photographer pointed me
toward the boys, and I tried to smile
while they laughed. The fall after I started,
I babysat a boy, showed him how to hit
a hedge apple homerun,
how to catch a frog in the scummed pond,
cup it between your palms. He wrapped it
in toilet paper, grinned, let the garage door
down to crush it—yellow
seeping into the paper’s folds.
—from Rattle #66, Winter 2019
Sam Killmeyer : “I’ve been thinking about inheritance and what has made me who I am. Not just family inheritance, but cultural inheritance. As I follow the current news cycle, I’m thinking about how we can respond to power as poets. Art is always the first thing to be suppressed by authoritative regimes. Why? Because art has the power to change minds and souls. I’m not sure these poems achieve that, but I’m trying. I’m trying to look inside myself, trying to peel back what it means to be a white, female, American.” (web)