“The Body” by Nancy White

Nancy White


The forgetting of that time is a long
hollow tube in my mind. My own body
was like that cry you think you hear in the quiet
but decide you must have imagined.
Spelling tests, yes, and a brass bell.

The day they called the girls out as if
we’d all been caught cheating, into the hall,
up to the attic, I’m not kidding, with the nurse
in her wimple-hat, to see the movie
about when you “become a woman,”

when you “begin menstruation,” you can have
a new dress, this one from the department store
where a military man holds the door open
for your mother and you. You must wash
extra. And a crinoline.

How I loved the black sheer stockings
of the teacher’s aide, and the boy with half
arms, hands like flippers, with his wish
to shoot hoops. I do remember. How we shot
that ball over and over, October to May,

even in snow when the ball lost its ringing
sound like metal on the lot. Fourth grade,
I had bangs, he a buzz-cut, another girl,
none of us looking at the threefingered
probe growing out of his shoulder

and the paddle of pronged flesh with which in the spring
he lobbed a high one, clean,
just like a dream, swish, and the three of us,
leaping like winners on Let’s Make a Deal,
grabbed each other then with whatever we had.

from Rattle #24, Winter 2005

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