My Knowledge of “Boys” By Age Twelve
Climbing the rotting wood of an over turned boat
like a beached whale
in this small Cape yard-
my sister and I searched together for slugs
but only found discarded hooks and lures.
I would wear them
dangling over my ears
not minding the worm guts rust, or fishy smell.
I twisted thin metal them through the first thick layer
of skin on my thumb.
I’d learned it from an old man
whose wandering forced secrets.
At night, other girls ran
off kissing boys smeared,
with sloppy, stolen lipstick.
My feet forced worms apart
on dirt like coffee grinds
I expertly skimmed rocks on the water,
and smoked half-butt cigarettes stashed
by the dock, in a half-buried coffee can with $2.37 inside.
When it got dark enough to sneak Camels and Heineken,
when the older boys’ mothers went up to bed,
in the boat shed, I would spy on stories of big brothers
tours of duty, and this broad and that.
Stretched out on the dock
one of those boys taught me about bait and tackles,
while another showed how to tug on a line just right,
how to let a large fish
know who was in charge.
I think they gave me my first sips of beer.
I’d pick at the raised skin on the tips of my
now freed thumbs. Following a call
of my mother’s voice demanding me to bed.
Jo-Ann Reid is an Associate Professor of English at Dean College in Franklin, MA. Her work explores cross-cultural boundaries, gender, restriction and social injustice. Her work has appeared in Barrow Street, Shaking Like a Mountain, and as a featured poet on January 5, 2015 in The New Verse News. In January 2015, Ms. Reid was a Finalist in the 2014 Vella Chapbook Contest by Paper Nautilus. She earned her MFA at the Pennsylvania State University.