Girl Country

GIRL COUNTRY

My great-grandmother Tat birthed three girls and stopped,
said “No use cluttering up my yard trying for a boy.”
Her daughter Peggy was up for the challenge, stayed faithful,
had her four and was then blessed with Eddie one Christmas.

Tat’s daughter Patty, my grandmother, had boys
she didn’t want, a husband she didn’t want, and when she could,
she shed them all, taking up with ladies, so that, by the time
I came along, it was a given, her companions, begrudgingly accepted.

I knew how she felt because I felt the same: the big secret
I couldn’t tell anyone – not my parents, who’d be disgusted,
not my grandmother, who I rarely saw. But one summer, we all went
from the city down to Peggy’s house, a rare confluence of cousins.

It felt like anything could blossom there, like the blueberries
growing in profusion in her yard, something I had never seen.
I gorged myself, sneaking handfuls from the big glass bowl,
afraid of being greedy, worried I’d not find such comfort again.

That night, in one of the row of little Catholic bedrooms
full of little twin beds, I shared a room with my grandmother,
a breath’s width apart, something I never imagined happening,
and I thought, I could tell her. I could say,

I’m like you, something I had never been able to say
to anyone in my family of brutes, being bookish and blue-haired.
The hot dark closed in on us, the smell of mothballs
a blanket no one had asked for, and I pictured opening my mouth,

pictured how, if I told her, it would be the first in a long series
of tellings, each harder than the last.
The cicadas’ screeching made it hard to settle.
The silence I replaced it with made it even harder.

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