“That Tomboy” Poem by John Grey

She smelled of mud
and grass stains,
grunted like a pig.
Short stinky matted hair
was wary of shampoo and a comb.

The heat of the pig sty was a comfort.
Hardened cow dung pleased her hands.

She was much too strong, too rough,
for her little brothers.
It was the males who brought
the tears to the family.
Bruises, dirt and missing tooth didn’t bother her.

She played with the older neighborhood boys,
swore, smoked cigarettes
and wrestled with them.

But now she has been rescued,
taken away to be bathed
in bubbles and perfumes,
dressed and taught to read.
She squeals. She snorts.
I don’t know if she’ll ever love
her own clean skin,
or the float of dresses on her thighs.
The boys will tease her, the mirror confuse.

“You’re a girl,” her mother says.
“Get used to it.”
Left alone,
she quietly sniffs
the secret message of her pores.
It’s a heady mixture
but pleasing.
She believes she will
get used to it.

She must take her orders
from habituation.

—About the Author—

John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in Midwest Quarterly, Poetry East, and North Dakota Quarterly with work upcoming in South Florida Poetry Journal, Hawaii Review and Roanoke Review.

—About the Featured Image—

Two glasses of yellow liquid stand next to a red rose in ‘60’s pop color blocks. Photo by Jim Zola, who  is a poet and photographer living in North Carolina.