--INSIDE MY HEAD THERE IS A MUSEUM OF NATURAL DISASTERS
The tricky part is you love her.You’re only fourteen but you know she’s the one.
The universe is finally ordered and makes sense for once.
You might even be happy.
But she’s asked a question and, thus far, you haven’t lied to her.
“How did I lose my virginity?”
Her eyes are fixated but also a little unsteady, wobbly,
almost as if she’s afraid you’ll hit her.
You try not to squirm, try not to look away.
You wonder if it was when your brother did that thing,
touched you there, saying, “Look what I’ve invented.”
Or was it the time you took your Dad’s magazines
into a field and fondled yourself under a weeping willow tree,
milky cream splashing the scorched weeds with
a force that shocked you?
Perhaps it was Sherry Seaman (yes, her real name)
whose trained mouth knew so much
about friction, texture and timing.
You’re both seated under a bushy evergreen,
the ground hard on your ass,
hairpin pine needles scattered everywhere,
a red-chested robin hopping about as if the earth is on fire.
A breeze flaps her bangs up and down over her forehead
like a hand that’s waving you home,
and though she’s anything but pretty
she’s currently the most beautiful girl you’ve ever seen.
You lace your fingers in hers, pull the hand to your mouth
and kiss each knuckle with chapped lips until she tugs it away.
You watch a branch sweep overhead,
a squirrel scurrying up one weak limb.
“I don’t know,” you say, and while it’s kind of the truth,
the words are still acid on your tongue.
Your teeth melt, your gums smolder.
“What kind of answer is that?”
You fight for bravery, meet her gaze,
swallow a sock of dry air laden with grit and chaff.
“Let me tell you everything,” you say.
“Then afterward, if you haven’t run, you can decide
whether I’m still your guy.”
Your older brothers think you’re a pussyand have said so numerous times.
You’ve only seen pussies in your Dad’s glossy Playboys,
and those were always bush-hidden,
foggy at the sweet spot,
a camera flaw or sunburst blur where
you most desired focus and clarity.
It’s ridiculous how much you want to know pussy--
what a pussy actually is,
what it looks like,
what it wants and fears,
what it craves--
because if you’re really a pussy as they assert,
you know none of these things.
And yet there’s the Super Soaker Squirt Gun
on aisle 13, marked down to $17.95.
One brother tells the other brother that’s not there,
“Betcha the pussy can’t steal it.”
Pussy, pussy, pussy.
You don’t exactly know what pussy is,
but you’re sick of hearing about it.
There’s no chance the squirt gun will fit in your pants
the way the Value-Pack box of Million Dollar Bars
did when you filched them on another dare last week.
The squirt gun might as well be a walrus or elephant,
an unpinned grenade or someone’s stolen infant.
Still, your brothers are very wise.
They’re older and know things.
They’ve kissed girls with their tongue and tonsils,
which is called French Kissing, even in America.
They know what a pussy is,
claiming to have owned several at one time or another.
And so you grab the gun and fly down the aisle.
It’s a crazy idea and a bit cowardly as well,
but you’re a pussy, and maybe that’s what pussies do
when they’re challenged and frightened at the same time.
The old, bald guy behind the counter is kind of brittle,
a Mr. Peanut Man, going on seventy.
If he has a real gun, it’s too late to shoot,
you’ve sprinted that fast,
and there’s no way he’ll come after you
unless he has a Harley hidden somewhere.
A mile away, after you’ve caught your breath
and have thrown up on the side of a curb three different times,
your brother catches up, holding his side
as if he’s stolen something as well and is keeping it warm.
“Fuckin’ A, man! You ran like greased lightning.”
You wonder if your brother’s ever vomited on a curb,
if he was ever your age and baffled about pussy.
You wonder, if he was you, would he still suck his thumb at age nine.
“Let me see that thing.”
You hand it over, the one piece of tainted evidence someone else is
willing to accept on your behalf.
“I bet it’ll spray all the way to Idaho,”
your brother says, testing the slide device,
cocking the plastic arm back and forth a dozen, manic times.
He’s smiling, and you know that means something good,
if only temporary. Anyway, he doesn’t look pissed off.
You want to ask him about pussy,
want to tell him you’re confused about pussy,
bewildered by it,
by a lot of things actually,
but he’s got you in a soft headlock, giving you
a light knuckle nuggy on your scalp.
It’s like he’s telling you he’s proud,
or that he might even love you.
You encircle him with your arms,
making for a hug, but that kind of intimacy is taboo,
so he pushes off, though not too rough.
Brothers taunt and prod.
Brothers teach you how to steal.
Hugging is off the table and stomped underfoot.
Once in a while, though,
brothers walk home with you
under shady skies and blinking moonlight,
halfway giddy and high,
saying, “I don’t surprise easily,
but fuck, kid, you did good.”
Mr. Davis taught Biology,sixth period,
kept a row of milky Mason jars
stacked on the shelf under the blackboard
that contained strange, deformed things,
fleshy, one-eyed clumps, some with tails
or webbed fingers that floated in gray-white water.
Mr. Davis scared me.
When a kid dozed off during class,
Mr. Davis chucked a chalkboard eraser
toward the last row of desks
and nailed the boy’s forehead,
leaving a cloudy Seahorse
birthmark above his eyebrow.
He often had me stay after class,
said I was different, special.
“Forget everything you’ve been told,” he said.
“They’re all wrong.
I can teach you what
really matters in life.”
He tried to show me things,
tried so hard his underarms were sweat-stained,
but after a while I stopped looking,
stopped staying after
and took the bus home,
staring out a window,
studying the way each tree swayed,
some leaning in on one another
and some not.