Poetry: "Against Walls" by Jan Steckel


Against Walls

The first wall was between trucks and dolls.
They tried to forbid me one,
make me play with the other.

The second barrier was clothing. My public school
made girls wear dresses. I hated them.
Mom tried to shoehorn me into ballet.

I dreamed I was a boy slave in ancient Greece
forced to dance in a tutu for a jeering crowd.
I escaped on the back of a whale.

The next hedge was tussling with a boy
like two happy, snarling puppies.
The teacher pulled us apart.

“Never hit a girl!” she shouted at him.
“Fighting is unladylike,” she scolded me.
The boy never talked to me again.

Junior high sewing teacher wrote my measurements
on the blackboard – only two inches’ difference
between bust and waist, waist and hips.

“Are you sure you’re a girl?”
Meanwhile, math teacher said
I wrote like a boy and thought like one, too.

I danced with a girl in gym.
Her long dark hair, her olive skin,
her light feet brought out gallantry in me

I knew was not allowed.
Even now, when we’re both in our fifties,
I can’t speak of it to her.

I climbed trees, rocks, onto the roof. I tried
to clamber clumsily over the barricade of my body.
Always defenders knocked me back.

Once in a while now, I sneak onto the top,
sit on the edge swinging my legs,
don’t want to come down.

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Jan Steckel

My poetry book The Horizontal Poet (Zeitgeist Press, 2011) won a Lambda Literary Award. I am looking for a publisher for my short story collection Ghosts and Oceans. Website: www.jansteckel.com

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