From After April Rain (Longship Press, 2021)

Tomboy

by Elizabeth Oxley

Finding a stack of Playboys beneath his bed,

my mother and aunt stop crying and laugh,

picturing my grandfather: nineties and toothless,

admiring glossy bodies. I hover nearby,

uncomfortable because I cannot see myself

in these naked women, teardrop breasts with areolas,

red caps you could unscrew, watch the milk

pour out. I am eleven. Their legs are open.

Close them, said my brother when he saw me

sitting knees-apart at school. I realized there were rules

for girls, so I made myself small and tried to like

what I should—dolls and stickers, stamps

and curling irons—worrying when my chest showed

no ambition toward fullness and I could still run

as fast as the boys. How did they do it? Other girls

knew their roles by heart. In magazines, women

suck their teeth and dare men to come close. Afraid,

I look past them at what's left of my grandfather:

red telescope, collection of classics. I lift Darwin's

Descent of Man, slide a pink finger down its old story.