Somewhere in Louisiana
in the shade of a cypress,
on the bank of the stream,
I dangle my toes in cool water.
On the other side,
an alligator sun-basks,
warms its blood,
digests an old meal.
This is the most
that the gator and I
ever have in common.
She smelled of mud and grass stains, grunted like a pig. Short matted hair was wary of a comb.
She ran before she could walk, jumped fences when she wasn't straddling them like a horse. No tree was safe from her ascent.
The heat of the pig sty was a comfort. Hardened cow dung pleased her hands. When the heifer kicked, she kicked right back. Nothing cruel. Just the way she was.
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." So feeling is forbidden. Free will is out. She must take her orders from habituation.
John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident, recently published in Sheepshead Review, Stand, Poetry Salzburg Review and Red Weather. Latest books, “Covert” “Memory Outside The Head” and “Guest Of Myself” are available through Amazon. Work upcoming in Washington Square Review, Rathalla Review and Open Ceilings.