378: Play Like A Boy

378: Play Like A Boy

378: Play Like A Boy

Play Like A Boy
by Sam Killmeyer

The summer before I started
          seventh grade I shaved my head and never showered.
                    I ran barefoot through Osage orange trees, tried my callouses
          against their thorns and rained hedge apples down
on groundhog holes, yellow flesh exploding
          in sour fireworks against dirt.
                    The summer before seventh grade I played
          parking lot soccer, neatly threaded the smooth rubber ball
through the keeper’s legs, between the yellow windbreaker
          and watery pothole—you play like a boy
                    he said, and we both knew
          it was the best compliment
he could give, then—
          his late slide tackle on hard pea gravel
                    and my crushed coke can arm bone
          shone in the x-ray’s relief.
My cast was neon yellow, and I made him sign first,
          black initials on my elbow.
                    I wore that fiberglass sleeve
          like a stinking trophy,
pushed it into people’s faces for them to sign.
          The fall after I started seventh grade,
                    my hair grew back in tufts.
          I rested my trumpet’s bell on
grandma’s cursive, spit notes into my fist, silently
          took the extra hours to wrestle
                    my left hand into forming letters.
          On team picture day
the photographer pointed me
                    toward the boys, and I tried to smile
          while they laughed. The fall after I started,
I babysat a boy, showed him how to hit
                    a hedge apple homerun,
          how to catch a frog in the scummed pond,
                                 cup it between your palms. He wrapped it
                    in toilet paper, grinned, let the garage door
          down to crush it—yellow
seeping into the paper’s folds.

"Play Like A Boy," by Sam Killmeyer. Used by permission of the poet.