Spell for Binding
Start by collecting sunlight in mason jars,
one for every year you haven't been able
to swim shirtless. Next, crush blackberries
in your fists, however many it takes to stain
your fingernails. Eat the leftovers for a snack
if you like, you'll need your strength coming up.
Fill a porcelain tub with warm water
and dunk your head in until your
ears pop, hold your breath, and stay
while you think about the time at a restaurant
when your dad kept bouncing the booth
until your mom cut his name across your throat,
gesturing to her breasts and nodding her eyes
at you. Breathe in, you won't drown. Stay under
and remember how running makes you jiggle.
Let the heat from your cheeks boil the water
until it all evaporates. Exhale.
Lay shirtless by a pond in moonlight.
Smear your sticky palms across your chest
to attract dragonflies. Let them kiss away
the blue and black seeds, fall asleep with
your eyes on the stars. When you wake up,
you'll have peace. Your body will not rise
in ways you don't want it to.
I think it's time I talk about what it's like
When I got my period in the seventh grade
and told my friends in P.E. as we walked along
the dirt track that outlined the five-sided fence
at the back of the middle school's property
I was met with cheers and hands on my back.
Blue shorts, grey t-shirts, we once ran away
screaming from a girl who said she liked other
girls. I was screaming loudest, reached the corner
of the fence first, had to turn around and wait
for them to catch up to me, laughing. The blood
didn't spill at first, it spotted, but I stuffed my purple
Vera Bradley shoulder bag with pads and pantiliners
and when I felt the first bit of liquid pool out of me,
I asked to go to the bathroom, every girl recognizing
that I left with my purse. On the toilet, I cried, but that's
probably an exaggeration. I peeled the packet I made
of two pads and a pantiliner off my underwear
and replaced them, then waddled back to class
with my eyes down.
Twelve is too young to wrap your boyhood
in its sticky, plastic sheath and shove it
in a metal box on the wall beside you.
Benjamin Anthony Rhodes is a poet studying under the Northeast Ohio Master of Fine Arts program. His work is present or forthcoming in Rubbertop Review and Luna Negra.