progression

SAM WALKER

i was born late and loud

the doctors counted my ten fingers

               ten toes

               seven pounds, ten ounces

wiped the stickiness from between my legs

and returned me to my mother

               "congratulations on your baby girl"

i was seven

catholic instruction taught me:

               how to be feminine

               how to be quiet

               how to be invisible

my classmates loved their white dresses

               "why would you want to wear a suit

to confirmation"

i was sixteen

my teacher told me i was a talented young woman

you're going places

you're going to do great things

i dug my nails into my palm

and they stayed there for hours

bright red crescents on my skin

               "i don't think i'm a woman"

i was nineteen

the nurse at the clinic wrote a prescription

               welcome to manhood

               enjoy your stay

my nerves were wired

i still don't know

               if laughing was appropriate

i am twenty-one

my stepfather calls me a young man

every week i:

               shave my face

               bind my breasts

               pray my voice is deep enough

               pray my shoulders are wide enough

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