By Leslie McGrath
The almond wears a thin corduroy vest
that cannot protect the nut. The skin
of a ripe peach peels like a second
degree burn. The oyster
clenches even as
we break its nacreous wings
at the hinge to get at the meat.
When the mushroom man appeared with baskets
braceleted up to his elbow
that shudder morning
he said the girls knew what to do (the best
mushrooms grew on the north sides of trees)
It was just like picking flowers, he said
and girls were good at that. But the boys
he’d have to show.
He led the boys away
(on his knees he showed them)
(with their pants down he showed them)
and we girls filled our baskets we knew what to do
though we did not know we did not know.
This was how he separated us.
Leslie McGrath is the author of two full-length poetry collections Opulent Hunger, Opulent Rage (2009), and Out from the Pleiades (2014), and two chapbooks. McGrath’s third collection, Feminists Are Passing from Our Lives, will be published in April 2018 by The Word Works. Winner of the Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry (2004), she has been awarded residencies at Hedgebrook and the Vermont Studio Center, as well as funding from the CT Commission on the Arts and the Beatrice Fox Auerbach Foundation. Her poems and interviews have been published widely, including in Agni, Poetry magazine, The Academy of American Poets, The Writer’s Chronicle, and The Yale Review. McGrath teaches creative writing at Central CT State University and is series editor of The Tenth Gate, a poetry imprint of The Word Works Press.
Photo credit: James Johnstone via a Creative Commons license.