Elizabeth Oxley


Finding a stack of Playboys beneath his bed,  
my mother and aunt stop crying and laugh, 

picturing my grandfather: nineties and toothless, 
admiring glossy bodies. I hover nearby, 

uncomfortable because I cannot see myself 
in these naked women, teardrop breasts with areolas, 

red caps you could unscrew, watch the milk 
pour out. I am eleven. Their legs are open. 

Close them, said my brother when he saw me 
sitting knees-apart at school. I realized there were rules 

for girls, so I made myself small and tried to like 
what I should—dolls and stickers, stamps 

and curling irons—worrying when my chest showed 
no ambition toward fullness and I could still run 

as fast as the boys. How did they do it? Other girls 
knew their roles by heart. In magazines, women 

suck their teeth and dare men to come close. Afraid, 
I look past them at what’s left of my grandfather: 

red telescope, collection of classics. I lift Darwin’s 
Descent of Man, slide a pink finger down its old story.