Dan Bellm

from Book of maps

Springfield, Illinois, 1961-1963

If I'm not a strong person -- if I'm not like other
boys -- maybe I shouldn't have been a boy
at all.  In his halflit room the child
is looking at his body
with his brand-new glasses off.  Here
he can be as invisible as he wants.  Yes,

it's getting harder to see; yes,
his vision will be bad forever; yes, the others
will outrace him as he feels his way.  Here,
held up a little closer than before, are a girl's
hands, not the hands of his father -- anybody
can see how the bones could break.  Sensitive child --

oversensitive -- you can't let the other children
make you cry his mother says -- Ignore them, yes,
that's what I did in school.  He wishes his body
could be solider or disappear when the other
boys come at him at the schoolyard door, one boy
in particular who spits, says faggot and girl, who hit him here

in the chest until he did cry, and here
on his girl-limp arms.  His body is not his hope.  The child
supposes if he were a girl
the other boys might like him then, yes,
might even apologize, and he would like the other
boys to care for him, one in particular whose body
is mean and shines with sweat, him more than anybody,
and the child touches himself here
where his legs join while the other
hand strokes the rising -- um -- the child
doesn't yet call it anything to himself -- yes --
until he shivers to a stop, imagining the boy

beside him, but I would have to be a girl
for that, and I'm not, I have this puny body
of a boy.  Then hope must lie in his mind, yes,
all right, he can see more clearly in here
with his bad eyes shut, this child
who would rather have any other

body but his own, a girlboy
given to see the world as through a glass, but here
is his body and he will live in it, yes, because there is no other.