How I Learned to Play With Boys


How I Learned to Play With Boys

in my village

I didn’t do boy things well

shoving maple trees in the canal

breaking cathedral windows

flinging smelt guts at high schoolers

and running away

so I played with the girls

enacting family dynamics by

pulling clothes on off pink plastic dolls

that had sharp little fingers   pointy toes

when I tried to do boys things

the boys were disgusted

one day after choir practice

they dragged me into the Whistling Wood

to a grove piled high with moose skat

they pelted me with the shit

laughed and taunted

“how do you like that dolly fingers”

I kept my eyes closed my mouth shut

as they covered me from head to foot

then they ran away

the shit was thick like elephant hide

I scraped my hands on the nearest tree

I could tell by the bark it was oak

afraid to open my eyes

I walked stiff legged    hands grasping

till I came across a beech tree

I knew I was closer to the place

where the woman washed the clothes

next I found a maple tree

as I groped through Whistling Wood

the birch the alder the willow

each brought me closer to the stream

I plunged in

it was cold

the moose dung was so toxic

smelt floated dead to the surface

I scrubbed and I scrubbed

till my skin was red rough and raw

my hair went from black to blond

the pond went from clear blue water

to a brackish tar pond

it was never the same again

I emerged clean

shivering and naked

I darted from rose bush to lilac tree

till I was my home

at school the next day

the boys were afraid

I would tell what had happened

I said nothing

and started to play with them again

I used what I had learned from the girls

how easy it was to undress boys

to take off their clothes

unlike dolls their limbs were flexible

and that’s how I learned to play with boys

roof power animal nap

This is one, of a over two dozen, in a series of poems ‘Mythological Childhood.’ I wrote & continued to write these as a result of reading Lewis Hyde’s ‘Trickster Makes This World’ (highly recommended). Which, as the title suggests, looks at mythology & creativity.

stuffed never melting idol

It spurred me to look at my past as a teaching tool, to allow it to morph from what really happened – in this case to being bullied, playing with dolls – into some more fantastic. At the same time I found elements that become repeated through the series – such as the moose, trees, the choir, the Whistling Woods.

I tried to create a sense of east coast place without being specific to any region. There are references to actual sites: Sydney, where I grew up, was ‘home’ to a toxic tar pond, eventually turned into a shopping mall (but that’s another story). The reclamation of the toxic land became an industry unto itself over the years.

birds guardian spirits

As the series expands it’s clear we’re on an island. The trickster often represents a sense of otherness that disrupts the ordinary flow of things & attempts to move things to his greatest benefit. I say ‘he’ because in most myth systems the tricker is usually a he who transforms at times to a she. Not that I’ve ever want that transformation but it is one of the prevalent myths about queers – we want to be the opposite sex.


spirit guardians

2 thoughts on “How I Learned to Play With Boys

  1. the explanation portion of the post makes that pretty clear 🙂 ‘Mythological Childhood.’ – I got bullied but not to this extent – cultural attitudes to any sort of ‘otherness’ emotionally battered me more than anyone physically did –

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