|The image of me at the Catskill Game Farm, not sure if I was 12 or 13, lacks quality because it is a scan from a print from a previous scan of an old image (I couldn't find the original or the digital file, many computer deaths since it was originally scanned). The word clouds are from wordle.com. I pasted in the poem and then repeatedly pasted in a few keywords (the nicknames) to make them larger. Click image to view larger.|
Horsehair, Gary called her, spitting the word
like phlegm, burning her cheeks with it. Horsehair,
because, at thirteen, she wore her long hair in braids,
instead of short, curled and coiffed like the other girls.
She liked horses, loved to ride, but the name stung
as if each hair were a bee angry and spiteful.
In the classroom, while other kids screamed and flailed,
she lifted trapped bees gently from the window
in her hands and carried them outdoors. They never stung,
but Gary did. “Dale calls me Tiger,” she told Gary,
wishing, at his horselaugh, she'd never spoken.
If Gary called her Tiger, it would be an insult,
but Dale smiled when he said it, his eyes full of soft heat.
He found her feisty, strong. Independent. Fierce.
In the glow of Dale's appreciation, she morphed to Tiger.
Stood tall. Growled. Stalked the forest
like a predator. Kissed with hunger, with teeth.
Gary couldn't see a tiger in her; when he looked
the tiger morphed to mouse, scrambled to hide,
wanted to be invisible to Gary and his gang.
But they always saw her, an all too visible target
for their venom. To quiet Gary, she chopped off her hair,
curled and coiffed. Though she tried to blend
like a chameleon with the other girls,
she’d already been marked for the kill.
Mary Stebbins Taitt
for Gary Sommers, Mike Sullivan, David McNalley and Dale Ripberger