Fooling Around with Joe Canewell's Daughter

by Maria Wilson
For the unnamed daughter of Joe Canewell in August Wilson’s Fences

It was the green gold air of summer,
By that boy’s daddy’s fields,
The grass tickling my naked thighs and bare feet,
Stream humming behind us.
The boy touched me with big chapped hands,
His hard farm boy hands that knew how to grow
But also knew how to beat into submission.
He tried at tenderness like a game,
Like we were man and woman,
But he was no man--
No man had bird cage ribs that shuddered
Over my farm girl body.

When his daddy found us,
Ruddy faced, scarred hands clenched angry,
His back hunched, his shoulders wide
Like he was still carrying all that
Cotton and all those babies of his
Around with him the whole day,
I knew he was grown.

That man he ripped his boy open
With brown leather on brown skin,
And I ran hot air hard to pull into tight lungs
Away from that man with lightning voice
And thunder hands, but his legs were long and fat,
Heavy on mine. I can still feel
The wiry soft hair of his big legs
On my grass itchy girl thighs.

I bled that day.
Blood makes the woman mama told me.
A baptism of red and pain.
The sign the girl is grown.
Mama doesn’t know I bled that day.
I bled all over that man--
No flower or fruit for me
I was the cow after slaughter,
Raw bloody stinking meat for a hungry man.

That boy took up the same brown leather,
Stood over his daddy on top of me, a great house of a man,
And whipped him like a dying horse,
Whipped him right off my body.
The boy said that day made him a man,
Told me that day transformed his bird cage
Ribs to jail cell or handmade fences.
He called me girl like I could be his,
Like I hadn’t bled alchemy-scarlet bright
On his daddy and their grass that day.

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