A bite of beans, a long milk draw and then
a side glance: “What’s it like to be a boy?”
she asked. Tiresias first came to mind,
the mating snakes he struck, the female dead,
his seven years in women’s form that followed.
Didacticism at its worst, I thought,
especially how to explain his lie
to Hera, pleasures of the wee and woo,
and homosocial bonds, the kind
of myth an eight-year-old like mine would dig
then dig at me until I broke, explaining different parts
and dumbass boys, the birds and bees. My wife
was teaching dance that night and would have struck
me blind if I had gone that way. Instead,
I merely said, “It ain’t that bad,” a lie,
of course, then took another bite of beans.
“The penis seems to be a lot of trouble,”
she said while looking down into her bowl.
And once again, I thought, deflect. I could
bring Nana into play, tell how at eight
I told my class about my front-tail, unzipped
my pants to show them when they said I lied,
Miss Walker’s scream, the long walk down the hall,
how Nana let me think I had a tail for years,
until that day when I walked home and Daddy
told me about the penis, its stiff-tailed ways.
I knew “it ain’t that bad” would hardly do for this.
I said, “You’re right—it is a lot of trouble.”