Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsFall 2020  Vol. 19 No. 2
an online journal of literature and the arts
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Goshen, Virginia
A scout needs to have pluck, self-reliance, and discretion.
—Robert S.S. Baden-Powell, “Scouting for Boys”

I was still a wolf. My friends were bears.
I wasn’t allowed to iron my patches on
so the shirt could be resold; safety pins
stabbed my chest. From a dry bar of soap,
I whittled a pony. I shot a thousand arrows
into one sour bale. We hunted one another
with pocketknives, got splinters just to dig
them out. Fathers drank martinis. Sons made
spears and fed small fires. How should I
have known what they were cultivating,
stepwise and patient and slow, was me?
I executed orders, pledged allegiance, swore
oaths. I prepared. I made the only promises
I have ever kept. Taps played at five each night.
I was sentenced to latrine duty; reading, I took
too long to kill the light. The ceiling moved
where recluses clustered on the canvas, sipping
our breath as we slept. Just three cold showers
drained my travel-size shampoo, so I scurried
naked through the evergreens. My pony
lost its shape entirely, leached into the creek.  

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