In the broad field behind Merion Elementary, where
the heavy-soled shoes of boys playing ball had knocked up
all the grass, leaving dirt puddles we bathed in during recess,
Sally, freckles sprinkling her face like the cinnamon sugar
spread on my toast that morning, leans in close
to tell me she’d learned something major on Saturday,
had notes to share with me. Enumerating slowly
on the ringless fingers of her right hand, she lists:
1st: French kissing, his tongue the doctor’s depressor in your mouth.
2nd: he cups your boob, over the cotton training bra you’re proudly wearing.
3rd: he fingers you, the way the plumber might unclog a sink.
Finally, home base: when he climbs on top and sticks his
thing in you, but it’s too gross to go into further,
and Mrs. Madison is calling us in for more map making which
I’m already failing. The next day, Sal’s details still cling, like
a seeing eye dog that will lead me everywhere from now on
from the classroom to the bus, from the bus stop three blocks home,
from the supper table to the alley, where the kids on my street
play stickball, their voices ringing out the numbers on every hit.
If baseball was the game we all were playing, who was watching
from the bleachers, which of us not watched?
At the junior high pep rallies I huddle with Sal, jeering
at the jocks, the cheerleaders who kept us off their squad,
the vice-principals, their eyes shining at the sport, the tendons
in their fat necks bulging as they shouted the boys to hurry
round the bases and come home. 12 runs to 9. We always won.
Sally never married, but I did. I knew all the rules –
how to walk a man, how to bunt, how to score.