|Image source: bOiNGbOiNG|
One summer afternoon, L walked alone to the party store and bought a few ropes of Bubs Daddy Sour Apple gum. Past tiny houses, owned by the UAW dads, Mustangs on blocks in the garages; her world of city-wide curfews and cars. The Boys from the next block, armed with sticks, rounded the corner whipping leaves from low-hanging branches. They were old enemies from the Worm Wars, which had tapered off when the girls lost their fear of worms. At the height of The Wars, The Boys had ambushed them, tied them to the fence behind Mr. Taylor’s garage, and doused them with transmission fluid pumped from a tank he kept on hand. The girls hid their red, oily clothes from their mothers who would likely scold, boys will be boys. They were older now, yet she could still smell the oil, like scorched plastic, and taste it. Hey, The Boys mumbled, wanna see something cool? Toward the alley, behind the hardware, L followed. As she offered gum, Frank, grease under his fingernails, reached for the neck of her blue-flowered top and ripped, leaving her half naked in shadow with a scratch down her chest. L crouched against the cold wall of the hardware and worried about being grounded. There was M, back speckled with bruises which the girls saw when Miss G made her change into gym clothes. Attempting a smirk, M said that her boyfriend Ryan had gone all the way on her in the gravel behind the strip mall. Some of the girls were impressed because Ryan was in high school; others called M a slut. No one thought victim. There was C who was beautiful and didn’t care about The Boys. One day, she came to school with bruised arms and scratches on her face. A group of jocks, led by Chuck, knocked her off her high horse. They had held her down and scratched her face with open safety pins. Everyone said they did more, too, but C stopped talking that year and walked with her arms crossed and head down. T was playing the new record, Cherokee People for Larry when he shoved his hand down the front of her jeans. N was held down in the back of the school bus while The Boys took turns groping under her blouse. All the girls had their bra straps snapped. Are you a turtle? No? Then why do you snap! Back then, the girls knew that boys would be boys. Back then, the girls knew that The Boys needed to fuel their locker-room talk. Back then, girls learned that humiliation came with their gender, just like their monthly periods and sometimes, it seemed, more frequently. Back then, is where half of the electorate wishes to return. Back then, promises the president-elect, king of locker-room talk, sexual molester, voyeur, fan of violence, now on his third (and ever younger) beauty-queen wife, is where he will lead us.
Sue Reed Crouse is a 2011 graduate of the Foreword Program, a two-year poetry apprenticeship at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis. Much of her work is elegiac in nature, exploring themes of grief and loss after losing Laura, her 20 year-old daughter in 2008. Finding fresh ways to explore this universal theme through image-driven poetry helps her navigate the sorrow and, hopefully, help others who grieve. Crouse’s work appears in Verse Wisconsin, The Aurorean (Showcase Poet), The Talking Stick (First Prize, Honorable Mention), Grey Sparrow, Earth’s Daughters, Damselfly Press, Midway Journal, Sleet Magazine, Unhinged, Little Lantern Press and a chapbook entitled Gatherings: A Foreword Anthology. Her manuscript One Black Shoe was a finalist for the Backwaters Prize last year.