My Brothers Teach Me What It Means to Grow Up Male in West Texas

Fondling stashed firecrackers, boys root around
in the dirt for any live thing to ride
in the green plastic Army Jeep: rolly
poly bugs, woolly worms, generic black

beetles. All get vroomed down the path with thrills
of testosterone, and I cover ears
against the blast, a roadside IED
of Black Cats, passengers surprised by flash

and bang. A satisfying crunch of beetle’s
cracked carapace, but brothers like woolly
worms best for this game, their yellow and green
guts splattering such satisfying stains.

These caterpillars will never wear black
and white dotted wings of great leopard moths,
won’t open like feathery kites to dry
under a Texas sun. But I don’t grieve

what they won’t become. No, I miss the way,
just hours before, we’d let them tickle
up and back the length of our arms, gentle
friends I’ve now betrayed, not quite knowing how.

A native Texan, Janice Northerns now lives in southwest Kansas with her husband, two dogs, and a MacBook Air. Her poems have appeared in The Laurel Review, Chariton Review, Roanoke Review, Southwestern American Literature, descant, Cold Mountain Review, and elsewhere. She received a 2018 Tennessee Williams scholarship to the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, won second place in Southwest Review’s 2017 Marr Poetry Contest, and is a recipient of the Robert S. Newton Creative Writing Award from Texas Tech University. Read more of her poetry at her website or follow her on Twitter @JaniceNortherns.

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Issue 8

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