“Sex Ed” by Robin Gow

Sex Ed

With pennies and dimes I’d found around town,
I bought sunflower seeds to feed the mice.
I loved them. Their bodies, soft and careful
as they ventured
from underneath my closet door
to chew salty sweet seeds I left for them.

Until third grade, all my friends were boys.
I didn’t think much about the differences
between our bodies. My family lived
in a crumpling house on Main Street
and in a storm, all the walls would warble.

My bedroom had vine-print wallpaper
and I liked to pretend I lived in a jungle.

Mom made me keep the door to my room open
when my friends came over.
I never understood why. I hated her for it.
What did she not understand about
an eight-year-old’s hunger
for privacy? How you can’t fully slip
into imagined green
with the door swung open
like a gum-gap where a tooth once was?

One day with the door open
I whispered and told my friend, a boy,
about the mouse. We sat, waiting
for the animal but it never arrived.
Held out the seeds. Shared them,
sucking salt for the shells.

Bored of waiting, he pulled down his pants
and asked, “Do your parts look like this?”
I said, “No” and he laughed and I laughed
and the door opened wider and
in the vine-crossed walls the mice
slept like secrets.

Robin Gow is a queer and trans poet and YA/MG author from rural Pennsylvania. They are the author of Our Lady of Perpetual Degeneracy (Tolsun Books, 2020) and the chapbook Honeysuckle. Their first YA book, A Million Quiet Revolutions, is forthcoming March 2022 with FSG Books for Young Readers. Twitter: Gow_Robin_Frank. Instagram: Rockin_Robin_1