Puberty

The New Republic

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MAY 19, 2011

Puberty

On the page that interested you a naked woman
in successive frames, from a first self

without breasts or hips or pubic hair
to the grown animal. And it wasn’t just her body:
her expression changed. This force could alter you

permanently, like a god. It could take you personally
and bend you and destroy you and replace you.
It happened also to the naked boy: his face

changed with his dick, from a playful
lost expression to one that was
knowing and bored. That
was erotic: to be changed that way

by something pitiless, by time; not, as the diagram
suggested on the next page with dotted lines
that marked flesh, sexual intercourse.

It didn’t occur to you that the diagram
could continue, that the force that swelled
breasts could turn them, also, into older
things, and the cartoon men would grow, become frail.

Your mother brought you cereal
in the morning. There was no evidence elsewhere
of this process that took place,
not at home, not at school, in a progression
of images that existed nowhere outside of the book.

This poem originally ran in the June 9, 2011, issue of the magazine.

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