Two Poems

The Object of Affection

The entire household knows when she hits that age.
There’s paper stuffed in the keyhole of the bathroom door,
and any place more public she treats as a stage.
She’s arranged screens around her bed to ensure
no one will see when she sleeps. At most the play
of her shadow when late at night she opens a book,
the scrape of pages against her skin, the drapes
she pulls open a pinch to take a look
at the white street. Although no lover waits,
queued like a note between the sidewalk’s staves,
spring will bring them. Her parents assume she’s straight,
so she’ll start with girlfriends, a practice kiss, a parade
of fingers. Downstairs her mother sips a Coke.
She has her suspicions, but prefers not to notice.

What a Mother Knows

She turns at the foot of the stairs in her navy dress,
a final test to prove to her mother it fits.
A sleek number, tight enough to impress
the girls and boys, a liberal amount of skin
along the leg, but conservative in the sleeves.
Her mother admires her, convinced as always
she got her right, a child perfectly preened.
Mom thinks she’ll be true to herself, thinks she’ll behave.
But the boy thinks he knows better, not that she’ll go too far,
but she’s blushing a little, aware that he’s struck.
She knows he’s only the evening’s first to stare
at the way her freckled breasts are tucked up,
round as her cheeks, full as her eyes. A wonder
at thirteen, and her whole body getting louder.

—Kevin Oberlin, Cincinnati, OH