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Grays Best

If I, You Print E-mail

by Stacey Oden
from the May/June 2008 issue 

If I had been Scott Allen (or Hank, had she
let you honor the great number forty-four)
you would have dressed me in neon orange
and taken me out to Dison’s farm on snow-weighted Saturday mornings to tromp with
12-gauges through gullies, ravines for bunnies.
You would have had games, not recitals,
as excuses to leave the office early, and
have let me mow before turning eleven,
not just fill buckets, wheelbarrows with
fallen apples, quince, plums, we tossed
at each other, and you wouldn’t have said
I throw like a girl without showing
me how to play every position (to get under
popflies, know when to use a squeeze, hit the
window out of your uncle Bill’s church)
like you, back when you could still “play
the game at the level it should be played.”  
I wouldn’t have half-slept in the bottom of the
johnboat this summer, beside the cooler and
escaped crickets while two of your three poles
got bites. The one you tossed me I got to reel in
like it was mine, like when I was small, and couldn’t
cast, and thought the fishies were in the trees, when
You called me CB (carp bait) and our bluegill-stuffed basket unknotted from the side of the boat. 
You would’ve handed me your glasses, First Federal
S&L hat, jumped in Johnson’s Pond after our
quickly sinking fish fry.  I would have been okay, tough
enough, left watching the water for you to come back.
I wouldn’t have thought it was my
fault that you didn’t try to retrieve them,
I wouldn’t have covered their heads
with newspaper this summer,
trying to scale as fast as you filleted
pretending they didn’t have those eyes

just a paper’s thickness beneath my
inkprinted, pond-bathed hand, pretending
I was more disgusted than I really was,
pressing each new fish’s belly, wiping the
black excrement on classifieds, cartoons,
the grass under the plum tree while
our knees stuck to the shade, even the dark
patches warm, pressing grass lines into my
skin, melting fishiness into my palms.  And
scales, small, bright miracles, stars spilt in the
grass space between us—iridescent chromosomes
dotted my cheeks and the backs of your hands.

Stacey Oden, the daughter of a sportsman and a graduate of Indiana Wesleyan University, currently lives and works in Columbus, Ohio.  She loves old houses, baking blackberry pies, and a dog named Laz .

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