This poem is about a tomboy… and about how difficult it can be sometimes to not be the most feminine girl on the planet. There are definite folkloric links in the poem, in the description of the culture, in the identification with that culture, and quite simply, in the way that gender roles are transmitted in the poem.
I come from cars on blocks and the
brown yard underneath
fingernails stained black and
greasy handprints on a once white sink
where the bar of Ivory is gritty and gray
and fifty-five gallon drums of used motor oil
leave lovely leaky rainbows in puddles.
I fear nothing because I had to be stronger
and smarter and unwilling to cry in the face of
boys who wanted to be tougher than me.
So I gritted my teeth and picked up earthworms
and dangled spiders in the faces of other girls
who were not like me, who shrieked and
covered their pretty faces with their white hands.
I come from engines hanging from low tree limbs
in place of swings, fastened to
chains thick as your wrist.
I come from six ounce Cocolas in the ice chest
and a crate of returnable bottles in the floor.
I come from showing off the slicks
mounted in tubbed-out wheel wells
and bored over 454′s.
I come from a son who wanted a son
and found one in a daughter
I come from displacement, from disappointment
from falling asleep in my bed smelling paint fumes
and hearing hammers pound out dents, from
wishing I was wearing grease-stained jeans
instead of crinoline slips, pony-tails instead of
french twists, Castrol instead of Cover Girl.
I come from dirty hands and well-polished tools
the torque wrench, the ball-peen hammer,
the sanding block and the phillip’s screwdriver.
I come from red necks and tattoos on biceps
straining against valve cover bolts
When I was a girl, my daddy told me
I could be anything I wanted to be.
I told him I wanted to be a boy. I wanted to be like him.
“Anything,” he said, “but that.”