Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood
Amazons, at Eleven

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"Girlhood—a form of dying—"
-Jane McKie, "Grass Slide"


Hidden in damp dungeons beneath
the rink, Dads now forbidden
entry, they are arming themselves for
the contest, ten- and eleven-year-olds, my second
daughter among them:
First, under-layering of "Long Janes,"
which wick away pubescent sweat, announcement
of pheromones; second, chest protector
where the breasts, just budding, will soon stand;
third, "girdle," resembling Victoria’s bustle
for thickening rather than thinning, and a "Jill"
to buttress invisible flesh petals
swelling between spindly legs. Next, shin and elbow pads
to muffle stretching-out limbs;
then, the rubber mouthguard
heralding the middle-class dream
of regular teeth, while stifling girlish giggles;
also keeping their whirling brains
securely in rotation as they orbit

(so like the infant soother she held on to,
first by mouth, then by hand—for almost four years, the rubber
dummy replacing
Mommy, her traveling breasts
and moods.) To cap all,

face-mask and helmet
that cover chubby-cheeked faces, careless locks,
with the stoic "No-Face" of battle
as girls become boys,
lace up skates,
grip sticks, stump
to the ice:
so that Timmies-drinking parents leaning sleepily on the boards
will lift paper cups in salute, shout, "Go GIRLS!"

Truthfully, if we could
we would dress you like this
always: champions of childhood, Achilles on ice. Deny
the arrival of the girl-woman, oily follicles,
breasts, boys, your own mobile moods. . . .

(just as I, sorting laundry,
anxiously read your underpants
for the rosy splash of womanhood
that will soon end
tuneful swaying of undressed asexual bodies
in winning changerooms, after)

But here, Saturday mornings
with the other Amazons, you can still
put on the boy, to mother/father’s
sidelined delight,
although your game is not our national obsession,
but its Northern feminine twin:
for instead of the hard rubber projectile
slap-shot into hormone-heated air,
you chase, pass, flash
a blue zero
fitted to your clever sticks, aiming for
that inner space that soon
will absorb you
when you are finally caught by the mirror:
to dream of rock stars, pop heroes, warriors
of your own.

*Ringette was invented as an ice game for girls, and an alternative to hockey, in North Bay, Canada, in 1963 by Sam Jacks; it is now played not just nationally, but internationally.

Laurie Kruk is an Associate Professor of English Studies at Nipissing University (North Bay, Canada) and the author of three books of poetry. She is the mother of two, step-mother of one.


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