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Growing Up Gay in Greene County, a poem by Tory Pearman

Growing Up Gay in Greene County

Indiana boys shoot hoops

next to barns, in gravel driveways, 

in the high school gym.

They play shirts vs. skins,

the smell of leather and dirt still faint

on their hands after scrubbing.

After dark, they hang out in garages,

sliding under cars, swiping grease

from their faces onto flannel sleeves.

They pass metal tools or metal cans,

hand to hand, laughing

through woodstove smoke.

Some walk the river bottoms,

hunt squirrel, rabbit, quail, morel,

stopping to drop a line in cold water.

They can skin and hang 

a deer, then skin-the-cat 

on the same tree branch.

In Indiana, boys grow tall and straight.

They clean up for dances and dates,

walk, anxious, to the front door,

hiding shaky hands behind their backs, 

nervously swallowing their hellos.

They know how to follow the rules:

don’t swim in the stripper pits

don’t play on the tracks

don’t stay out too late

don’t race down backroads

don’t veer from the route.

Don’t walk into dark cornfields;

you might never come out.

Tory V. Pearman resides with her family in Cincinnati, OH, where she teaches literature and writing. Her work appears or is forthcoming in journals like Moss Puppy, Cheat River Review, Salamander, Atticus Review, and San Pedro River Review. She is a Pushcart Prize nominee.