Poem That Took 40 Years


I don’t know how long I held
that receiver, curly cord
anchoring me in a thick fog
of stun. Details swirl and cloud.

It was one night in eleventh grade.
My mom called out that the phone
was for me. I ran to the kitchen, Hello?

LEZ!!! Click.

I said to myself—or perhaps out loud—
Oh my God, that was Mina. Mina,
my best friend. She stashed
her brace for scoliosis in my room
every morning on her way to school,
we smoked my mom’s cigarettes, hated
the world together.

The next morning, standing
at my locker, dreading and dragging,
wondering how she found out,
I felt eyes burning my face, my back.
Friends ignored, or stared
until I looked away. In the bathroom,
I saw my name on the stall wall
in black letters—or were they red—
Barb Reynolds is a LEZ.

I washed my hands, breathed air
into the folds of my lungs,
and began the long walk
through the halls. I perfected
a shell. And it encased me.

Published in Stonewall’s Legacy Anthology, June 2019

This poem may not be reproduced without the author's permission.