Reading time: Approximately 2 minutes
The distinctive imagery in Cynthia White's beautifully constructed poem depicts a girl's first encounter with her own body, and explores how female sexuality, like so much of girlhood, is hidden and feared.
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by Cynthia White
It’s summer, and I am not in love with horses
Like my best friend, her bedroom a temple,
Storybooks and figurines, days pledged
To the stables. I ride a Huffy, royal blue.
If she’s any kind of animal, she’s kept it secret,
The way I don’t tell my mother where
I’m going. I pedal toward the river,
Hoping for minnows, my small mound
Snug in the saddle. How can I convey
That quicksilver throb—molten
Unheralded bliss? Bicycle,
Victorians dubbed their quivering beast,
And feared for female purity.
Once found, I press the instrument
Again. Over and over, as much as I wanted.
***reprinted with permission of the poet
Cynthia White had this to say about her work:
Societal attempts to control female sexuality have always fascinated me. Technological advances (the bicycle, the automobile, the telephone) often provoked dire warnings about the downfall of Woman. While the claims seem outright bizarre, even laughable, at their heart lies a grain of truth. The freedoms these inventions brought were disruptive and empowering. This poem, like many, began with a jolt of memory. As a girl, I didn’t have the language to really describe or understand what I’d experienced. I only knew I was inordinately fond of my bicycle and rode it everywhere.
Cynthia White (she/her) lives in Santa Cruz, California and
has been a finalist for both Nimrod’s Pablo Neruda Prize and New Letters’ Patricia Cleary Prize and was the winner of the Julia Darling Prize from Kallisto Gaia Press.