“Gender Bias” and “The Oak Trees Have Seen Everything”

Poetry by Tori Grant Welhouse

Gender Bias

1

Teachers pat me like a loaf

especially the chalk-dusted

I learn early who has authority

Behaving is more important

than the Theory of Relativity

The length of my hems a critical topic

The only teacher who doesn't care

is Music, pounding me on the back,

exhorting me to inhale from some place deeper,

past the shallows of the ribcage

He listens when I try to improvise

Psychology wonders why I work so hard to disappear

The obsession with food, careful preparation, photogenesis

only to leave it all untouched, turning gelid

Physiology hands me a tube

I learn my lung capacity is only half

My male classmates have lungs like bellows

They can move more air with less effort

Teachers used to comment I talked too much

Now I consign myself to a smaller envelope of air

2

In college I go to a party at a professor's and do not speak at all

A blustery instructor of European Literature

Not a single female author on his reading list

Anger takes a lot of air

The airless version of me is mute

3

My grown daughter has an outburst in a restaurant

Why is it even a thing?

Quizzed by her male relatives for no good reason

Because they can

Diners at the salad bar turn to stare

My daughter doesn't care

claiming all the air she inhabits

The Oak Trees Have Seen Everything

How beautiful we like to remember.

What are angels exactly?

I imagine my sister playing can-can in Skyline Park.

She likes the feel of upside down,

hanging from her knees on the monkey bars.

She yells to me, all hair and cheekbones.

I can count her freckles. We swing on swings

as high as we can, touching the sky,

waiting for the parkie to unlock the shed,

the interior unfinished and smelling of

plywood and paint, with hooks for yarn

and craftlace. We braid bracelets.

She has all the dexterity. I run faster

to the slide. She exists for the descent,

not thinking ahead or behind but exactly

feet up or backwards. The oak trees have seen

everything in Skyline Park, reincarnating memory,

rivaling the streetlamps, which blink on at dusk,

telling us finally finally to go home for dinner

and baths. In bed we compare bracelets

in the slant of light from the moon.

Hers is yellow and orange, neatly woven,

Mine is haphazard, two shades of purple, my wishing sublime.

About the Author

Tori Grant Welhouse

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Tori Grant Welhouse’s poems have been published or are forthcoming in Two Hawks Quarterly, Conclave Journal, Stirring, and New Poetry from the Midwest. Her poems also appear in Spectral Lines: Poems about Scientists and 50/50: Poems and Translations by Womxn over 50. She published a chapbook Canned with Finishing Line Press (2014) and independently published Stashed: A Primer in Lunch Poems (2019). She is an active volunteer with Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets and lives in Green Bay. More at torigrantwelhouse.com.