one of my mother’s frequent admonitions

If whistling girls might escape aprons
like my mother wore
and large breasts like Jane Russell’s,
I thought I might practice more.
And Eva Braun hadn’t whistled enough
was my sneaking suspicion, dying
in that bunker with the evil one.

When I whistled, I pursed my lips
and tried to blow
air out so hard
that they never looked as soft
as the overblown ones
of Rita Hayworth.

I whistled and whistled. Summers
I slipped into jeans,
went bare-chested,
rode horses on Uncle Hap’s farm
where the sweet smell of hay,
like the horses themselves,
rushed out when the latch was lifted
and the barn door swung wide.
I galloped into a blaze
of restless dandelions.

When I noticed swelling
behind my nipples,
I upped the volume of my whistling,
but Mother told me, finally,
I had to wear a shirt.
I still held out a stubborn hope
that when I grew up I’d be free
to ride the mountain trails
where water rushed and changed, but
like me, kept its own sounds,
its own shape.

Whistling Girls and Cackling Hens, by Sandra Sidman Larson, Pudding House Publications, Columbus, Ohio, 2003