Ransom told me about his first boyfriend

when he was twelve. Jody.

He and Jody would walk through the cemetery

holding hands

Ransom would come home smiling

but later, after he had time to think

he’d cry himself to sleep


He asked me if I thought he was crazy

to like boys that way

I told him, No, I like boys that way, too


Jody and his parents left town

after someone carved an F on his forehead

F for fag


Ransom didn’t do much hand holding after that

He didn’t go out for sports

but he could sure talk cars

He started a lawn mower service

took engines apart

and pieced them together again

Wore the grease under his fingernails

for protection




One of our edge-of-town neighbors,

Newberry Oaks, followed Ransom

to the cemetery

when Ransom was still

hurting over Jody


Cemetery’s where Ransom goes

spending time with nothing

but ghosts

his aloneness

and the occasional Oaks boy

bent on trouble


Good thing

I was following Ransom too


Newberry’s sneaky

kept to the shadows

of his namesake trees


When I caught up

he says

whatever you’re about to do to me

won’t do no good

you can’t always be there

to protect your fag brother


I shrugged

even though my heart threatened

to split wide open


One singer’s breath and

my voice didn’t shake when I said



anything at all happens to Ransom

I tell the sheriff I saw

who burned down the Wilson’s barn Saturday night


and in case you have any ideas about me

Dad saw too

Don’t think you can shut both of us up


Who’ll believe injuns, Newberry said

but I saw the look in his eye

and knew

my hunch about the barn burner was right

and that Ransom was safe

for now

–from a novel in progress, Accordion Girl, by Sharon Edge Martin.  The first poem has been previously published in Writers’ Digest Prize Poems; Elegant Rage, a Woody Poets anthology from Village Books Press; and in the Spring 2016 edition of Malpais Review.