Girls Don't Play Hockey

It's the Bridge Street gang in my ears
as my daughter takes to the ice in a rink
in Vermont. When I was a kid, put your pads on
and come dressed and ready to play
sounded like a girl's game to me.
This was Bruins country,
you could learn to fly like Bobby Orr,
cruise the slot like Phil Esposito
where everything you touched scored,
bang away on the boards and come out
swinging like Pie McKenzie,
taking on guys two or three times your size.
Wear fake scars on your mask
like Gerry Cheevers, not real ones inside.

"Hey, hey, hey, I come to play hockey,"
it was the goalie, the Irish looking kid
with the Cape Verde name I can never remember.
He bellows it loud, like Fat Albert
and I want to smash his face,
but I'm on the bench, the stone wall
we called a bench on Bridge Street
where we played street hockey
in front of Murph's house.

I watch Murph and Tippen rough it up, show off,
high stick, drop their gloves,
and wail away at each other,
drawing blood. They stumble
into Murph's mother, dripping
snot and tears. She clucks and fusses,
ices their wounds, and I feel a chuckle
come on, a laugh I share with Eddie Shore,
his ear in ribbons, my nose smashed
the week before, and I wouldn't tell
whose hand was on the other side of the glove,
couldn't tell or the game would end.

"Let her play." It's my Irish twin brother,
goalie for the other side. m>"Let her play."
And I do, step off the bench, take my turn
time after time, and if I could've threaded
a needle as neatly as I could slip a wrist shot
through the five hole I would've made my Nana
proud. One day, I stopped being the girl
who played hockey and became the hockey player
who was a girl. There was nobody else like me then,

but there must have been. We're sitting in a rink
in Vermont and on either side of the red line
there are two whole teams of girls
dressed and ready to play.

My daughter steps off the bench,
taps her stick on the glass, waving
to me. I don't want her to see me cry
as I wave back, but the look she gives
tells me she knows, and I can feel
Eddie Shore's hand on my shoulder,
his ear neatly stitched as if
he had done it himself.

My daughter spins to a stop,
waits for the whistle to blow,
the puck to drop, and the game begin.
Up here in the stands, away from the boards,
it looks more like ballet,
more like the flight of butterflies.

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