In Middle School Band

she played trombone. In low brass,
she was lodged into a wrist of testosterone,
stood out like a flipped bird, practiced
every day until her lips swelled as pink
as rubber bands. By seventh grade,
she sat first chair and no one talked
about how it meant a boy was second
or what was happening to her chest.
Once, on the bus, some thick skull fugued
its way down her shoulder until those bird-
brained breasts went numb. By the way,

an etude is a practice in kissing.
There's a bumper sticker that reads
horn players have great lips. She was how
everyone learned the word boner.
Their laughter is the sound of fire.
The punchline came before the joke.
The arpeggios were an exercise in defiance,
an emergency exit door swung open, each note
a step on a fire escape going up or down—
doesn't matter—away from the sound
of alarm. It was the first time she was good
at anything and it made her choose: be a woman
or be a thing that's bruised. There's no
forgiveness in some songs.