Sunday Jul 14

Boateng Headshot Nana Boateng is a recent grad from Berea College with a B.A. in English Writing. She is passionate about enhancing the wider public’s social and cultural awareness through storytelling. Ms. Boateng’s work has appeared in NPR, Sierra Magazine, Toe Good Poetry (2017), and Cliterature Journal (Volume XXIX, 2013). In her spare time, she enjoys listening to podcasts, fascinating over ASMR videos on Instagram, and cooking traditional Ghanaian dishes.


When I was six, I was a boy—
Not because I was born that way but (At least that is what) my mother’s friend, Mama Doris, told me (I was a boy) over and over again, whenever we visited her home.

She lived at the edge of gentrification—
Down a one-way street, where eviction notices read like lost dog posters and children jilted from their homes barefoot to dance to the ice cream man’s jingle. Her apartment was in the last building on the block. And the grass surrounding it stretched and curled up its walls like kudzu. Ballroom stairs sat at the apartment entrance cemented down and cracked, where her neighbor’s lounged with their necks blackened by the sun. Her door, cladded with three locks as a neighborhood insurance policy, was the first one on the left. Inside, the walls were stark white, but plastered with gnat fly bodies that trailed thin streaks of brown guts behind like a comet’s tail.

Whether I entered in front of my mother or behind her—
Mama Doris would fix her eyes, where my waist creased into hips, and watched the stiffness of my youth move side to side. She traced down my flat length, passing the raw mosquito bites that swelled at my chest and back up to, where my polo hung loose at my neck.

She once said, holding my name out until it faded at the tip of her tongue. “When will you become a woman?” She turned to my mother and shook her head to let her laughter stretch through the living room. I bit down on the fatty pink skin inside my mouth. My mother just smirked and nudged me towards an answer.

“Mama Doris, I am a girl.”

“No, you are a boy—”

She said and massaged her lobes left to right in a circular motion. My teeth pinched at my bottom lip as she kneaded the droplets of skin, turning each over to show the blackened punctures. “How can you be a woman if you do not allow yourself to be pierced?”