Shop Is for Boys
by Brenda Davis Harsham

I’ll tell you a secret.
When I was a girl,
shop class was for boys.
They sawed, hammered
and sanded birdhouses.
In place of shop,
I learned to make a roux
and divide recipes by two.
I pretended not to be
jealous, but I was.

One steamy summer,
I signed up for sculpture.
I wanted to carve.
I wanted to weld.
I wanted to create
structures taller than me.

I started with wood —
four glued-together,
two-inch-thick boards of
heavy mahogany.
The bandsaw looked big
enough to slice off my arm.
But I carved off corners
as if I knew what to do.
I chiseled, swinging
my mallet with arms that
grew stronger every day.
My gouge released curls of wood.
The scent of fresh wood
The belt sander screamed
like death itself. My bird took
shape as I sweated,
stopping to look from all sides.

My teacher told me what to buy,
how to assemble, how to reduce,
to scrap away, to reveal.
I treasure my bird,
my sculpture,
even though it’s smaller than me.
To me, it symbolized
my trying to fly —
a girl woodworking,
finally taking tools
meant for others
and owning them.
The boys made
I made a bird.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: Photograph from college, a few months after carving the bird.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I’ve always liked to build and create. Once I wasn’t forced to strictly follow recipes as I was in Home Economics (the alternative to shop), I realized that creation is part of cooking, too. Now I’m grateful that I can make a roux. I’ve always wanted to take another sculpture class, but I have never found time.


Brenda Davis Harsham
lives and works in New England. Her poetry and prose has been published in on-line literary websites or journals including Silver Birch Press, The Writing Garden, and The Paperbook Collective. One of her poems won First Place in NY Literary Magazine’s Awake Best Poetry Contest and is forthcoming in NY Literary Magazine’s Awake anthology. Another poem is forthcoming in the Best of Today’s Little Ditty Anthology.