13 YEARS OF AGE
PORTRAIT OF A GIRL
WITH COMIC BOOK
Thirteen’s no age at all. Thirteen is nothing.
It is not wit, or powder on the face,
Or Wednesday matinees, or misses’ clothing,
Or intellect, or grace.
Twelve has its tribal customs. But thirteen
is neither boys in battered cars nor dolls,
Not Sara Crewe or movie magazine
Or pennants on the walls.
Thirteen keeps diaries and tropical fish
(A month, at most); scorns jumpropes in the spring;
Could not, would fortune grant it, name its wish;
Wants nothing, everything;
Has secrets from itself, friends it despises;
Admits none of the terrors that it feels;
Owns a half a hundred masks but no disguises;
And walks upon its heels.
Thirteen’s anomalous - not that, not this:
Not folded bud, or wave that laps a shore,
Or moth proverbiaI from the chrysaIis.
Is the one age defeats the metaphor.
Is not a town, like childhood, strongly walled
But easiIy surrounded; is no city.
Nor, quitted once, can it be quite recalled -
Not even with pity.
© Phyllis McGinley
“Portrait of a Girl With Comic Book”
by Phyllis McGinley: from Times Three
by Phyllis McGinley.
Copyright 1952 by Phyllis McGinley.