A short list of facts about my
even shorter life:
I grew up in a picket-fenced house, white, barefoot on the lawn,
never out of sight of caring eyes. Never been book smart.
The arts of word and figure whip at the skin, and sink
only so far as to bring no pain to idle fingers grown too old,
too prone to think, too savvy for spindle’s certainty.
But who needs the gentle spinning of
minds upon themselves?
Not this unshod heedless girl growing like dandelions, soft
toward sunshine, held aloft. Not this fleet and fated
canary in the mine -- golden-tressed -- all the better
to be stroked with a finger. Dressed, but not to kill.
All the better to cry out, high and sweet:
I have three brothers who will, no doubt, be fathers to
girls, worth only the price of their faces. Climb back
into the foliage of my family tree; unpack the myth.
Look for the dead-end branches, the leaves that fell
prematurely brown, the senseless summer deaths,
force-pruned. Name every wound. Let the men live on
to tell the stories, drop tears like leaves; the girls,
like me, forewarned. Always avenged but never mourned.
The ghosts of my sisters are tangled like twigs in my hair.
According to my mother, bad things will happen if sex
is not the enemy--the bogeyman--the thing that appears
when you call his warm and salty name too many times.
But I've made friends with sex, shaken his hand, slicked my own
along my slit. Gone postal, gone on heat, gone to bed
with whomever I pleased.
I want to shake the shame from every sordid act, expose
the joy beneath. I want my ohs and ahs to taste divine;
I want the aftershock and calm thereafter, gluten heavy
limbs, my whims and wishes catered for. To shiver awake
to a hand on my spine and
a mouth on my on-switch, my rhymes-with-slit.
The things I want have names and I
have called them all from treetops.
My favourite colour is green, though all my shirts
are bridal pale.
(Less for innocence and more for the sweat of my fear:
transforming, transparent. Red on green will not show up
in black and white.)
A certain type of beauty is said to invite the eyes and
also the empty sockets of Death to take a peek.
Fairest of them all; so very fair that one can see
my veins beneath the skin. My bones lie
close to the surface and suck at the air, asking to be freed
from the unnatural shocks of flesh. My thousands
and thousands of cells clang shut and count the hours.
Even Death can’t make up his mind how he wants me:
bent over the bed, in the sudsy tub, skewered,
done like a dog. Heated up and eaten out
like the missionaries, chained at hand and foot.
Choked and breathless to the end. Pale skin
exposed and peeled right back, gin-drunk painted
Jezebel rose, oyster tongued and eagerly
spreadeagled. Passive, perfect; naked in the shower,
screaming my way at the top of my lungs
toward a little death. Reverse cowgirl with blood on her neck--
erchief. Miss Scarlet Woman in the library, with the rope.
Bad things happen to girls who want too much.
There is no point to me if I don’t die young;
after all, what could I possibly grow up to be?
Thank you for asking.
Writer, dancer, lawyer, plumber, actor, baker,
soldier, singer, doctor, mother, builder, teacher,
wife? Just give me life, and see what I can spin.
I might have grown, up and ever up toward the sun,
into a person who was something more than this:
useless in a crisis (loses her head),
but good for a grope, canary trope,