Alexa Derman is a student at Yale University. Her work is featured or forthcoming in
Word Riot, The Sierra Nevada Review, Hanging Loose, 2 Bridges Review, and The Adroit
Journal. A collage piece "Variations on Ophelia" was recently listed as a Notable Selection
in Best American Nonrequired Reading 2014.
A boy calls it Grecian and I say, Good,
I want to look like Medea. Dear imperial neckline,
give me the posture of Helen; dear silk netting,
cloak me in an imperceptible blue that says Circe,
tantalizing. I want the black beading under my bust
to be molten, like the small squinting eyes of
so many crows. Let the slit up my side be a war
wound, the stomach of an apocalypse, guts
of a river snake, trembling. See me and think
of gouging, these folds of fabric the undertow
of a flash flood, ravishing, raping, like Jezebel,
Delilah, Lilith, hemline of a carnivore.
Make the ribbon round my waist turn to ivy,
black vine choking, a thong of untouchable.
I do not need help with the buttons.
I say, I want to be fatal.
What Not to Wear
Spring cleaning: fingers find the appliqués on
the crepe dress from past easters, discard it
onto the give away pile on the bed. Too babyish,
—petal tips & butterfly clips childlike, remnants of
a sixth grade girl. The gauzy sundress from
the girl scout dance last august is folded neatly beneath
the sheer chiffon blouses that require little girl camis,
necklines of starched lace & rosebuds. Here is your first
training bra, the unwired fabric like the chastity
of a princess: fragile, filmy, the color of ice-creams.
You hand me the too-small bikini, and the pink is
clean fingernails, the kiss of a clam,
kid pearls—to toss. I consider the old white
wedding sandals, their nudge of heel, the sequins
like starfish. Now you wear leggings like skinny jeans,
smudge liner on your top lid and call it adulthood,
declare pedal pushers infantile. We make a stack
of ribbon headbands, hair ties with butterfly beads,
put them in the donate box. Now you can reach
the closet's top shelf, pass down
the lavender sweater and camisole to pack away.
Teenagers, you tell me, don't wear twinsets.
In the poem I have written you
convulse like a cathedral, all sculpted arches,
built with careful symmetries. Bruises become
hydrangeas, the purples orgasming
into spectacular blues, the yellows
like sunshine, so unoriginal.
Everything is before and after, and "before"
uses words like porcelain, and perfect,
and similes for what it means
to be a sort-of virgin. It�s all so easy:
black / red / stained / shattered
a language I don�t remember learning or not knowing.
Simple lines where you're gorgeous in the same way
Lucrece is. Too vague to be a poem about the two of us.
My baby's like nobody else's. She likes to disembowel herself on the bathroom floor and shimmy out of her skin like some jungle-born snake. My baby's into all kinds of kinky shit and roleplays "let's pretend you're taking my virginity" almost every night. She stuffs her bra with pamphlets on hymen reconstruction surgery. She's nobody's bitch.
My baby's smeared all over with purple and spit, and has hair that screams up to the ceiling. She poses for Bellevue polaroids like nothing you've ever seen and spreads her legs for stirrups like a goddamn fox. My baby could take down two guys if she wanted to. She can turn a sketch artist into a sniveling pile of goo. She can make a cop beat red and have him eat his words with just the phrase "vaginal stitches." She can squeeze a hand so hard she snaps it. She eats goddamn bullets for breakfast.
My baby is the queen of wheelchairs, the empress of pursed lips and upturned chins. You think her eye looks bad? You should see the other guy. She could comb her hair for twenty goddamn hours and never get bored—when's the last time you ever met a woman who could do that? She can swallow four Xanax in four minutes. She could rip a space invader out of herself with just a coat hanger.
My baby's too good for retail or ramen—she holds out for the real shit, work that means something, even if it means sitting on the couch and chewing on her fingers. She's got eyes that could put herself into a coma. She's so blue—turns on the shower so hot she'll sweat off her flesh. With the lights off and the steam on, she laughs so hard she cries about whoever thought.
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