When I was seventeen my mother
sat me down and told me the truth of things,
that I could not hitchhike wide
and fast across the country, could not
become starlit highway jazz, swinging
car to car tuned to the old devil moon
You simply cannot do it, Judith,
you’re a girl and girls have more to fear
than fender benders. The rest hangs
unclouded—rape at the hands
of psycho killers haunting roadsides
with their broken tires, armed with
beefy Kemper bodies and
doors with broken locks.
My brother William, tall and eager and
crossing state lines every summer since
he was fifteen, already put holes
in the boots they bought him last Christmas.
Our adventurer, they called him.
When I was five I had a doll
named Miranda, and her clean
porcelain body always looked
brand new, untouched as if still
sealed and boxed.
Oh, Judy, mother said,
look at the way she looks after her dolly.
Already made the nurturer
before leaving the womb,
I open my window, delivered
to the open black
yellow-striped night. Somewhere,
a song starts to play.
AN EIGHT YEAR-OLD GIRL IN A NAVY BLUE SWEATSUIT
An eight year-old girl in a navy blue sweatsuit walks
into her sixteen year-old sister’s room.
The sister spies her infantile form, fresh skin and jellied legs,
and says, Let’s play a game.
The eight year-old girl in her hand-me-down blues
looks out the window into the deepening day.
She knows an end is coming.
She has agreed to play before, but
she can’t remember the rules.
Dad’s home. She can hear the splashing,
the running hose, the slop of soap on steel.
He’ll stay outside. Come on, lay down.
The eight year-old girl lies down, wants to play but
behind her head the sky is suspended upside down.
Look, the sky is falling.
Her sixteen year-old sister lays on one elbow and
five of her fingers go invisible inside a small pair of
navy blue sweatpants. The eight-year old girl closes her eyes,
taking chunks of carpet into her fists
as if she could hold herself there and stay unchanged.
She dreams she is buried there on that carpet,
preserved, pristine, in the before.
A lid is shut tight and she sinks
down deep. Past floorboards, past cement, into fresh-dug earth.
Away from hands reaching to touch, voices asking to be heard.
She goes within. Another comes without.
That crystalline creature, crawling from its underground, will never know
what the eight year-old girl would have become.
When I was in high school
there was a boy who said
offhand, quick and careless,
“If you leave high school and
you’re still a virgin, you’re either
a prude, a bitch, or ugly.”
The words stayed with me forever, and
I never stopped wondering which I was.
I wanted sex, so I couldn’t be a prude.
Mean at times, but meek and shy to most.
Ugly. That one never went away.
The word echoed in my canyon ears,
strong enough to stay, to
keep whistling through
the chasms of my mind long
after I left high school and long
after I went to college.
Twenty-three years old and I
hated mirrors, what I saw there.
Every line of my face a reminder I was
iron branded by a failure to
be wanted, which is the
same, we are told,
to be a girl.
Taylor DeBlase is a poet and writer whose work has appeared in Amaranth, Legendary Women and The Healing Muse. She currently resides in her hometown of Baltimore, but she has plans to move to the Big Apple. She recently graduated from UMUC with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English.