Across the Street from the Whitmore Home for Girls, 1949
The Mad Girls climb the wet hill,
breathe the sharp air through sick-green lungs.
The Wildest One wanders off like an old cow
and finds a steaming breast inside a footprint in the snow.
She slips it into her glove, holds it close like a darling.
At night, she suckles the lavender tit, still warm
in her hard little hands. She drapes it over her heart—
the closest she will ever come to a Woman Thing.
She sleeps on her right side with the breast
tucked between her legs. Her eyes flutter like a rocked doll.
She dreams of Before the Father, when her body
was smooth as a crab, her fingers
tip-toe soft. Her mouth was a shining crown,
her hair moved like a hungry dog.
Outside her bedroom, the Lonesome Boys hide in trees
to watch the Father lift her gown.
In the morning, she is who she is again.
Her hair, a soft black brick, her body held together
by hammers. The breast is shriveled up. Gone cold
in her lap. A death-blue fish with one stone eye.
Copyright © 2014 by Rachel McKibbens. From Beloit Poetry Journal, Split This Rock Edition. Reprinted from Split This Rock’s The Quarry: A Social Justice Poetry Database.
Rachel McKibbens was born in Anaheim, California. She is the author of blud (Copper Canyon Press, 2017), Into the Dark & Emptying Field (Small Doggies Press, 2013) and Pink Elephant (Cypher Books, 2009). McKibbens is a two-time New York Foundation for the Arts poetry fellow and the 2009 Women of the World Poetry Slam champion. She co-curates the monthly reading series Poetry & Pie Night with poet Jacob Rakovan in upstate New York, and is the founder of The Pink Door Writing Retreat, an annual event open exclusively to women, femme, trans, gender-variant, and non-binary writers of color. She lives in Rochester, New York.
Date Published: 2016-03-24
Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/across-street-whitmore-home-girls-1949