THE MORAL IS
Like for most of the time you have been thinking of your body
as like not quite the main thing but like a consort beautifully throned
in lipstick and a negligee and negligence, in the coppery sun
setting tremulously behind the grasses and like patterning your back
your neck your face in leopard and this smile of rapture
legible to everyone as dieu et mon droit & like noli me tangere
wrought in chased silver on a coronet; and you beside her
reflecting all of it, holding her lovely hand in yours
but holding also that fine silver chain looped once around her neck
And when she gets older when like she's you
and you get older, and tugging the chain
like makes a voice speak that is not listened to
And like she grates and swells, she widens
and like loosens and the leopard cloak
is full of holes and opening new holes
beneath it, and the holes seem to go on
like into the core and then the smile
rattles against that tattered coat and stick
When she is no ambassador at all
however much soul clap its hands (when you)
(that’s you too) (clapping) do you like snuff her out
or muffle her in rugs and say don’t look don’t look
but talk like that bright talk that like eclipses her?
The answer is you never should have loved her
and you never should have loved her in that way
You should have set her free and let her carry you
over the green lawn and the blue sea heedless
of the coronet and all the dudes
clamoring clamoring. But like you didn’t.
Like she wore the dress and you did too,
so like you’re stuck with her, the rented coronet
like all the tinsel, like your featherbed of trash
like all those faces you can just peel off
and all your melted lipstick in a cup
like loop that chain around your legs and go to sleep
and like good luck with that
HOW I GOT BOYS TO NOTICE ME
I told that guy Michael who had a hole in his black jeans that I got sad sometimes, but I enjoyed being sad. I luxuriated in being sad. I would like look out the window into the night street tinted rose by the streetlights and feel the sadness welling up in me like water or a beautiful drug. He said, "I find that very attractive." Earlier he had said he found my friend Sally very attractive so I was happy to be attractive too, even if it was just for my melancholy temperament and not for my boobs. No one ever seemed to be interested in my boobs for some reason.
In retrospect I think they were high-quality boobs but whatever, guys.
I sang a song about flappers to two of my friends in the lobby at school. I sort of did a rudimentary Charleston and sang turned-up nose, rolled-down hose/Flapper yeah, she's one of those. I think Simon sort of raised an eyebrow in my direction. No such thing as bad press.
I told everyone's erotic fortune on Valentine's Day. I read an essay in the New Yorker out loud in a passionate voice. I spun in circles in the rain. I walked around in that red dress with a copy of Ulysses. I talked and talked about reading Ulysses in the park. Throw and go, girl. Just mention reading Ulysses in the park and move on to something else.
The only thing that worked was I made you that choose your own adventure, on legal paper with a Bic pen. Officially I made it for my little brother. They call these teddy bear tricks. I tricked you into choosing. This was the ending. On this page where I no longer really like to be sad. Where no real grown-up does.
CAOLAN MADDEN has an MFA from Johns Hopkins and is currently a PhD candidate in English literature at Rutgers. Her poetry and essays have appeared in Triple Canopy, Bone Bouquet, and WEIRD SISTER, where she is a contributing editor. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and daughter.