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Marianna White

At a Time of Night When Your Mother Says Nothing Good Can Happen

Shy women shake on street corners
with lips like muted hours and eyes
like light struck across dark waters.

They are not wearing much at all
and keep trying to tell the stopping men
about all the places their knees
have been. The bad bus stops
and dirty nails in their shoulders.

How the grey first came
swallowing up their girl letters,
curving their spines.

That they don’t drink wine—
they dropped that rosary long ago
in the burned copper bottom of an empty sky.
But whenever they do,
they think of the moon

and the pills that chased away
fever dreams—the ones
where pomegranates cracked open
against stone ledges and agates tumbled out.

About the small aches,
tender backs in empty rooms.
The dead

carved soap corpses deep
in the ground. Spinning underfoot.
Spiraling out of their coffins
in a wake of varnished wood.

This is how it goes for a long time.
The women’s boiling words
rising to street lamps
because shame is only ever
shame in the dark.

And the men, they pull
out of their mouths
to listen. Like okay, let’s make
you young again.


To the Child with the Hurt Chest

If your fears are ever proved true
and your ribs are the empty birdcage
in this grand room.
If the shame is hot steel in your hands
and the rain’s not doing its job.

If your anatomy is a crumpled coke can.

As you’ve suspected since the week
children were plucked like Persephone from classes,
sent home to soap and scrub
the misfortune off their young bodies.

As you’ve thought since the sixth grade slumber party,
where you dared Annika Lev to strip,
and your breath ran away
through the slack in your jaw.

Ever since the Atlantis between your thighs rose,
pushing your tides to shores
they’d never touched before,
uncurling something
sharp, new, and dank
from its nook inside your belly.
You found your crippled tongue in the cavern
of another blonde girl’s mouth,
thinking it tasted familiar.

If it ever comes out that your eyes
were never the windows into your soul
that you wanted them to be,
do not think of high buildings or high ways,
of missed stop signs
or intersections. Child, no.

There is a dried-up wellspring
buried deep in your throat.
The twelve o’clock shadow left over
from all those graces that you spat
through the gap in your teeth.
The only blessing you ever needed
was paved into your skin the day
you were sent squalling from the Technicolor Womb.
When you dragged the afterbirth behind you
was the first time this world saw red.


Marianna White grew up in Seattle, WA but is currently living across the country for my first year in college and studying creative writing (fingers crossed). She has a lot of siblings and a dog who she misses terribly. She rows competitively and when she feel awkward she curl into a ball regardless of where she is. She is just starting to send out my poetry and if  she could be any animal she’d want to be a cheetah.

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