Berfrois

Three Drafts of the Teenage Girl: Poems by Rachel Mennies

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First Draft of the Teenage Girl

I grow a back for bearing, a mouth
for preference.
I want the garden green and gold

and red, to tongue
its nothing seeds, its shit.
I want the body ambitious to break

ground for my ambitious want.
I walk the body straight to hunger,
then I open hunger’s mouth.

I put the world on my body’s tongue
and soon the world
flattens before me,

prone. I hold the world
tight between my hands,
and the world, smiling,

curls my palms
into fists.

Second Draft of the Teenage Girl

The girl in the backseat
has designs. She lives
near an ocean, swims to boats
that advertise oysters and beer:
long and trapped and still
lengthening. And the boy
on top of her is hook, the boy
is line, anything but ocean.
The boy is salt, her mouth
wrinkling with it—
she cannot survive
in the water but here it is,
summoned and tidal,

and the next time she swims
she swims away from the living
leftrightleft, both for tide
and against, leaving
no displacement in the green,
swift like dart or scissor
or shark, slight
as a page on its side.

The Teenage Girl Cannot Be Revised

I see the opened lube and condoms
in her drawer beside the pages ripped

from the romances at the Garland
of Letters, the bereft rest returned

to the shelf. I help her wash
the dirty underwear, watch her

dry it dripping on the line
in the shower at midnight—

I tell her yes, every teenage girl
must become a liar. 

Together we lift the bottle of bleach,
measure its chemical shroud

at the sink. She insists on eating
her longing whole,

her hands thrust in the bucket
until they burn.

She keeps saying forever
when she really means to say more.


About the Author:

Rachel Mennies is the author of The Glad Hand of God Points Backwards, winner of the 2013 Walt McDonald First-Book Prize in Poetry, and the chapbook No Silence in the Fields. She serves as the series editor (2015-) for the Walt McDonald First Book Prize in Poetry at Texas Tech University Press, teaches writing at Carnegie Mellon University, and is a member of AGNI’s editorial staff.