To comfort her, they say that getting raped again
would be like getting struck by lightning twice. A lie.

How could they tell her that statistics prove that once
you're raped, you're like a broken foot? The cast is off;

the doctor says you're good as new, but two years down
the road, you misstep and fracture it again. This time,

the warnings come: how maybe you should watch your step
and now it's prone to injury, but it's your foot,

and you're not wearing orthopedic shoes, so next
time at an outdoor concert when some frat boy comes

down right on top of it, you don't even waste your time
with the ER. Instead, you go home and have a soak,

stay off your feet, then wrap it tight for a week or so
until it doesn't hurt too much to walk in heels.

Girdles and Corsets

I've never claimed to need them for support;
their job's to make unseemly bulges smooth.
They all have their own appeal: long ones, short
ones, French, Italian. I try to soothe
my inner feminist by saying I'm more
feminine in these traps designed by men—
they hide a bit of padding and restore
my form to its former self. Oxygen
is overrated, anyway. I need
less space to breathe than most. I find myself out
of sorts when not contained; I'm far from freed.
I doubt that I'm the first woman to shout
how liberating it feels when anything
can fit with just a little shimmying.

Paul Muldoon Reads "At Least They Weren't Speaking French"

His eyes, all dark, appear to have no whites,
like a bird's eyes—all iris and pupil. Large
glasses magnify the blinking. His suit,
dusty heather, matches his hair, and he's
Nabokov's owlet in "A Bad Day": "brown,
white-speckled, kept shifting this way and that."
"…mummer-stones…mummery…minimum…," he recites,
spitting feathers, pauses, looks up, then left.

Not just the TV owl you know and love—
peppering his peers with sage or not so sage
advice, he's also the creature that's surprised
you in the wild, or even caged. Beneath
the blinking eyes and fluffy feathers wait
a beak and claws to tear their catch in half.

Spring Break Chez Demeter

When she's here with me, I make her feel at home,
decorating to her taste of Laura Ashley
quilts and drapes, Ikea accent rugs
in polka dots of sunny yellow, grass green,
and sky blue, but as soon as she returns to the scuffed,
stone halls of her life away from me, I pack
up all her floral, bright, and frilly things,
revert to my minimalist taste of blank
white canvas, bare windows, and sculpted trees
with stripped branches that reach for Zen, not Zeus
because it's when she's gone that I'm at home.

Office Party

She wears an oxford like an invitation
envelope. He'd RSVP if he thought
it was addressed to him. Yeah, right. Maybe
it's for the guys in sales, but how could they be
who she pictured impressing when she'd blot
her lips, the last step in her transformation
from the shower to the door?
                                        He wasn't sure.
There was that lunch they shared a plate of wings:
dipping dripping, meaty bones in blue cheese,
tracing swirls of orange sauce. Now, he can feel it,
she bites into one of her greasy onion rings,
looks over, licks her fingers with conscious ease
as if she's licking an envelope to seal it.


Traci O'Dea's poems have appeared in Poetry, The Fiddlehead, Room of One's Own, and elsewhere. She is an associate editor for Smartish Pace where she is one of the judges for the annual Beullah Rose Poetry Prize for women. She currently lives in Monkton, Maryland, where she is revising her manuscript and writing a novel. In the fall she'll be moving to Lille, France.


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Judith Taylor: No one seems to disagree with me when I say there's something compelling about these images. Maybe it's because we're so inundated by the media with narrative that is manipulated and inflated that these honest little private struggles to say something touch us at the core. The eye with which we see them now is not the eye of the young writer, and that distance is interesting, surprising. Maybe the connection between the adolescent girl and the adult woman, or the diary page and the studio wall, is closer than I think.
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