Leslie Anne Mcilroy
I watch my daughter’s slow yet
sudden transformation, like in the book
I buy to explain impossibilities:
cartoon breasts budding, nipples
and fine hair followed by blood.
Why don’t I remember my first bra,
learning to shave? And shouldn’t
I have some recall beyond body
parts diagrammed in health class,
whispered in locker rooms, exalted
in this age of menstrual celebration?
What am I not saying?
Of all the damages, this one
is indelible. It is blood and it comes
from inside you. You feel it like fear,
between your legs, on your thighs,
it hurts — and there’s no attaching
that smell to the idea that you can
have a baby now, that you
All I can think is that I don’t want her
to have to stick something up her,
to carry a purse and have cramps,
to skip softball on Sunday, saying
she’s “on the rag.” You say,
You just don’t want your little girl
to grow up. I say I want to remember
exactly how it was — the white pants,
the rubbers, the clogged toilets,
the abortion — so when she comes
to me with blood on her panties,
her fingers, I don’t look at her
and say she is a woman now,
I don’t lie like that.
My face hurts and still, you don’t call me ugly.
See here, where I am bleeding? Pieces of me
scraped away, drying up, disappearing/dust.
And these scabs? Small metaphors for healing.
Beneath them, scars, small metaphors for not.
It’s not always. Nothing like those girls who cut
their legs with razors. Nothing like that at all.
You would have to be crazy, no, to cut your skin
and think blood would drain the ugly away? And
then there’s the hiding — lies and long sleeves —
and the scabs, the scars, the next time.
Leslie Anne Mcilroy won the 2001 Word Press Poetry Prize for her full-length collection Rare Space, the 1997 Slipstream Poetry Chapbook Prize for her chapbook Gravel andthe 1997 Chicago Literary Awards Competition judged by Gerald Stern. Her second full-length book, Liquid Like This, was published by Word Press in 2008. Leslie’s work appears in numerous publications including Dogwood, The Mississippi Review, New Ohio Review, Pearl and is forthcoming in Barely South Review. Leslie works as a copywriter in Pittsburgh, PA, where she lives with her daughter Silas.