& also how a box of porcelain dolls looks almost like one body. Nine dresses flowering into one another, eighteen arms stretched up & each claret-red mouth painted perfectly shut. My mother sells them to the consignment shop for ten cents & a tiny dusk darkens in her girlhood. Not weeks before, for the first time, she woke to a startling of blood between her legs over teeth-white sheets—I’m dying, I’m dying— & her ditch-silent mother filling the bathtub with bleach. Even the street cats in heat were bleating too— I’m dying, I’m dying—& she learned a lot that summer: which ways not to walk alone at night, how to hush-up & shut her goddamn knees. She started to watch more carefully how her own mother drew two perfect lines up the back of her legs, saw eyeliner disappear like a dirt road slurring behind a hill. When they took her to the barber shop, they held her shoulder & her ponytail– orange as a gourde—was severed at the root. She watched it fall from her like a rag-doll, pillowing onto the floor. At home, she tucked the soft thing into her nightstand drawer—we are all cursed with something to care for—she thought of the tailor measuring the length of her thigh, his hot hand reaching up into her skirt. How she told no one of those nights she snuck outside with a saucer of milk, stood at the mouth of the lightless alley—called & called & called.

MEGHANN PLUNKETT is a poet, coder and lover of dogs. She is the winner of the 2016 Academy of American Poets Prize. Meghann is currently an MFA candidate at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale. Her poems can be found or are forthcoming in The Paris-American, Muzzle Magazine, Winter Tangerine, decamP Magazine, storySouth and the anthology Chorus (Simon & Schuster, 2012). Her essays and animated poems can be found in Luna Luna Magazine. She is the writer in residence at Omega Institution and the director of The Black Dog Tall Ship Writing Retreat on Martha’s Vineyard, MA.