Poem. Melissa Morphew. This is the Syntax Called Bettie Page.


Even as a child, I learned
the importance of beauty, every

spring, fall—that knowledge
a privilege.  I remember

when I was seven, my father
told me “you radiate penstemon light—a wild

pink snapdragon perpetually posed
as bee-swelled kiss.”  Those words

like pollen-dust, a stamen-sweet prize.  Ecstatic—
a lace collar lit my face, my black hair

softly clasped in gold barrettes.  The perfect
little girl—innocent, irresistible,

unapproachable.  The looks.  The whispers.
I pretended those stairs led to a bedroom

of white-curtained windows.
I was shy,

wanted to dance, graceful
ballerina, straight and sleek, to starve myself.

That summer I turned 14, I stalled
on the corner before I went in, chewing four

Dubble Bubbles, the start of a roller-coaster year.
An angel napped under the umbrella-sunset, checking out

the topless women of Boca Raton; misspelled sister-notes:
He’s so cute I can barely stand—it makes me hunger.

Everyone kept me in dark, red-lit rooms
from beginning to end.  I spent half the time thinking—

It’s my birthday! Blow out the candles.  Nothing has
changed—rose-dolloped cake, dime-store presents, silver confetti,

fever.  I want to know what that future
may not hold.

One Response to “Poem. Melissa Morphew. This is the Syntax Called Bettie Page.”

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