Aglaope; Wedding Song (excerpt); Funeral for the Hymen
By: Noelle McManus
I eat the tendons
before I eat the bones
to feel a snap
somewhere in me
like mother used to say
like the slotting of brain
like how the waves wash the coast
and the shells cut my heel
all that red on such a small stretch
while my hands twitch
for something to hold
if I were to write my name
how might I spell it?
would the letters be?
mother used to wrap our hair in poetry
and I would read the patterns
her tears formed
on the papyrus
all my feathers slotting against the slits
in these stones
molting season again
maybe I will write a story today
maybe I will be able to
or maybe I will remember hunger
and sing a song for the sailors
all the same when night comes
I am no artist
I watch chunks of meat
strewn about the shore.
Wedding Song (excerpt)
Palermo looks like a forest
from the right angle. I clench
both my fists and find a place
in the garden, just now beginning
to grow damp with autumn. It
should have been me to signal the bus.
It should have been me feeding
the kittens. It should have been me
singing onstage at the peña. There are
so many things i haven’t yet done. Your hands
moving up my spine. It’s been so long
since someone touched me. It’s alright, I hear you saying,
look how the sky has changed. I look up.
It has, and I think it’s winter now, though I don’t know
enough to be able to tell. You hold open the car door for me,
laugh when I thank you. I want to kiss you. I want to kiss you,
your orange hair, your willowy limbs, the way you don’t look away.
I want you to hold me. I want you to remember me. I want to
forget some things and learn others, I want to shed fear like
an old skin, I hate it, I hate it, look now, the sky’s changing again,
the water’s lapping at the dock, I’m tossing my head back
behind a low-hanging branch and finding leaves in my lap,
it’s nearly raining again, and I want to kiss you. You touch my cheek
with your lips. Un adios argentino, you say. I only look at you.
Tengo que mejorarme. Tenés que mejorarte. Who will
wash you when you’re sick? Who will pull the covers
up to your chin? Who will drag open the persianas
in the morning? Who will clean up all your messes?
Who will walk with you when you’re old? When you’re
groaning? When your bones are all broke and brittle?
Who will laugh at your jokes? Who will listen
to your stories? Who will tell you stories right back?
who will ghost your neck with their fingers? Who will
dance with you? Who will write you poems? Who will compare
scars with you? They’re barely there now. All bumpy
and white. They look
like mine. I’ve stopped hiding my face from you
when I cry.
I’m not crying today. I won’t cry tomorrow.
The sky is pink over Puerto Madero.
Funeral for the Hymen
“It’s going to hurt,” she told me,
“and we’re going to bleed.”
Such was the burden saddled upon us.
Boys looked her way and she looked away
and the blinds were always too thin.
She rose, stumbling, from the water with an arm
shielding both her breasts, crying
As if there was anything I could do about it.
It’s been a long time
since I turned in that direction,
since I lay awake with her to pose questions
about their bodies and the hair on their stomachs
and how long we had to wait for them to spill.
Fear planted itself on us
like the barnacles sucking on the dock,
in the gaping maw I knew inside me.
Our teachers told us to pray a Hail Mary
if we went too far.
“Don’t let him go in,” they said.
“Don’t ever let him go in.”
Some nights I would undress and face myself in the mirror
and imagine Mary walking in my skin.
She’s happy now,
hangs off the arm of a good Catholic boy with tanned skin
and short, fat fingers.
I want to ask her,
does it hurt you?
She stumbles from the water, thighs
by the edge of the boat,
and he barks a laugh out at her.
I want to ask her,
does he lay you down like a bride?
does he make you bleed?
Some nights Mary crawls into bed beside me
and says she knows I want it.
Noelle McManus is a twenty-year-old writer from Long Island, New York who studies linguistics, Spanish, and German. Her work has been published in The Women's Review of Books and UMass Amherst's Jabberwocky. More information can be found atwww.noellemcmanus.com.
For Aglaope: "Aglaope is the name of a siren in Greek mythology, daughter of Melpomene, the Muse of tragedy. I’ve always thought that was such a funny thing—a man-eating monster born from a goddess of art. And I thought Aglaope herself would find it funny. Maybe find it a bit sad."
For Wedding Song (excerpt): "I studied in Buenos Aires for five months: February into June, summer into fall. There, I had one of the most profound depressive episodes I’d had in years, but I also learned what it meant to fall in love with a place. I expected to cry on the plane home. I didn’t."
For Funeral for the Hymen: "The two most important aspects of my life as a child were God and virginity. Neither was very loyal to me."