This week in the PEN Poetry Series, PEN America features a poem by Christine Larusso, whose debut collection, There Will Be No More Daughters, is out now from Northwestern University Press. 



             “. . . just the girls and their routines . . .”
                                          —Tim Martin for the Museum of Modern Art


They said:
                                                                 “keep writing

             about the body. Also that            “the ones who keep writing will
                                always write.” Like: the scab that heals, but: scar tissue.

                                                                 Your heart may be a little candlewax.
                                                                 Your heart may smoke of palo santo.

                                Solving for the mission, I pull each paper 
                                                                          from the fortune teller’s desk.

                                                                 You may ache on the left side.

                                It is Tuesday so you seek a new fate
                                                                 for your spine.

             Balance the datebook on your head for maximal alignment.

During the days with crystal-and-glitz
                                in-check, I was a locked box
             with a clock inside.                          I timed every move of my bone,
                                                                                down to the finish line.

                                                           Play with girls but be as strong as boys.
                                                           You may ache on the left side.

                                                                                                                      When I
                                                                                            was young,
                                                                                                     I didn’t smile

for photographs.                    When they ask why
                                                        she doesn’t smile

                                for photographs                     the tennis player says:


                                                                 “I don’t want to be here”


When I was a camera, I didn’t smile for photographs.

                                                      Ask the code and ye shall be a locked box
                                            with a clock inside.
                                                      Your heart may play with girls but be
                                            as strong as boys.

                                                    They said:

                                       “You can’t be good at ballet.”

                                                                                                With thighs like that.

                Someone took a photograph
                of my scar tissue      for the performance.         One man yells out.

                                                                                           Then another.
                                                                                           And another.

                           In a city full of men, I ask my women to build

                           the mountains and attack from the Forest. With thighs like that,

                           we can climb.

                                                                  They said:

                                                     “Fish and shoot like a girl.”

            I have known two guns in my life
                                         and I know them as biceps.

                                                          I wander this forest, a key hung from my hip.
                                                          With thighs like this.

                                         With this muscle, a compass.



Once a week, the PEN Poetry Series publishes work by emerging and established writers from coast to coast. Subscribe to the PEN Poetry Series mailing list and have poems delivered to your e-mail as soon as they are published (no spam, no news, just poems).