“I’m so tired of being good.” — Allison Vernon Williams, played by Amy Locane in the film Cry-Baby, written and directed by John Waters.
Rachel Ronquillo Gray is a Kundiman, Pink Door, Las Dos Brujas, and VONA fellow. Her work has appeared on Public Radio International, Hyphen Magazine, Glass, Tinderbox Poetry, Tahoma Literary Review, and other places. She currently lives, writes, and makes food in Bloomington, Indiana, all with her daughter strapped to her chest.
Welcome to the Poets Weave. I'm Romayne Rubinas Dorsey. Rachel, what poems have you brought for us today?
Girl as Teenage Rebellion
Our violets are too good to wilt. We will play willow
sonatas, fill our hollow places with glittery feathers,
stuff our knee-high socks full of coal. We learn that August
sunflowers don’t break themselves. Instead they bow
their weighty heads, they watch their shadows move.
We look in mirrors every morning and get lost.
Our night-fresh hair like strange petals, we lean
toward a winter sun, a girlish outcrop of asters.
Good Girl Gone Rogue
If it is wrong to love a boy whose only home is a motorcycle
& the open road, then I’m not right & don’t want to be. I wear
the white dresses anyway. I sing in a soprano anyway. Everything I say
is a question. I’m so tired of being good. His mother warns me
he will leave, like his father left her, & still, I hike up my dress
& climb onto the back of his bike. I know the leather jacket
he gives me was for another girl. I wear it as if he bought it for me,
breathing big to fill the other-girl-shaped hole. Sleeves too long,
it keeps me warm against the ocean breeze. I walk beside him at night,
wearing this jacket & holding a white daisy. It’s the one thing I know
he picked for me. Everyone tells me he won’t last. Would it be so bad
if he didn’t & in the end, it was just me. Would it be so bad to spread
myself all over the place, let my dresses rip & fly, leave them tangled
in the weeds. Would it be so bad to love the wind & its wispy fingers
in my unbound hair & its grit on my skin. A heavy thing that sings
between my legs & in my palms, my heart, my everywhere-else.
Would it be so bad to trust my body to keep me alive, to lean into wicked
curves & switchbacks, to crave a silence filled with birds, highways, me.
Girl as Full Moon
I want to kill off my desires, or they will haunt
me, a horizon of yellow moons sagging
with want. & I want so much: brooding tide,
cave echo, dirt starlit road, open mouth kiss,
hand fisted in tangles. Sometimes, a moon
is just a moon. An eclipse is just an eclipse,
not light reversed. Sometimes, light doesn’t
reveal anything, but blinds us. South of my mouth,
some say I am like the moon, full of light
and meaning and life that I never wanted.
Sometimes, a womb is just a womb. Why
can’t I be just a girl, mostly blood & salt,
obsidian & air. Isn’t that life anyway.
Girl as America the Beautiful
I expect the horizon to rise sometime before twilight.
A cowboy mountain, mouthfuls of silence, gravel in his beard.
It’s iron-flat from here, even the sky won’t pleat.
I am lying between a cornfield & a hard place.
I write patience across all my pages. A landscape of shimmery hills.
There for all travelers to see. My black-clump eyelashes flicker.
Stomach of dark soil, lungs of sunset frost. I fill with rows of highwayside crops.
Stalks spear above my dirtface & crumbling thorns. To say, here, these things grow in me:
Scattered skylost crows. A patriotic song swelters. Heavy hands fingerpistiled in wait
for lustful bees. Spread me thick across a dizzy cornfield. Harvest me. Feed me gold
& oatish to livestock, patient & hungry. I am heartland.
A starving sky. All violet majesty.
You've been listening to poems by Rachel Ronquillo-Gray on the Poets Weave. I'm Romayne Rubinas Dorsey.