Lucy in Chrysalis

Nancy Reddy

One year every girl in town smelled sweet
with blood. That was the year you rode your high horse
to the corner store, the year you fell in love

with the sentence, how the thrust & stumble
of syntax always makes good its promises.
You spend lunchtime on the schoolyard

digging worms & blessing each one
before tossing its mulchy body skyward.
In the lunchroom the other girls purse

their glossed lips & clear the table. Now
it’s your birthday. The sliced cake sweats grease
in the backyard. Soda fizzles in Dixie cup rows.

The other girls whisper & giggle, won’t sing, won’t
eat. The rented magician’s jokes go flat & worst of all,
your chest is flat, though the big girls told you

that when you finally passed the pencil test
they’d take you to the Bon-Ton to buy a real
bra with white lace & a front clasp for when the boys

snap, & you try it, but your row of sharpened number 2s
clatter to the tile one by one. You decide you’re sick
of being a girl. You’ve read the books & know

the time has passed for your discovery as a caterpillar
or a Cinderella. You ride your bike to town
& beg the wandering saints summering

in the town square’s gazebo to take them with you
when the flock flies south for winter. You’re done
being the girl left holding the tincan telephone’s slack end.

You’d rather be a hayfield or a hatpin. You thought
by now you’d be a grocer or an acrobat.