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by Heather Cousins

  • As an eight year old, I wanted stiletto heels,
  • silk scarves, big sunglasses, and the diamond
  • tennis bracelets shown on The Price is Right,
  • models waving their polished hands
  • like swan wings. In the laundry room,
  • I caught glimpses of my own mother’s worn-out bras,
  • elastic fraying, cups collapsed like sad cheeks,
  • gray as dishwater, and underwear of plain workaday
  • cotton in a puddle—leg-hole ripples,
  • alongside the dead fish of her socks.
  • If I learned French, good things would happen
  • to me. I studied a thin Berlitz book
  • decorated with a photograph of the Eiffel Tower,
  • wide corset hips in front of a blue sky. Alone,
  • I’d sit on the edge of my bed, legs crossed
  • at the ankles, straight-backed, and whisper merci
  • beaucoup café au lait et fromage salle de bains,
  • feeling myself becoming more mademoiselle. My hair
  • lifted itself off my back and coiled into a bun;
  • my mouth became a scent factory, teeth
  • little glass decanters at the parfumerie.

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