Original Poetry / Poetry

Bloom Creative Writing: Poetry by AG Compaine

With the selection of this poem by AG Compaine, we continue our series of original fiction or poetry by writers who either published their first book at 40 or after, or who have yet to publish a book. Writers interested in submitting work should see our guidelines.

In My Sister’s Room

I’m not allowed to touch my sister’s things     not the pink
jewelry box on her long dresser        with the tiny dancer 
that pops up    when I open the lid    to listen to its tune  
not the gold-plated necklaces I’ve sometimes tangled    not     
the pale blue-capped aluminum pot     with the round puff 
                    that dusts powder on a little girl’s neck.
                            Her pink room where ballerinas dance
in pink slippers      over one entire wall 
where the big mirror hangs.
Her knick-knacks showing off      as in a magazine spread
on antique-white, faux-French dressers 
with soft enamel finish         gold-colored inlay  
around each shapely drawer pull        as if
this was the home of a mother who cares. 

Kids don’t need nice things, my mother spits
You just outgrow them or slop them up.
She’s never been one for spoiling, or
for frilly girl things       not that I can see.
It’s her wardrobe she takes hours to shop– 
drags me with her to Women’s Wear 
where she loses me      no matter 
how closely I follow       
And when I find her again    long minutes
later      she shakes her bouffant-head
asks me why I’m always underfoot   
rifles through another rack 
flicks each hanger     in its turn     from right to left
to see what they’re showing this season
looking for the best buys 
whether she needs them         or not.

Bobbi’s petticoat on a hanger 
on her doorknob 
bodice smooth as silk. Nobody’s looking
I strip off my shirt and pants     slip it on 
feel its tender sheen against 
my little boy’s chest   In the mirror    thin
ribbony straps ride my bony shoulders. 
Not her underclothes      this is my wedding dress
with a skirt that flares below the high waist    in tulle
ruffles that reach below my knees    offer just a hint 
of resistance as I twirl
using the slip of my socks on the hardwood
to spin the frills proud. 

My sister’s there     home from school 
in the doorway     wagging her bitter finger
Take it off!      Now!       She duns me 
with her grievances      how I scribbled 
in black marker on her dresser top    marred
the finish      how she never wanted me
sleeping in her room    in the first place.

She’s learned from Mommy 
to collect my crimes       hold them 
for when she needs them.

It’s my stuff. All of it. 
What’s wrong with you?  

                                  What’s wrong
is what’s flouncy    floral and delicious
pink    all that’s pretty    
receding       from my little boy’s reach. 
Words that cross me out
like an unforgiving marker
that stains. 

AG Compaine (e/eim/eis) is a psychiatrist and a psychotherapist who specializes in long term psychotherapy with adults who have childhood histories of trauma/abuse. e and eis husband are in the first generation of gay men who raised a child of their own together, and she has recently begun college. AG began writing poetry in the late 1990’s but has recommitted to eis writing since the pandemic. Starting in September 2021, e began to submit work for publication. e has had poems published in Willows Wept Review, Euphonia Journal, and The Tusculum Review.

Author photo courtesy of AG Compaine.
Ballerina photo by Merve Lyn, licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

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