By Patricia Colleen Murphy
My closet of dresses is a hanging museum. Coveting
makes why and what-if lighter. Is this my only agency?
The boy two doors down called me Bitch to my face.
I was 15 years old. What else would I be?
My mother swallowed a bottle of pills and I saved her life.
In ninth grade even the teachers whispered behind their hands.
That brown house was a little asylum with not enough meds.
I spent hours rearranging the furniture in my bedroom.
Mom stopped sleeping, eating. Spent hours rocking in a chair.
One cousin and two family friends told me I should be nicer.
I took a job as a clown at a restaurant where kids ate free.
I came home evenings exhausted and covered in face paint.
My body was changing and none of my clothes fit.
There are countless ways to be stripped. I’m still in training.
Patricia Colleen Murphy teaches creative writing at Arizona State University where she is the founding editor of the literary magazine SUPERSTITION REVIEW. Her poetry collection BULLY LOVE was chosen by Tom Lombardo as the winner of the 2019 Press 53 Award for poetry, and her poetry collection HEMMING FLAMES was chosen by Stephen Dunn as the winner of the 2016 May Swenson Poetry Award. Her work has appeared in many journals including THE IOWA REVIEW, QUARTERLY WEST, THE AMERICAN POETRY REVIEW and others. A chapter of her memoir-in-progress was published as a chapbook by NEW ORLEANS REVIEW. You can read more at patriciacolleenmurphy.com