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.
Heather Cousins holds an AB in Anthropology from Bryn Mawr College, an MA from the Writing Seminars of Johns Hopkins University, and a Ph.D. in English and Creative Writing from the University of Georgia. Her first book of poetry, Something in the Potato Room, was selected by Patricia Smith as the winner of the 2009 Kore Press Book Award and was published in January 2010 by Kore Press. Two of her poems have recently been nominated for Pushcart Prizes. She is a Park Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Georgia, where she teaches creative writing, literature, and composition.