This poem is a sestina
in which I say the word fuck.
Shocking, I know, because pretty
girls like me are supposed to be clean
mouthed pristine and otherwise perfect,
An angel rapture-ready and made of wood.
When in my youth I expressed myself, men would
always chastise me. I lived my life by sestina
rules, strictly within the lines, F-A-E-B-D-C in perfect
fear of infraction, of one slipped out “fuck!”
to ruin the restrictive diet of my scrubbed clean
soul, purged of all its feeling, starved into being pretty.
Like moth to flame, purity always comes back to pretty,
a weaponized saving of face, hysteric: honey-would-
you-cross-your-legs (shrill) and keep-your-language-clean-
young-lady, because it’s beneath you, unworthy of a sestina,
and you know that Catholics don’t say fuck—
or have you forgotten? We’re abstinence-only, a perfect
facsimile of God’s predestined plan: our perfect
education in ignorance. It’s white lace picture-pretty,
this illusion of goodness, but the shame burns like all fuck.
My hands shake with wanting that veil of virtue, wishing it would
be enough to be pure, ribbon-bound beautiful and sestina-
flawless, but inescapable truth: this isn’t a heart made clean.
I escape this bear-trap culture; with rabid teeth I’ve chewed clean
through bone and sinew, cornered desperation born of a perfect
fear of death, marrow on my tongue like the lines of a sestina.
Purity is only a white lace lie, a phantom fiction I trash like my pretty
pink razors, sprawling on the subway, brawling with men who would
harass me, reclaiming my God-given right to a heartfelt ‘fuck’—
In the spaces between breaths, in the vulgarity of fuck,
I’ve built a chapel to my freedom: the good clean
burn of honest living, the raw-plank pine wood
scent of swearing when you mean it, imperfect
and unshaved, unbound from their pretty
restrictions that choke this sestina
before it would say its first fucking words: this poem is a sestina
in which I say the word fuck and it’s shocking, I know, not pretty,
not clean-mouthed, but honest and ugly and otherwise perfect.