The Dead Beauty Queens of the South

“I Love A Girl Who,” a poem by Katherine Noble

The Dead Beauty Queens of the South

I Love A Girl Who

I.

Pretend the beauty queen didn’t turn him away
        when he came over after she received grand prize.
        She invited him inside, he fiddled with the clasp on her pearls.

Should we take a walk in the pecan grove? Lily
        in left hand, knife in right.
        He asked first, she just couldn’t say.

              I love a girl who begs until she gets.
              I love a girl who can’t go anywhere without.
              I love a girl who will kneel down and.

II.

At twenty-one, I fell in love
        at a music festival— then, life
        just one obvious symbol.

Us alone on the ferris wheel, imagine. Music from its neon axis,

Camptown ladies sing this song
        do-dah, do-dah.

              I love a girl who offers to pay.
              I love a girl who swears every time she.
              I love a girl who can’t resist.

The tin buckets rolling into paradise.
        Tennessee brimmed with stars. My cheap nose ring fell out.
        Smell of June wind, fat fried, marijuana.

What didn’t I want? How couldn’t it be perfect? I don’t really want
        to talk about it. He asked what beer I wanted.

I hate a girl who smokes. I love a girl who won’t ask for light beer.

I had only practiced a few times.
        Nascent, right? That’s the word I’m looking for.
        I knew what to do, though. I’d already been raped,

my mistake. (Oh god,
there’s no going back,
it’s gone,
my friend told me). But this different.

Even so, I thought of the beauty

queen in Georgia, buried in the pecan grove. For the talent portion,
        she’d worn a wedding dress
        (boy, could she sing the spangled banner).

The smell rotten shells on her grave (if it helps, envision magnolia,
        milk petals, the single hairy seed).

              I love a girl who sings on key.
              I love a girl who knows what she needs.
              I love a girl who won’t talk back after.

III.

Mother admits she had a miserable childhood.
        Crab apples, heavy-lipped garden roses.
        Masculine grid of military bases, unaccounted days.

Mine was a long afternoon of back-dives, palaces
        built of pecans, self-pity, cream soda. Still I cried and cried.

              I love a girl who starts taking off.
              I love a girl who could if she wanted but.
              I love a girl who comes up to the counter and says.

Please don’t worry!
        Later, at the honky tonk I fell in love properly,
        not lightly. Five beers into that simple two-count dance you dance

with older men, calloused hands, pointed boots.
        I sang along, do-dah, do-dah (no—
        the men dancing say— girls follow, men lead).

The ferris wheel two years before. He got out his guitar,
        remember what I said about the stars!

IV.

In elementary school we studied how fruit decays.
        Every day, watching the flesh. The stench still.

Peach rot, banana black, children with empty
        notebooks hurried by flies.

The girls, certainly, were asked to clean the piles.
        The boys in charge tracked results.
        I vomited on my suede boots.

Patricia got her period early. Mine came two years later
        on Resurrection Sunday. Are you rolling your eyes? Green
        synthetic dress, white shoes. Hymnal black,
        intact on my lap. Do-dah, do-dah. I couldn’t rise from the pew.

              I love a girl who plays dumb to keep.
              I love a girl who understands her limits.
              I love a girl who is cute as a button but.

So what, the seasons pass now without symbol.
        It means nothing, no delightful egg
        uncovered in the yard,
        no pretend tomb,       immaculate womb.

V.

Again, now,
        it is Easter. Lush monkey grass,
        magnolias browning, leaves waxed.

I visit my mother. She hands me a brush,
        excuses me to fix myself in the mirror.
        She files my nails, loving. She clips the hanging crescents,

loving. I don’t think I believe
        in heaven, she tells me while we pull weeds,      
        arthritis setting the spine

(but maybe we should discuss it another time).

The stranger puts on his rabbit head
        for new children. The girls find all the eggs
        (little girls are cunning).

They work in pastel pairs. Night yard oiled with kumquats rubbed between fingers.

              I love a girl who insists.
              I love a girl who drives a stick.
              I love a girl who puts on heels and becomes.

VI.

Here, pay attention
        here: he’s unlacing his shoes, handsome him.

Breath a little bad, dog eyes.
        And me, along, along. My breasts,
        you know, in that carnival light. Tin music.
        Buckets rolling into paradise.

Oh Susanna, don’t you cry for me.

I come from Alabama with a banjo on my knee.
        His blue jeans press into me. I’d give him anything

(when it’s over I won’t be happy, exactly, but I’ll be in a different
        room the rest of my life). Do-dah, do-dah.

It’s been six years. Face thinned,
        body recovered. Dog alive then, now dead.

It is spring. The beauty queen was murdered in Georgia,
        the town remarking that her house was pristine,
        clean as a doll’s. The pearl necklace unstrung is all
        that points to struggle.

              I love a girl who bites.
              I love a girl who insists she isn’t nice.
              I love a girl with an appetite.
              I love a girl who doesn’t look.
              I love a girl who doesn’t look like she likes it.

About the Author

Katherine Noble is a writer and teacher living in Austin, Texas. She is a recent graduate of the Michener Center for Writers and a recipient of the Keene Prize in Literature. Her work can be found in West Branch, Beloit Poetry Journal, and elsewhere. She is currently trying to convince 7th grade English students to love poetry.
 
“I Love a Girl Who” is published here by permission of the author, Katherine Noble. Copyright © Katherine Noble 2018. All rights reserved.

About the Author

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