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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
Sign up for our newsletter to get submission announcements and stay on top of our best work.
YOUR INBOX IS LIT
Enjoy strange, diverting work from The Commuter on Mondays, absorbing fiction from Recommended Reading on Wednesdays, and a roundup of our best work of the week on Fridays. Personalize your subscription preferences here.