Roswell, Georgia, 1955

I am the one who knows
What needs to be done, I

Knew from the start that this day
Would come and find me climbing

The ladder to the attic where the brass-bound trunk
With its rivets, its hasps

Its mothballs, its sachets keep away
The yellowing, the stains and the tears

Of long, long wear. When I held it up
She cried. Little fool, as if she

Did not know herself. What she needs
Is bone, pounds of pressure to the inch,

Tight lacing, a knee in the back,
White knuckles on the bedrail.

Girls, I tell her, should only seem soft,
Should only look like they bend.

This is what you will not understand,
I tell this jelly, this fat crybaby girl.

Love, the real kind, is always a squeezing
A choking off all that offends.

Joanna Grant currently teaches in the English Department at Tuskegee University in Tuskegee, Alabama. Her work has appeared in The Birmingham Arts Journal, Vanilla, The White Pelican Review, The Southern Humanities Review, and elsewhere.

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