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2 poems by Angel Rosen

Swimming in New Zealand 

Amanda prescribes an ice bath for my depression.

As I approach the lakeside, already so cold,

my shivers start to name themselves.

I can’t imagine another way to freeze,

life full of winter and winter’s eves.

All that’s left to do is plunge,

forfeit warmth for a chance to thaw,

kick my legs a bit. I imagine any

pond I plop into will spit me back out,

my ugliness a harsh flavor

or even an allergy.

I might have to grow my own ice,

bucketing it in the basement to fill the tub,

some of it melting in my crevices

before I make it up two flights of stairs.

What a chore.

I’ve filled my house with meretricious curios

which wave little hands at me

in a desperate attempt to mean something.

I could fill the tub with chilly gallons,

serve a sundae from its bowl.

I could run the water for an hour,

the pipes begging for a moratorium.

The hose outside making statements

corroborative with my house’s thinning vessels.

I’m going to flood everything

just to force myself to swim.

No matter which way I invent an excuse,

I’m going all in. My hair will turn to ice snakes.

I will swim toward something but away,

visiting a few sewers for the stinking reminder

that it’s not so bad. It’s cold,

but even that ends.

I will be washed ashore in no time,

or interrupted from my bath in some other way.

My grief separates from me, little flakes

peppering the sand.

I tread slowly to avoid collecting it again.

It’s everywhere.

The water kisses it and I am not jealous.

It isn’t mine to carry anymore.

What Happens if I am Never Pretty?

My mother lied to me daily about what it meant to be

in ugly clothes and unforeseen, what it meant to look like

someone’s worst fear: crooked toothed bumbly girl

in monochrome outfits, bright, unflattering, 

riding a broken scooter down the street, screaming

passed the porch holding pit bulls, passed the duplex

where my friend was molested, passed the building

I used to visit with my aunt for her appointments.

I hit the uneven payment with my scooter’s wheel,

scraping my knees.

If I was pretty, I’d have been helped. There would’ve been

a campaign for smoothing out the sidewalks.

There would’ve been a campaign to buy me a new scooter,

or new knees. Some young boy and his sister both

would’ve brought me their coolest band-aid and 

an orange creamsicle, competing for my affection.

If I was pretty, I wouldn’t have been outside alone,

risking being seen as bait for the mean dogs,

risking being seen as bait for the bad man

that my friend had to move away from,

risking being accused of trespassing 

by standing too long at the door of the building

where a nice old lady used to give me candy bars.

I spent my first four years in total celebration.

miracle-girl-wonder-child. It’s all

Wow, you did such a great job and 

she’s such a smart little girl—

Until you realize that I’m just dancing

on a stack of children’s books, unable to 

discern reality from their pages.

No one died or got hurt when Dr. Seuss wrote about them,

they just got silly haircuts, made friends with talking fish,

or overstayed their welcome.

I slipped out of the Truffula trees one day.

I had one question for my mother

that she could never answer—

What happens if I am never pretty?

I stopped riding my scooter after that day

because I was afraid of those barking dogs,

the suspicious uncle around the corner,

the now-empty buildings,

and my loneliness—

the loneliness of being an ugly child.

In the books and in my mind,

Everything was bright and hideous.


Angel Rosen (she/her) is a lesbian poet living near Pittsburgh, PA.  She can be found reading Sylvia Plath, listening to The Dresden Dolls, or trying a new ice cream place.  Her poetry and books can be found at


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