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.
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 angelrosen.com.