Devil’s Lake

Spring 2010 Issue

Courtney Queeney: A Partial History of the Anti-Leading Lady

When a girl grows small enough

her body begins to eat its own heart—

for some men, a plus. I existed for X

only when he loathed me,

he was like touching a hot stove

with the burned heel of my hand

to see if I could sear through scar

to curled-in nerves.

Y was public applause, trailing me

like a mariachi band, embarrassing

after a few drinks. Adore me, adore me

is a dangerous song to get stuck humming

and I didn’t want an audience, always.

Sometimes I wanted to shut up

and breathe in the dark, bearing

the various flight-patterns of his hands,

but I couldn’t keep from going back to A,

my Adam, where I began

and ended. When both of us lost teeth

in dreams, the coincidence wasn’t comforting,

I didn’t like our metaphor.

One of us was always boarding a bus,

one of us was always sad.

Maybe his mother was right

to think me a freak, someone

who’d let him leave like that, repeatedly—

and he never got lost leaving—

me, who wanted so much to be left alone

alone, wondering what to do

with the bothersome afterthought of my mouth.

Not running after him forever.

COURTNEY QUEENEY’s first book, Filibuster to Delay a Kiss and Other Poems, was published by Random House in 2007. She lives in Chicago, where she works for the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine. More from this issue >