The year I was 13, I worked in a steel mill by day
and as an exotic dancer at night like all my friends
in 8th grade. We were tired but about to get
our big break. Since we were all Jennifer Beals,
we wore leg warmers to keep our calves loose
so we’d be always ready to show what we had.
We cut the necks out of our sweatshirts so they slid
off our shoulders even though our mothers
made us wear shirts underneath. I didn’t tell
the other Jennifers how I went down to my room
in the basement where I moved after my mother
remarried and started to have new children
and played “Maniac” and tried to run in place
as fast as the real Jennifer, so fast you couldn’t see
the magic. Like those flipbooks of cartoons,
each drawing only different by one small move.
And then the song when she shows everyone
what’s under her welder’s mask and overalls,
a body that can fly across a wood floor and land
in a somersault. I had to pretend the flying part—
there wasn’t enough room between my bed
and the accordion door my new father installed.
I lived in a warehouse like Jennifer.
I couldn’t believe it when she went to dinner
at the seafood restaurant with that man and slid
her foot into his lap. I thought it must have felt
like the lobster she was eating,
something I’d never had.
—from Rattle #51, Spring 2016
Tribute to Feminist Poets
Laura Read: “I consider myself a feminist poet because many of my poems are about the experience of growing up as a girl and then being a woman in our society. I have been greatly influenced by my mother who was a women’s studies professor for 41 years. I remember all the books on our coffee table had ‘women’ in the title. Now I teach a women writers class at the community college where I work.”