“A Girl of Five or Eight’s Exemplum” by Lauren E. Carter

Lauren E. Carter (age 14)


Around the age of
five or eight
a small child snuck into her mother’s closet
and stole her most expensive pair of heels.
She smeared pink lipstick across her face
and smiled.
Although the three-sizes-too-big shoes on her feet
and the huge pink grin she wore made her
resemble a clown
she was beautiful.

Around ten or nine
she did the same
but her mother’s shoes began to fit
and the lipstick stayed within the lines.
She walked up and down the carpeted hallways
leaving light shoe prints snug into the deep base
while balancing on the needle that supported her few steps
before she fell face first into the shoeprints she had made.

Through years eleven and twelve
instead of adding, subtracting, and dividing worksheets
she added, subtracted, and divided how many more inches
until she was five-foot-eight
with a calculator, of course.

At year thirteen
her mother’s heels were replaced by her own
and the pink had turned to dark shades of red
but the smile had faded.
There were too many inches to grow
and too many to lose.
The mirror went from her best friend
to her worst enemy.

But until year twenty-three
she will never realize
she is not a girl
who is in pictures
on her wall.
She will always be a girl
who wore her mother’s high heels
and smeared pink lipstick across her face.

from 2014 Rattle Young Poets Anthology

[download audio]


Why do you like to write poetry?

Lauren E. Carter: “I was sitting in front of my computer screen for a good half-hour trying to figure out how to answer this question in the most creative, professional, and impressive way possible. The longer I sat there, the more I realized I could only say the truth. To be honest, I barely write poetry. In fact, ‘A Girl of Five or Eight’s Exemplum’ was a school assignment in which the directions simply stated ‘tell a story.’ So I did. I quite literally just wrote, made sure it flowed nicely, and printed it, along with some others, hoping it stood out.”

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